The following is a letter to the editor.
Whether it’s freshman seminar or one of the university’s Diversity & Ethics classes, I have seen time and time again white educators use the “N word.” It seems that the intention is to break down the hostility towards the word, in order to have a more honest conversation about race. Some professors think that the stigma around the “N word” prevents productive dialogue about racial oppression. But what defines “productive dialogue?” Is it a conversation where white students are encouraged to throw empathy out the window, to relieve guilt when discussing black oppression?
Just as you are able to readily identify what word I am referring to in this piece, it is evident that you can talk about the “N word” without saying the actual word. With that in mind it reveals that saying the “N word” for educational purposes is just unnecessary. Unfortunately there are some professors that have this uncontrollable itch to succumb to their white privilege, seeking any opportunity to say a word that they would feel otherwise barred from using. The “N word” is a derogatory term created by whites to dehumanize black people. Used among some black people, it is a term of endearment; a way of acknowledging a shared experience of black oppression. But white people are not entitled to black culture and therefore not entitled to share in that experience. This is a very important point to understand when educating students on the callousness of the “N word.”
Enlightening students to the effects of oppressive slurs should be to promote cultural competency. Part of cultural competency is being aware of how minoritized people are impacted by the things that those of privileged groups say and do. This includes being mindful of how using such words, especially by a white professor can trigger black and brown students. Besides, “why do white people want to say the word so badly anyway?” –Isaiah Lee ‘16