The N -Word in Black and White

The N -Word in Black and White

Why would anyone of any race, including Blacks, utter a word that has brought pain and humiliation to millions of African-Americans?

A Black writer talks candidly about the N-word. WARNING: If you freak out at the sound of all things controversial, reading this article could seriously damage your analytical expertise, so proceed with caution.

By Peggy Butler

When dealing with highly controversial issues, we often allow our emotions to over shadow our mind-set. Thus, the use of the N- word, has resulted in a three-ring circus, regarding which races are prohibited from saying it, and which groups can utilize this racial slur without fear of reprehension.
This observation came to life three weeks ago, while having lunch at a local fast food restaurant that shall remain anonymous. As I recall, I was enjoying a delicious salad, when I overheard a conversation between two Black females who appeared to be in their early 20s. They were talking about who was more attractive, Usher or Will Smith. One woman said that Usher was so good looking it hurt. To which her friend nonchalantly mumbled “ Please,” as they burst into laughter and gave each other high fives.

Listening to their conversation, I couldn’t help but wonder what would have occurred, if a person of European origin had uttered the N- word. No doubt, harsh words would have been exchanged, blows thrown and a few nerves rattled. Case in point: Comedian Michael Richards’ racist tirade against two Black men who allegedly heckled him during his act at a Los Angeles comedy club in November 2006. Can anyone say catastrophe with a triple C?

For years, society has pondered the age old question of why it is perfectly acceptable for African-Americans to call each other, but unacceptable for Caucasians to call, or even think of calling us that derogative term, detested by Blacks of all cultures and socioeconomic status.

Blacks contend that the reason it is perfectly harmless for them to call each other, is because it is said in a playful gesture, as opposed to the sadistic tone conveyed by non-Blacks. And while Blacks maintain that calling each other the N – word is perfectly natural, there are millions who vehemently disagree. They maintain Blacks should have enough love and respect for each other to stay as far away from the word as possible.

A glaring example of this controversy took place in 2010, when researchers at The Galvanic Institute of Sociology interviewed 400 men and 600 women, ages 16 to 80, to determine their thoughts regarding the N word. When asked if they would be offended if they were called by another African-American, 86% of the respondents said no, with 14% saying they would be offended. However, when asked if they would be offended if a White person did the same thing, a whopping 98% said they would respond negatively. Surprisingly, 2% said that being called a by Whites had no effect on their morale or self-confidence.

The poll further noted that college educated Blacks found the term less offensive than Blacks with 11 years or less of education. Experts contend, the former represents those African-Americans who view themselves as color- blind and are oblivious of bigotry. Theoretically, they fall under the same category as others who adhere to this bogus concept, like conservative columnist Armstrong Williams and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Ah, isn’t denial awesome?

And speaking of negative words, it has been noted with much dismay, that if you want to make a timid individual or religious fanatic angry, have a person of European origin, walk up to them and shout “Hey” They argue the shy introvert will raise enough hell to wake the dead, and the bible-toting-Jesus-spouting-holier-than thou church goer will “lay a cursing” on you that will leave you speechless. Please. How many times have you said that to your spouse, friends, co-workers, even your children? And when you said it, did you stop and think why you said it? For one moment did you think about the hurt and embarrassment this word has brought to millions of African-Americans? Moreover, how you would feel if the person calling you that dreaded word was White, instead of Black?

To reiterate, it’s ironic, isn’t it? We laugh when calling each other, but clinch our teeth and bring out the fangs when called that by Caucasians. Is there really a difference? Or do we feel less vulnerable when we are put down by each other, instead of those other folks?

Peggy Butler is a freelance writer based in North Central Florida. She has written for various magazines and Internet publications including and TimBook Tu. Moreover, Butler who lists collecting 60s memorabilia among her hobbies; writes news, features, sports and entertainment articles, as well as commentaries and humor pieces.
Visit her website at or track her at


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