Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley The NAACP put to rest a long-standing expression of racism Monday (7-9-07) by symbolically burying the "n" word in a ceremony. The timing for the burial ceremony could not have been better as the NAACP was having its annual convention at Detroit's Cobo Center. Delegates marched about a quarter mile to Hart Plaza as two horses pulled a pine box adorned with a bouquet of black roses. The n-word has been used as a slur against blacks for more than a century, as an Associated Press article noted.
What was different about this move by the NAACP was the recognition that the very word that was being buried is also used by blacks when referring to other blacks, especially in comedy routines, rap and hip-hop music. I believe the stance by the NAACP could potentially do more for race relations than any single move by special interest and civil rights groups in recent years. "While we are happy to have sent a certain radio cowboy back to his ranch," said NAACP National Board Chairman Julian Bond (referring to a racially charged comment by talk show host Don Imus which cost him his job earlier this year) "we ought to hold ourselves to the same standard." Black leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton both have also apparently challenged the entertainment industry and the American public to stop using the n-word and other racial slurs.
As a white American I applaud this move by the NAACP and such media savvy black leaders as Jackson and Sharpton. Among the honorary pallbearers for the funeral was hip-hop legend Kurtis Blow, who apparently has been a rapper and in hip-hop music for about 35 years. Blow has said that he has never used the n-word in recording more than 150 songs. I personally do not listen to either rap or hip-hop music and consequently have never heard of Kurtis Blow, but I most certainly admire and appreciate his not using the n-word to help sell and promote his music. I believe using the n-word is no different than cussing.
Do not be deceived by cussing. Cussing is no more or no less than a sign of a low self-image. If you think listening to a man cussing on a recording is cute and so impressive because he is making a real statement about himself, you are wrong. It is not cute or appropriate at any time, and especially around children. Period.
There are no exceptions. Neither blacks nor whites (or people of any other color) should be using the n-word to refer to blacks or whites or anyone else. It is inappropriate and counterproductive to human relations and respect for everyone.
There are millions of educated, literate blacks who have not used the n-word under any circumstance on their way to prosperity and success in America. These same blacks struggle as many of us do in their climb to success and yet are able to take advantage of opportunities, take responsibility for their actions and become positive role models for people of all races and ethnic groups. These same black people do not need to use the n-word to define who they are or make a public statement about themselves or others, and every one of them deserves my respect and admiration.
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