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Student opinions differ about ‘n-word’ usage

Published: Thursday, October 6, 2011

Updated: Thursday, October 6, 2011 17:10

N-word discussion

Abdullah Raslan

In a discussion about the “n-word,” Jonathan Martin (left) was for the use of the word, and Jeremy Bolden (right) was against it.


In society, the use of the "n-word" has long been a topic of debate, especially in the black community and this week, the Black Student Association hosted a forum titled, "An iNconvenient Truth" to address this issue.

The event was held Wednesday in the Student Union Auditorium and welcomed students from all races and backgrounds.

The event was structured as a panel style presentation featuring two panelists, Jonathan Martin, a senior of Memphis and Jeremy Bolden, a senior of Little Rock.

Martin and Bolden, both African American, spoke about their  feelings towards the use of the word "nigga" in today's culture.

Prior to the event, Aaron Moore, president of the BSA, said that the forum was the beginning of a monthly series that would include topics such as, "Dark Skinned Women and their Stereotypes, "Dead Beat Fathers," "Children out of Wedlock" and "Dropping Out of College."

Moore emphasized that the forums are open to anyone and were created to encourage a better understanding or a shared meaning of the issues that relate to the black community.

He said, "[There cannot be] complete equality until all races have a better understanding of each other."

Moore said that this was at the basis of their idea for the forum as it was created to address, "issues that impact the ASU campus as a whole."  

Moore said the forum's purpose was to "answer why is it or is it not okay to use that word."

The event began with a video entitled, "A Brief History of the Word ‘nigga.'"

The video was created by Ferris State University and according to its editors, it was meant to, "console and challenge the status quo."

The video identified the n-word as a, "verbal picture of negative stereotypes" in relation to its use in the past.

Bolden began his speech with a modified version of Julian Curry's "Niggers, Niggas and Niggaz."

Bolden then listed many racial slurs previously used to describe black people.

The audience remained quiet until Bolden asked, "What's up, my niggas?"

The response was clear as the auditorium filled with laughter and chatter. One person yelled back, "What's up?"

Bolden pointed out that with all other minority groups, there is little use of racial epithets to identify each other.

He asked, "When have you heard Latinos calling each other ‘Wetbacks'? I do not see this happening and why should it be happening to us?"

He referred to the "n-word" as "animalistic and degrading."

He asked the audience, "What are we calling ourselves? Lazy, animals, retarded and incapable of thinking the same as a white man."

Martin and Bolden seemed to be at odds about the appropriate use of the word.

While Bolden made it clear that he felt the word was never appropriate, Martin listed several instances when the word was appropriate.

According to Martin, the most significant factor regarding whether using the word was appropriate was based on race.

The overlapping theme between the two speakers was that using the word is not helping black people.

Martin repeatedly asserted that, "there are bigger things out there for us to overcome".

Another theme was the idea that the black race has ownership over the very idea of the "n-word."

Moore pointed out that the event was open to individuals from every race and were invited to "get the inside view instead of looking from the outside in."

This was not only illustrated during the speeches of the panelists, but during the question session as well.

The concept of ownership is very important because it provides the potential for change.

What began as a night filled with excitement over new and innovative discussion boiled down to one question: "When is it okay for someone of another race to use the "n-word?"

That question engrossed the audience for an hour, with little resolution at the end of the day.

 Bolden said, "Nobody should use the term, [even to refer to] themselves. The elimination [of the term] must start somewhere."

Bolden said if the effect of language is rationalized, then its effects can be controlled.

By using the ability of language to construct realities, people are able to make adjustments to harness the potential for change, Bolden said.

Martin said, "No other race, especially the white race should use the word "nigga" because it only reinforces 400 years of systematic oppression."

Martin provided additional analysis as to his reasoning using quotes from Paul Moody: "Everyone wants to be a nigga, but nobody wants to be a nigga. You do not understand my pain."

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