The N word

Sorry…this isn’t going to be a punny post with some other N word. 

This last marking period at school, my son has been reading “To Kill a Mockinbird” for English class.  Since I was trying to help him get caught up on the reading and on the concepts he would have to write about, I read out loud to him some of the summaries and notes from Cliff Notes.  As I read along, there occurred several occasions where I had to read the N word.  It was very awkward and uncomfortable to have to say it.  And when you are reading it out loud, you feel like you need to stop and talk to your child about it.  Kind of interrupts the flow of the story.  But you don’t want to just gloss over it and let your kid think it’s no big deal, right?

As my son was trying to write some of the essay, he needed to use the N word to ask a specific question (he needed to know who it was that said it).  I could tell he was uncomfortable saying it too…that’s good to know.  So, we got talking about how it is uncomfortable to say it and why that is.  He remarked about how some black people will tell you it’s all right for them to call eachother that.  I told him I didn’t think it really was all right.  In my mind, it doesn’t seem right.  But what do I know?  I keep thinking about it.  I tried to decide if it was the same concept as women calling eachother bitches.  See how I don’t have a problem using that word?  I didn’t call it the B word.  It’s kind of weird.  But the word “bitch” doesn’t have any historical connection to a situation where the whole group of people are mis-treated.  Is there?  I haven’t heard of it. 

So, is it the same?  Is it really okay for black people to call eachother the N word? I would be very interested to hear your opinion on it…please leave a comment after you vote. Thanks.


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7 Responses to The N word

  1. Secret Mommy says:

    To me they are both curse words, which I generally try to avoid anyway. But I think you’re right about the historical connotation of the N word. It gives it a loaded and ugly meaning that is impossible to ignore. I don’t like to hear anyone using it, white or black.

  2. liz says:

    my personal thought is this…if anyone is using the word, regardless of their own race, it perpetuates the use of the word.

  3. I think if you want the world to respect you, don’t accept being called the “N” word or the “B” word.

    Of course I don’t curse at all anymore and I’m pretty sensitive to the line between teasing and being mean.

    • Jb says:

      Some people seem like they are proud to call themselves the B word. Their interpretation of what kind of image it projects is something along the lines of being tough and assertive.

  4. Holly says:

    You say that “the word “bitch” doesn’t have any historical connection to a situation where the whole group of people are mis-treated,” but I think women have historically been treated as inferior beings in many cultures and countries, including our own. Okay, we weren’t all slaves, nor were we all sent to concentration camps, but there are a lot of times and places where women have been treated badly as a group.

    It all comes down to respect, and I totally agree with what Joey said: “I think if you want the world to respect you, don’t accept being called the “N” word or the “B” word.”

    Good for you for taking the time to have that talk at home!

    • Jb says:

      I wonder about the class differences when it comes to these two words. Were blacks that were considered above the others still called the N word? Were upper class women ever called the B word? It seems that the N word was used to describe the entire race. Whereas the B word has just been used to describe someone that isn’t liked. Which also makes me wonder how the B word ever came to be known as an insult. You can kind of see the progression of the N word becoming an insult, because it was equated with being a slave, being in rank below everyone else…and no one wants to be in that position, so offense is taken when it is even implied that we are subservient to anyone else. But why the B word? Are female dogs meaner than male dogs? I wonder if anyone has ever written a book about this…I would love to read it!

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