The first student explained the N-word originated during slavery, stemming from the vocabulary of slave masters.
Another student addressed the word is different with “er” at the end versus “a.”
Others cited the origin as rooted in semantics, that the word is a result of the mispronunciation of the spanish term for black: Negro and the French word noir, both stemming from the latin word nigrum.
More than 60 students, including many from this university’s Black Student Union, or BSU, gathered yesterday evening to discuss the N-word and its social implications.
Trehana Riley, a sophomore theatre major and presidential cabinet member of the Black Student Union, said that even though she does not personally use the word, she does not think its usage should be policed so long as it is not used with malicious or ignorant intent.
BSU strives to have a mix of fun and serious topics for events such as this, said Bria Sladden, a junior finance major and first vice president of BSU.
“[We] come together and think about things that bother us and that we think is a major issue or something that we think that the community will get the most out of,” Sladden said.
The event began with a video displaying conflicting opinions on the use of the word. It portrayed some individuals embracing the word, and others decrying it as extremely offensive.
Organizers of the venue conducted a poll, which asked: “Who can use the N-word?”
There were three options: everyone, no one and only individuals of the African diaspora. A vast majority agreed only those from the African diaspora should use it, an opinion that appeared to be the most popular throughout the remainder of the discussion.
To this trend Dr. Zeigler, director of Nyumburu Cultural Center, highlighted the importance of the context in which the word is being used.
What does it mean to millennials versus those from older generations?
There were a variety of responses to the “appropriate” use of the word, but the main consensus seemed to be around the existence of a severe power struggle.
What power does the word have? Who owns it? And is the connotation positive or negative?
The panel presented a video from the cartoon The Boondocks where a teacher, an elderly white man, tries to connect with a black student by using the word N**ga. This created a conversation of whether an “er” ending has the same cultural significance as the shorter version of the word with an “a” ending.
There was a clear difference of opinion.
Some students explained just because individuals aren’t using the same word, that doesn’t mean the nuance has changed. Others thought changing the ending made it ok and was a way for black minorities to reclaim the term.
Students seemed somewhat reserved about expressing their opinions.
However, there was still lively discussion. David Garrett, senior accounting major and president of BSU said he was afraid the public may not want to respond openly on the mic because it is such a sensitive topic.
He personally does not approve the word, but remains open.
“I don’t really like the word, I will say that I have used it though. I’m not perfect, I don’t try to be perfect,” Garrett said.
The dialogue concluded by opening up the discussion to the terms “gay” and “bitch.”
Can anyone reach outside their group lines and use these terms? Opinions differed, but the general consensus appeared to be the conversation is consistently changing and remains to be dissected.
Riley said she achieved a deeper understanding of the term.
“I gained more realization that: not only do different races perceive the word differently, but different age groups perceive the word differently as well,” Riley said.
Featured Photo Credit: Devante Hawkins, a freshman spanish major. (Julia Lerner/Bloc Reporter)
Raye Weigel is a sophomore multiplatform journalism and English major and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.