Wednesday, September 12, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 495



Staff Editorial


Tom Carpenter        Ken Fountain 
Nikie Johnson          Keenan Singleton       Audrey Warren

Insult or empowerment?

In a time when unity, strength and courage seem vital, it is something that seems so easy to rectify, and fixing it would alleviate so much of the hatred and vile
nostalgia caused by its use.

It's been called oppressive and insulting. And yet, some use it as a term for brother or friend.

"It" is the N-word. And in a recent address in Houston, renowned black American poet Maya Angelou stated her feelings about it plainly and in possibly the most
blunt and effective of ways.

"I will not sit and allow the word 'nigger' to be used in my presence."

The word is a historical reference that has caused hurt and pain for years and remains to do so today.

In a discussion Wednesday sponsored by the UH chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, students aired their feelings about the
common use of the word among blacks and its taboo-like status for others. In one instance, the word was deemed acceptable when used as a nickname among
blacks and not in front of people of other races -- a double standard in others' eyes.

How can use of the word be so insignificant when used among blacks that it's not even given a second thought, but produce the extreme opposite effect and become
so incredibly offensive when used by those of another race? Some would answer that those who feel they've overcome its origins and use it to show empowerment
have the right to use it.

There are not many cases that come to mind, though, in which a black person is heard proudly referring to himself or another black person by using the word in
reference to strength, dignity and empowerment.

When white rapper Eminem doesn't use the word in his music out of respect for his black friends, it shows he acknowledges the word can be hateful. If most black
people hear a non-black using the word they feel the same way -- as if it is being used out of disrespect. Latin beauty Jennifer Lopez even received some heat
recently when she used the word in one of the verses of a song, although the lyrics were written by a black man.

In both cases the word was deemed disrespectful when used by a non-black. Why, then, does the definition of the word change so drastically when it's coming out of
the mouth of a black person?

When blacks write the word off as an endearing reference to a comrade or brother, it does not eradicate the word's origins.

"I will not sit and allow the word 'nigger' to be used in my presence," Angelou said. Everyone should feel so strongly.

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