Non-Black people should not say the N-word


By Karidja Monjolo, Reporter

For more than 400 years, Black Americans have faced oppression, discrimination and trauma. The N-word does nothing but add to this struggle. Slurs and derogatory sayings come as no surprise to Black people all over the world, and specifically Black students at West Chicago Community High School.

The N-word is derived from the Latin term “niger” simply meaning black (as in color) in Spanish and Portuguese. In the 1800s, the word took on a new, belittling meaning, and has been used in America for over 400 years in reference to Black individuals as a reminder of status.

The word was weaponized throughout slavery and the Civil Rights movement: soon, Black people started to believe this inferiority along with the word. This is what scientists call “internalized oppression” a concept referring to  a group of oppressed people believing the misinformation that society spreads about them.

“For those who are outsiders, the N-word doesn’t have the same meaning to you through your life experience and honestly, you should remove it from your vocabulary. Just because a hip-hop artist uses it doesn’t give the green light for everyone to use it in conversation.  When members of the Black community use the N-word, it’s a form of empowerment to an extent in that they’re taking the power back from those who weaponized the word against them throughout history. As I’m not a shared participant in that history, I’m not going to pretend to be the authority on who should use the N-word. I don’t ‘own’ the word and therefore am not going to include it in my daily vocabulary,” said human geography and sociology teacher Maggie Haas. 

Today, the N-word takes on a different meaning. For Black people, it is a word of brotherhood and friendship, whenever it comes from a fellow Black person. When the word is said by other people (even people of color), the term takes on the original American idea of the word, no matter how it was intended.

Freshman Sentia Irakoze said, “It has different meanings for everyone and when non-Black people say it, it just makes you uncomfortable because, at the end of the day, it’s a slur. Black people have made it their own and people should respect it and understand the intent behind it.”

There are a number of non-Black students who say the N-word, and think the term is acceptable, without realizing the significance around the word and what it actually means. For Black students to have to hear our term in their classrooms, our hallways and everywhere we go in school is tiring.

Many students belonging to other ethnic groups feel as though it is also their “cultural right” to say this term, which is not accurate: the word has always, and will always, continue to mean “black”.

“People tend to ignore the historical context and origin of the word that is eluded by hate and hundred years of oppression, and only say it to impress their peers or to look cool, which they don’t. Hearing this word literally everyday walking down the hallways irks my nerves and makes me very uncomfortable,” said sophomore Dinah Humphrey.

Teachers, staff and fellow students need to educate each other on this topic, and why using the N-word is not okay. It is vital, in order to provide a safe and respectful environment throughout our school, to eliminate this word from non-Black people’s vocabulary.

Many Black students, including myself, struggle to feel safe and heard in America, we should not have to fight for those same basic needs within our school.