N-word Controversy

Jessenia Herrera, Staff Writer

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To Kill a Mockingbird.  

 

Towards the end of freshman year, Ms. Siegler introduced us to this famous novel by Harper Lee.

 

Although, I have known of Black history for quite some time now, as it has been taught to me throughout school, it wasn’t until I got to Ms. Siegler’s class that my eyes were really opened to the brutal and gruesome treatment Black people had to go through.

 

Ms. Siegler informed us of the backstage version of what textbooks tell us about Black history. She had us watch informational videos about people that lived in the time of the oppression of Black people. She discussed the way society treated Blacks while we were reading Harper Lee’s famous novel. She even had us read multiple articles about the N-word and people’s opinion of it being said in a class environment.

 

The history of Black people is connected with a word that has been changed over time.

The N-word.

By having my eyes opened to such a delicate subject, I wanted others to voice their opinion on the word. The N-word’s history shouldn’t just be learned about and then forgotten as we move up in grades. We should discuss it because it is still vital in our lives today.

 

I asked people, between the three different types of the N-word, ending in “er, ga, oe”, which word has more impact?

 

Alicia King, an adult who is well involved within her community and more, reflects, “I think when [N-word ending in ‘a’] is used, that’s more offensive because of how it’s associated with history and slavery and the civil rights movement and people of color being treated as if they are less than …the caucasian race. I think the word is more offensive and degrading and dehumanizing than the others.”

 

Shania Miles, a sophomore at HMSA, replies that she thinks the N-word with a hard ‘r’ “seems most offensive.” For an individual who “really [goes] hard on the ‘r’ in the word, [it] seems kind of intentional to [her]”–meaning that if someone is using the word while speaking, they most likely intended to say it to offend whomever they directed the word towards.

In contrast, “[N-word ending in ‘a’] isn’t really racist because it’s used in more of a “homey” way. But I feel like [N-words ending in the hard r and oe] are more racist because they were used during the times Black people were enslaved and worked on plantations”, replies Freshman, Jose Ramirez, at Hawthorne High School (HHS).

Are you surprised by the answers? The N-word with a hard ‘r’ seems to be most offensive because of the way it is associated with history. The N-word ending with ‘a’ has been used by many as a way to classify a person as a friend.

 

One issue is should the N-word be used by Black people since such a word is connected to a tragic era of Black people’s history.

 

Some Black people still use it today, and some even agree with the unspoken custom that they are only allowed to say it.

 

“I think it depends on the person. Some African-American, or Black people, consider it to be offensive because it has to do with the generations,” reflects King.  “We have to remember that we have to respect what our ancestors went through and the pain and the humiliation and the hurt that they experienced as a result of that word.”  

 

However, acknowledging the change in perspective that often comes with age, she says, “The older generation has to understand that there’s a freedom that we’ve [the younger generations] come into that we don’t associate with the pain that they associated with.”

More and more Black people are celebrating their culture more expressively than in the past. Their ethnicity, and the tragedies and hate they’ve overcome for many years, is what drives them to be so proud of who they are. As such, they consider the N-word to be apart of them because of their ancestors’ history.

 

However, not everyone is comfortable with the N-word.

 

To Berenice Espinoza, a Junior at HMSA, “The N-word represents a time in the past where slavery was ok, even though it wasn’t.”

 

“With the way people react towards it, I don’t think it should be used at all,” says  Freshman, Jose Ramirez at HHS.

There are those, like Jose, who think the N-word should just stop being spoken. The word causes a negative reaction just like if an adult hears an adolescent curse. Some people, even Black people, just aren’t comfortable with the word.

 

Still, others disagree with this ban. “[I]t’s not like Black people have ownership over the word,” says Shania Miles.

 

Shania Miles brings a response that is not uncommon.

 

“It’s just a word and nothing else in my eyes. Also with everyone saying the word so casually in conversation has sort if desensitized me to the word, to be honest,” says Shania Miles.

 

Acknowledging the topic’s sensitivity, Alicia King says, “[T]here are some people that have asked not to use that word in their presence, and I can respect that.”

 

“There’s a commonality and comradery,” she explains, “that [the N-word] can breed, but it also can still breed pain, so just trying to be sensitive to which generation I’m speaking to and what’s comfortable and what’s uncomfortable, that’s kinda how I navigate it.”

 

But what about the N-word being used in literature that is taught in schools?  Should it be banned to avoid offense?

 

“Well, in literature, like in TKK, Huckleberry [Finn] and many other titles, I believe it’s okay because the author gives us a view on how life was during those times–no controversy in that, just facts,” says Glendy Diaz Olivares, a Junior at HMSA.

 

“I think it’s okay, and there is sort of a need for it, so as to be accurate, to clearly show how people acted at the given time the book is set in,” says Shania Miles.

 

Johanna Navarrete, a Junior at HMSA, agrees: “I’m okay with it as long as it’s used to teach a lesson or if it takes place in the time that this was used by everyone (like in Huckleberry Finn).”

 

Products of the talented HMSA English Department, these students acknowledge the education value of allowing the N-word in literature.

However, King warns that the impact may lie in the individual: “I think it can be harmful if a person doesn’t really have their own identity. It can kind of project negative connotation. That’s my only concern, is how it reflects on that particular individual and how they perceive themselves.”

 

Literature impacts individuals greatly. It has the ability to change people’s minds. There is a concern that certain topics, such as the N-word, that authors–and teachers–are hesitant to include in their novels and curriculum because they don’t want to create a negative response from their readers.

 

Upperclassmen have gone through the process of learning Black history in greater depth with the help of analyzing To Kill a Mockingbird, but the N-word should still be talked about. The N-word is a delicate topic and because of that it should be respected. The question is How do we respect it? Hopefully this article has given you some insight to choose they way you’ll respect it.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird.  

 

Towards the end of freshman year, Ms. Siegler introduced us to this famous novel by Harper Lee.

 

Although, I have known of Black history for quite some time now, as it has been taught to me throughout school, it wasn’t until I got to Ms. Siegler’s class that my eyes were really opened to the brutal and gruesome treatment Black people had to go through.

 

Ms. Siegler informed us of the backstage version of what textbooks tell us about Black history. She had us watch informational videos about people that lived in the time of the oppression of Black people. She discussed the way society treated Blacks while we were reading Harper Lee’s famous novel. She even had us read multiple articles about the N-word and people’s opinion of it being said in a class environment.

 

The history of Black people is connected with a word that has been changed over time.

The N-word.

By having my eyes opened to such a delicate subject, I wanted others to voice their opinion on the word. The N-word’s history shouldn’t just be learned about and then forgotten as we move up in grades. We should discuss it because it is still vital in our lives today.

 

I asked people, between the three different types of the N-word, ending in “er, ga, oe”, which word has more impact?

 

Alicia King, an adult who is well involved within her community and more, reflects, “I think when [N-word ending in ‘a’] is used, that’s more offensive because of how it’s associated with history and slavery and the civil rights movement and people of color being treated as if they are less than …the caucasian race. I think the word is more offensive and degrading and dehumanizing than the others.”

 

Shania Miles, a sophomore at HMSA, replies that she thinks the N-word with a hard ‘r’ “seems most offensive.” For an individual who “really [goes] hard on the ‘r’ in the word, [it] seems kind of intentional to [her]”–meaning that if someone is using the word while speaking, they most likely intended to say it to offend whomever they directed the word towards.

In contrast, “[N-word ending in ‘a’] isn’t really racist because it’s used in more of a “homey” way. But I feel like [N-words ending in the hard r and oe] are more racist because they were used during the times Black people were enslaved and worked on plantations”, replies Freshman, Jose Ramirez, at Hawthorne High School (HHS).

Are you surprised by the answers? The N-word with a hard ‘r’ seems to be most offensive because of the way it is associated with history. The N-word ending with ‘a’ has been used by many as a way to classify a person as a friend.

 

One issue is should the N-word be used by Black people since such a word is connected to a tragic era of Black people’s history.

 

Some Black people still use it today, and some even agree with the unspoken custom that they are only allowed to say it.

 

“I think it depends on the person. Some African-American, or Black people, consider it to be offensive because it has to do with the generations,” reflects King.  “We have to remember that we have to respect what our ancestors went through and the pain and the humiliation and the hurt that they experienced as a result of that word.”  

 

However, acknowledging the change in perspective that often comes with age, she says, “The older generation has to understand that there’s a freedom that we’ve [the younger generations] come into that we don’t associate with the pain that they associated with.”

More and more Black people are celebrating their culture more expressively than in the past. Their ethnicity, and the tragedies and hate they’ve overcome for many years, is what drives them to be so proud of who they are. As such, they consider the N-word to be apart of them because of their ancestors’ history.

 

However, not everyone is comfortable with the N-word.

 

To Berenice Espinoza, a Junior at HMSA, “The N-word represents a time in the past where slavery was ok, even though it wasn’t.”

 

“With the way people react towards it, I don’t think it should be used at all,” says  Freshman, Jose Ramirez at HHS.

There are those, like Jose, who think the N-word should just stop being spoken. The word causes a negative reaction just like if an adult hears an adolescent curse. Some people, even Black people, just aren’t comfortable with the word.

 

Still, others disagree with this ban. “[I]t’s not like Black people have ownership over the word,” says Shania Miles.

 

Shania Miles brings a response that is not uncommon.

 

“It’s just a word and nothing else in my eyes. Also with everyone saying the word so casually in conversation has sort if desensitized me to the word, to be honest,” says Shania Miles.

 

Acknowledging the topic’s sensitivity, Alicia King says, “[T]here are some people that have asked not to use that word in their presence, and I can respect that.”

 

“There’s a commonality and comradery,” she explains, “that [the N-word] can breed, but it also can still breed pain, so just trying to be sensitive to which generation I’m speaking to and what’s comfortable and what’s uncomfortable, that’s kinda how I navigate it.”

 

But what about the N-word being used in literature that is taught in schools?  Should it be banned to avoid offense?

 

“Well, in literature, like in TKK, Huckleberry [Finn] and many other titles, I believe it’s okay because the author gives us a view on how life was during those times–no controversy in that, just facts,” says Glendy Diaz Olivares, a Junior at HMSA.

 

“I think it’s okay, and there is sort of a need for it, so as to be accurate, to clearly show how people acted at the given time the book is set in,” says Shania Miles.

 

Johanna Navarrete, a Junior at HMSA, agrees: “I’m okay with it as long as it’s used to teach a lesson or if it takes place in the time that this was used by everyone (like in Huckleberry Finn).”

 

Products of the talented HMSA English Department, these students acknowledge the education value of allowing the N-word in literature.

However, King warns that the impact may lie in the individual: “I think it can be harmful if a person doesn’t really have their own identity. It can kind of project negative connotation. That’s my only concern, is how it reflects on that particular individual and how they perceive themselves.”

 

Literature impacts individuals greatly. It has the ability to change people’s minds. There is a concern that certain topics, such as the N-word, that authors–and teachers–are hesitant to include in their novels and curriculum because they don’t want to create a negative response from their readers.

 

Upperclassmen have gone through the process of learning Black history in greater depth with the help of analyzing To Kill a Mockingbird, but the N-word should still be talked about. The N-word is a delicate topic and because of that it should be respected. The question is How do we respect it? Hopefully this article has given you some insight to choose they way you’ll respect it.

 

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