A white teacher from Chicago is suing the federal government for permission to use the N-word without negative repercussions. All of this came about because he was caught using the N-word in his classroom.
A black student in his class had written a letter to one of her friends, and in the letter it contained rap lyrics with the N-word. The teacher confiscated the letter and read it. According to the teacher, he then used the N-word to explain racism as it related to Huckleberry Finn, the topic of discussion in his class that day. At this precise moment he decided to use the N-word, the school principal walked into the classroom. According to the principal, the teacher was using the word in an inflammatory fashion, not in a way that provoked thoughtful discussion.
The teacher was suspended from work five days without pay, but he says that the students were not offended. They were having an active discussion on racism and the use of the N-word. The teacher says that principal stayed in the classroom to hear the discussion. The teacher claims that it is ridiculous that he cannot use the N-word as part of instruction and discussion.
I think this is very interesting. I have heard quite a bit of debate on the usage of the N-word. Black people would be supremely offended if a white person called them nigger, but yet black people say this to each other all the time. A black person once told me that there is a difference between nigger and nigga, and that nigga is actually what black people say to each other, so therefore it is not offensive. By this reckoning does it mean that white people can call a black person nigga? Is that okay? I don’t think so–at least, not in my mind. Someone else once told me that black people calling each other nigga or nigger is a symbol of ownership. They took the word back from the white people and made it their own. I don’t know if I believe that either.
I do think that teachers, white or black, should be able to use the N-word as part of instructional discussion, but I think it might get abused and we’ll be back to where we started. I have said before that I think we should not be so quick to erase things in our past. Slavery, racism, segregation, these things really happened in our history. They will never go away. We should use the actions of our past to create better actions for the future. Pretending these things didn’t happen is a disservice to everyone. Trying to erase the N-word out of books that were written during slavery is ridiculous. That was the way things were, but it doesn’t mean that is the way things are today or the way things have to be tomorrow. I don’t condone it as correct; I am just simply saying that is how life was back then.
I also think that black people need to get it together. Either the word is offensive to you or not, no matter who it is coming from. If you want to use the word with each other or in music, then don’t get mad if white people say it to you. If you don’t want a white person to degrade you then don’t allow its usage in any aspect of your life. If you now “own” the word, then you can’t be upset if a white teacher wants to use it in his classroom. If you say you own something that means it is yours and it cannot hurt you anymore. That is just the way I look at it.
For me personally I do not use the word and will not allow anyone, black or white, to refer to me as such. I try not to listen to music that glorifies the word. It’s just not a part of my life. I don’t own the word. It is something that is there but not for my use or interest.
I don’t really know what happened in that man’s classroom. If he was really having a genuine and true discussion with his students and they were actively engaged, then I don’t see the problem. But if he was in there harassing them, degrading them then, yes, he deserved to be suspended out of his school. To be quite honest, this confusion over the use of the word is really the problem. It’s either acceptable or it isn’t, no matter who it is coming from, black or white.
I think we as a people, black and white, need to come to some sort of consensus on this thing because quite frankly, I am really quite tired of this discussion