Commentary: Is It Ever OK To Use The ‘N’ Word?

By Derrell Connor Special To Channel3000

I used to use the ?n? word. A lot. As a child, I heard it all the time from family members, close friends and in the music I listened to. As both a term of endearment as well as insult, the n word was a part of my vocabulary.

I wasn?t naive; I knew the history, the hatred and pain it represented to African Americans, especially in the south. It?s a symbol of an ugly chapter in our nation?s history. It is a vile, disgusting word. And yet I continued to use it throughout adolescence and my teenage years. Then a funny thing happened.

In my early 20s, I became very close with a group of friends, most of whom weren?t African American. I also had a steady girlfriend at that time (who later became my wife). Since I had been using the n word for years, and I felt comfortable saying it around them, I used it a lot in their presence. Then one day my girlfriend told me she didn?t like it. I told her that I would think about not using it. I figured that I could cut down, but I didn?t know if I could stop completely.

Then something else happened that changed my entire perspective. My friends started using the word too?not because they were bigots or racists, but because in a way I made it OK for them. All of a sudden, what that word meant and what it represented finally sunk in, and I made a vow to never use the word again. Fortunately, my friends stopped using it too.

I recall that story because the n word took center stage again last week, courtesy of Laura Schlessinger. Dr. Laura got in a bit of hot water when a black woman called into her radio show to complain about her white husband not sticking up for her when members of his family tell racial jokes. Instead of trying to help the woman with her problem, Dr. Laura went on a diatribe, repeating the n word several times. She told the woman that it?s not an insult because black comedians use it all the time, so why isn?t it OK if whites use it?

This is a question that I?m asked quite a bit on my own radio show and in e-mails. First, just because black celebrities use the word doesn?t mean that all African Americans do. In fact, most don?t. Also, I don?t understand why some white people get so bent out shape about African Americans? use of the n word. Is it because they feel that it?s a word that should not be used? Or is it because it?s a word they want to use, but can?t without fear of repercussion?

Whatever the case, it?s a word that shouldn?t be spoken by anyone. As someone guilty of religious use of it, I?m in no position to tell other African Americans to stop. But I will say this: as long as the n word continues to be part of our lexicon, even as a term of endearment, it sends a message that the word is OK and the debate will rage on.

Something to think about.