A few months ago I went to a music festival in my hometown and ran into an acquaintance from high school. I was happy to see him until he greeted me with, “Kiah, my n*****!”
I can’t say I was offended, I was just more shocked than anything. For as long as I’ve been alive I’ve thought the “n” word to be something you never say to anyone. More than insulting me, as maybe it should have considering I’m biracial, I became upset about the word being used rather than it being used toward me. I told him to please not say it again, he did, and I haven’t spoken to him since.
Throughout my life I can’t say that I’ve ever been affected by racism. Though I’ve grown up in a predominantly Caucasian community, no one has ever cared about my skin colour. I don’t see myself as any different than anyone else, but in that moment I was suddenly separate. That acquaintance couldn’t call any of my other friends the “n” word and even if he had it wouldn’t mean anything at all.
As my anger simmered down in the next week, I realized that he hadn’t meant it to hurt me. I began to remember times during high school when people would use that word and in those cases it was used synonymous with “my friend.”
But when did it become okay to say nigger?
My brain barely recognizes the word as I type it. It’s just so foreign and so wrong to me. How can people use such a terrible word that was created to belittle a specific race and cause segregation?
Forgive me for letting my nerd-flag fly, but in the wise words of Albus Dumbledore, “Fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself.” By my rejection of the word, am I only giving it more negative power?
The truth is, the “n” word is just that: a word! However it holds such history that behind the letters it’s so much more. Today’s society is a lot different than that of only 50 years ago. Things have changed dramatically. I liken the change of the meaning of the word to the change of the word “gay”, where it now describes someone who is homosexual.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to use the “n” word. In fact I don’t plan to–it’s not something that will ever be a part of my vocabulary. But I’m trying to tolerate it. I’m not saying that I don’t think it’s wrong to use it, I just recognize that it doesn’t necessarily have the same meaning.