Thinking about the Hoover High School teacher who used the N-word in her classroom last week, which follows the University of Alabama expelling Harley Barber for using it the only word that comes to mind is: Stop! Yes, you. You too. No exceptions. No excuses.
There are words you shouldn’t even think. Words that don’t belong in ones vocabulary — in my world the C-word, the P-word and the N-word fall into that category. I have come to a point in my life I’m not even shy about confronting those who use them. I had a family member use the N word in front of children and I stopped the conversation to express how inappropriate it was. Another family member pointed out that it was the offensive man’s old age talking. An excuse that still doesn’t excuse the behavior. Did I change his mind that day and will he stop using the word? No. Probably not. But hopefully the children at the table realized that we can’t be passive about bigotry and hatred and we can’t make excuses.
These awful words are meant to demean and devalue an individuals worth. Regardless of race I don’t think anyone should use them. The continual use of them in music or entertainment isn’t strengthening or empowering anything or anyone.
Some African Americans will say that they can use the word because they stole it back from those who used it against their race in generations that came before them. Some whites will claim they can use the word because the First Amendment says they can say whatever they want. To this I say: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Until no one uses these words, there will continue to be people like this teacher and the sorority girl from UA who can make excuses for their use.
I’ve tried to play out in my mind how I could explain to my five-year old the idea that some people can, and some people can’t, use the same word. A word that’s history is full of hate and divisiveness. How a classmate may use the word and she can’t. I can’t make an argument for a hate-filled word to be used by anyone. Why would race matter in right and wrong? It wouldn’t hurt my heart any less to hear the young African American’s in her class use it any less than it would hurt to hear her do so.
I think if we looked at more problems like this through the eyes of children we’d see the solutions aren’t as complicated as we make them out to be.