LETTER TO THE EDITOR: You can't say the N-word just because it's in a song



My first week at Central Michigan University was the Leadership Safari program. I was the only black person in my group, but I kind of liked that. I was ready to meet new people. I loved my group. But I realized sometimes people can get a little too comfortable even when you first meet.

I was walking with one of my group members and he happened to be singing along to a rap song. Everything was fine, until this guy thought it was okay to say the N-word around me.

I mean, this wasn’t the first time I’d heard a non-person of color say it and I knew attending a predominantly white institution meant I would eventually hear it. But I just never thought I’d hear someone say it so casually, let alone around me.

It honestly hurt to hear.

So, I took a moment to collect myself and of course, I told him to not say it around me again.

I thought that would be the end of it, but then he replied, “It’s just a song, so it doesn’t count.”

I was literally in shock.

I mean, where did this new rule stating people who aren’t black are allowed to say the N-word, as if it’s not offensive because it’s sung or rapped?

As a member of the black community, I am here to let you know that it’s actually offensive to most of us — it doesn’t matter if it’s in a song or not.

Some people may want to argue that black people say it — I can’t say we don’t. But let me offer an idea to think about.

The same way other traditionally marginalized groups have reclaimed offensive words within their communities like the feminist movement with the word “slut” and the LGBTQ community with the word “queer.”

So have we with the N-word.

Sometimes in order to justify using the N-word, non-black people try to pretend like the black community hasn’t reclaimed this word and accuse us of being hypocritical for doing it.

That’s not OK.

You see, a person who is not black may not understand exactly why we feel this way. When we hear the N-word certain images, memories and feelings instantly flood our minds that might not necessarily come to a non-black person’s mind.

These are memories of witnessing racism first-hand. Racist words, actions and unjust treatment against our friends, families and ourselves.

Stories from our elders and family members who’ve survived police brutality. Memories of seeing videos and movies about African Americans being hosed down and beaten by police with clubs like we’re animals in the streets. Memories of what we learned in school — our history is filled with people arrested because they chose to flee plantations to find freedom. The N-word brings back memories of how we were raped and whipped at the hands of our “masters.” Memories of us being burned, lynched and murdered by men in white robes.

When we hear the N-word, we get those memories of always being forced to feel inferior to an entire race of people. The pain of hearing this word is hard to understand for others because we feel and remember these things that have happened because of the color of our skin.

The N-word carries a different weight when it’s not said by a black person.

But if not saying a word is too hard for you to handle — imagine feeling that every time it’s said.

If it should be so easy for us to “get over because it’s in a song,” then it should be just as easy for you not to say it.


Southfield Sophomore