Controversy over word choice takes stage at annual TEDxEastMeck


Photo by Eli Hausman

Trekahry Gadson goes through TED talk at TEDxEMHS practice.

Story by Trekahry Gadson, Staff Writer

You could argue that in our society, there is no word more prominent in the English language than the N-word. It’s heard in the most prevalent forms of media, and with the increasing exposure, many people feel that the N-word has become less of a racial slur and more of a positive word, with it being used as a term of endearment to describe friends. Even with this shift in connotation, I still believe that the N-word should remain a racial slur.

As I’ve gotten older, and as I’ve heard the N-word used more and more, I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter if you tell people to use or not to use the N-word. Using the word is a personal choice that everyone has to make for themselves. That being said, I won’t tell you why you should or shouldn’t say the N-word, but I will explain why it should remain a racial slur.

The N-word comes from the Spanish word ‘negro’, which means black. When slaves were brought to America, the ‘n-word’, or ‘Black’, was placed in front of whatever American name was given to them to identify slaves from “regular” white people.

Throughout my time on Earth, I’ve heard the N-word come from people and places I would never expect to hear it from. I’ve heard it used in my home, my school, my job and come out of the mouths of my family, my friends and complete strangers. I’ve heard it so much that I almost don’t recognize when I hear it anymore. Almost. As a black man, the N-word has become a word that will always be embedded in my mind. I’ve essentially gotten used to hearing the word in all the major facets of my life, but there will always be something that strikes me when I hear it used from people that I’m close with.

One of the most impactful times I’ve heard the N-word used by someone I care about was during the summer at job. At my job, I work with boys and girls in elementary school. One day, they were singing along to a Cardi B song, and one of the little girls said the N-word while singing. Being one of the few people that heard her say it, I had to have a conversation with her about the word. While we were speaking about what she said, we were both obviously uncomfortable. After an awkward silence, I asked her if she knew how much hurt the N-word has inflicted on people. She didn’t answer. That was the moment when I realized that people don’t truly understand the N-word and what it represents.

To some people, the N-word only has one meaning, but when the N-word is said, there are so many meanings that come to people’s minds, such as a friend, Black, African-American, slavery, racism, hate and belittlement.

Music is how many people are introduced to the N-word. When they start listening, they hear rappers and other celebrities using it as a term to refer to someone as a friend, or something along those lines. Due to people associating it with this positive meaning, people seem to forget how this word has been used to continue the oppression of Black people. The first thing you tend to hear when someone who isn’t black is trying to upset or target another Black person is by calling them the N-word, and even when other Black people are confronting each other the N-word is used as a way to antagonize another person.

Given these reasons I think it is fair to say that people still have it ingrained in their minds that the N-word carries a negative connotation and will use its negative meaning if it means hurting or offending someone.

From this I hope that when you hear the N-word you start think about the consequences that the word carries.