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What the N-Word Means and Why It Matters

As per usual, I was listening to a podcast on my long commute to work, titled "Why It's So Hard to Talk About the N-Word," a TED Talk by history professor Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor.

The topic itself sparked my interest. Why? Well, because I grew up hearing, and sometimes saying, the four-letter n-word. It wasn't really a big deal growing up.

The first time a teacher ever addressed it was when I was in 6th grade. Our P.E. teacher gathered the class up in the courtyard and started scolding us because he heard some students using the four-letter word. I don't remember him explaining why; I just remember him saying to not use it.

Of course, that was ignored.

Fast-forward to now. I'm the kind of person that believes that words have no power unless you give them power. I also don't get offended with words unless I identify a negative intent from the person that used them.

I've understood why the six-letter word isn't used, and I've never used it, but I've never understood why the four-letter word is so bad. In my experience, growing up, the four-letter word was usually used in context similar to when the words "bro" or "dude" are used. (Ex: "Dude, are you serious?").

But, of course, for the past few years, I haven't said the four-letter word because now I am conscious of the fact that certain words hurt people, and I respect that.

Insert this podcast.

In the podcast, Professor Pryor explains that the six-letter n-word is an idea disguised as a word, the idea being that Black people are inferior to White people. She explains that the word existed before it became a slur, but that it became a slur when Black people started becoming free.

So, what's up with the four-letter word?

I mean, it's used everywhere: music, movies, books, debates, etc. But, then, there's also moves to ban it.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word originated as a variant of the six-letter word. NYU suggests it developed in the 1990s as a way to reclaim the six-letter word, specifically to signify unity in survival among Black people.

In other words, it was created by Black people to say to other Black people.

However, this article suggests that people who are against the word believe that its use is a product of internalized White racism.

So, why does this matter? It matters because words have meaning, and we should be aware of that meaning before using them.

I'm not the kind of person to tell others what not to say; we can say whatever we want (with some exceptions) because we all have freedom of speech. However, we're all humans with emotions whose actions and words affect other humans' emotions. Let's be mindful.

Thanks for stopping by! Leave a comment, and let me know what your opinion is on this matter. Subscribe for more and share if you'd like. Additionally, let me know if there's anything you'd like me to write about.

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