A WORD THING

A WORD THING

About a month ago I was in Budapest with three of my friends and one night we headed to a ruin bar. So here we are four girls, sitting in an inside courtyard sipping our drinks and these two guys come up to us. One of them strokes my right arm, looks into my eyes and says, “I love your black skin”. Okay, cool, casual, I look at my friends and we burst out laughing as I shrug him off. Then he says, “Come on, n*****’s are hot.”

I don’t think the last word was even out of his mouth and I was shouting at him to walk away. If I’m honest it was all quite a blur as Emily and myself almost screamed the place down as he frantically tried to justify his use of the word. Eventually his friend – who looked absolutely terrified throughout the whole incident – managed to drag him away. We laughed about it afterwards, called him a variety of names and continued to enjoy our night.

Since I’ve been back and retold the story, it got me thinking about the n-word, why exactly it is ‘not okay’ and why I reacted in such a way.

For as long as I can remember the word has always made me feel uncomfortable, it’s not something that has ever been present in my vocabulary.

If you type the n-word in on the Oxford Dictionary it says, contemptuous term for a black or dark-skinned person. It is also a word that continues to have a place in popular culture, various black artists use it in their music and some in the black community use it as a term of endearment arguing that they are ‘taking ownership of the word’ which apparently makes it okay. This is where I choose to disagree. I don’t believe in taking ownership of the word, I refuse the argument that if one black person calls another n***** then it’s accepted but if a white person says the same to another black person its bad.

For me, when a person says the word ‘n*****’ they’re saying ‘you’re black and you’re not as good as the rest, you are a second class citizen, you are biologically inferior.’ Perhaps it’s because I have two younger brothers that I feel so strongly against using it. To use the n-word not only perpetuates the stereotype of the ‘angry black man’ but it also creates the idea that you should only be categorised by the colour of your skin and the connotations that come with it.

The n-word was shouted at slaves in America in the 18th century, as they were beat to death and it was chanted at African Americans as they were lynched by mobs of white men in the 19th century. Maybe it’s what the police officers shout at the unarmed black boy before they shoot him, if it’s not what they’re saying, it’s certainly what they’re thinking.

The connotations, meanings and stereotypes that come with the n-word have no place in the twenty first century. I don’t care if you are using it to tell me how great I look, I don’t want to hear it.

Tomiwa

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