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Ta-Nehisi Coatess- Why Some White People Think They Should Use The N-Word



by G. Brown

Author/journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates can have my proxy vote to speak on my behalf anytime.  His views on everything from politics to social issues are usually not only profound, but often taps directly  into the pulse of the Black community and truth.

Recently, Coates gave a succinct and shrewd response when questioned about why Whites should refrain in use of the N-Word.  The thought that anyone can use the word sees to keep popping up more frequently in the last few months.  Like last month when five White teen girls thought it was hilarious as they screamed “f**king n-word” into a camera and posted the video on IG, apparently just for laughs.

The high school the girls attend issued the obligatory “We are shocked…” statement, but some of us of aren’t so shocked.  In this current politically and racially charged climate, the apprehension that once gave people pause about use of the word has disappeared along with other moral compasses like telling the truth.

Coates offers one of the best explanations as to why everyone can’t and shouldn’t expect to use this word.  Coates was speaking at an Illinois High School last month when the topic of ‘why can’t Whites use the N-word came up.

Coates elegantly makes an argument that is so simple yet often overlooked.  Strangers don’t want up to you and call you Mom, Dad or auntie, uncle.  Everyone understands that those words are reserved for certain people and use by strangers towards you would be inappropriate.

Coates delves more into the psychology of why some White people feel they should and can use the N-word.  He told online news site Vox, “When you’re white in this country, you’re taught that everything belongs to you. You think you have a right to everything. … You’re conditioned this way. It’s not because your hair is a texture or your skin is light. It’s the fact that the laws and the culture tell you this. You have a right to go where you want to go, do what you want to do, be however — and people just got to accommodate themselves to you.”  So far, he’s not wrong.

Coates continues saying, “So here comes this word that you feel like you invented, And now somebody will tell you how to use the word that you invented. ‘Why can’t I use it? Everyone else gets to use it. You know what? That’s racism that I don’t get to use it. You know, that’s racist against me. You know, I have to inconvenience myself and hear this song and I can’t sing along. How come I can’t sing along?”

Soooooo….White people don’t think its fair that they can’t use a word that Blacks use.  That sounds totally ridiculous, but a logical explanation at the same time.  It’s a bit like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden—the one thing God said don’t do and that’s the very thing they wanted to do.

Coates explanation doesn’t apply to those who still want to use the word as a weapon in some racist exchange.  Coates says Whites who refrain using the word, even though they feel as though they should be able to use it is a  valuable lesson.  He says the lesson is this–“It will give you just a little peek into the world of what it means to be black. Because to be black is to walk through the world and watch people doing things that you cannot do, that you can’t join in and do.”


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  37. Tijuana

    November 11, 2017 at 7:42 am

    I happens watch “TABOO” (I guess if it a European tv show) on Netflix. I have caught number of times actor/actress were using the “nigger” in the show. Didn’t yall know that word did came from white European ppls in Europe n UK using it during 1400 and bring it in America. Nigger mean stupid person in their country. So its better for all white folks needs to think twice and research the meaning of n…get before you even insult other color people’s in particular because they are not stupid or dumb person. White folks will get your ass kicked. It time for them to STOP using it. Say it toward your own ppls if they are stupid enough. No needs to keep educate anyone n think u are superior. Its annoyance n offense to all color ppls suffer n that goes to young black folks needs to respect becz it getting outta hands like a bugs spreading. Stop already please!

  38. Shawn J

    November 10, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    If Blacks (me included) can’t use the n-word, then no one else should use it either.

  39. Akbar

    November 10, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    I am building a brand #Nwordout. that connects those “conscious and emancipated” Black/Africans of former slaves who know this word keeps us connected to “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.” (Book by Dr. DeGruy). The word is inevitable as a testament to the fragility of our human existence to embrace the most traumatic experience in our human existence in America. The Stockholm Syndrome is real as a victim begins to have a micable connection to their captor. So to is Black self-hate where one repeats their worst trauma as a termof affection to otheres that look like them. Its a social mirror that reflects yourself back at you. it was inevitable. It will never go away neither will white supremacy, homelessness or poverty. I never argue with anyone about the use they have no reason not to when there are no sanctio s against it from childhood to adulthood. Hip Hop gets billions to normalize it and create a damaging image of all that we are to foreigners arou d the world. They know our rappers but not our scholars or inventers or our writers and leaders. You take Americas version of slavery out and we are not having this conversation. We are products of white fear of the past. So we as Black/Africans are just as removed from American slavery and it effect on our lives permanently as those who benefitted from it. Slavery was not a thing but a beginning. An evolution thats infinite.

  40. Ivan Johnson

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    NO one should use the N-word. Claiming that it’s “our” word is a weak excuse for belittling and disrespecting those who fought long and hard before us to gain a modicum of respect and decent treatment.

  41. Toni

    November 10, 2017 at 1:36 am

    I live in a nice community & was shocked when one of my (male) neighbors drove by while I was in my garage & said “f you N. Then he went to his driveway yelling to me MF N. Then my next door neighbor who I have not had a good relationship with (She & I both are African Americans) She started yelling whenever I would be outside that I was a N. I never use the word and do not like anyone using it around me. My family knows this about me and my adult children never use it either. It is a word that white people used at one time against people of color that was so degrading. I do not think those girls should use it but, it is good to have their photos…maybe their bad Karma could come back to haunt them in the future.

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