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GiftofGab avatar 12:20 AM on 04.16.2010  (server time)
Not addressing the n-word in Def Jam Rapstar

“In this day and age, you can’t NOT offend somebody, somewhere, and I think people need to come to terms with that.” - Jim Sterling

Frankly, I wasn’t sure how to start this article, or how I could condense such frustration at an article into meaningful words. This debate over whether or not certain people are allowed to say “The N-Word” has to stop. Immediately. And as always before writing something about race, I have to do the old “I have black friends” or “I have a 360 so i’m not a fanboy” excuse of explaining who I am before I am allowed to write anything. So without further adieu, here goes:

I am Sebastian, 21, Black, Born in NY, and a gamer.

Being a black man from Brooklyn, there are a lot of differences between me, and, lets say, a white man from Mont Alto, Pennsylvania. We probably have different tastes in music, different taste in food, clothing, or even speech. But the argument that I am somehow entitled to say a word that the man from Mont Alto is not, simply based on his skin color is asinine. Let me be clear: That is racism. It is denying any human being the right to say any word because of the color of his skin. If you want equality, if you want to be treated fairly, then anyone of any race has the right to say the n-word.

I have absolutely no concept of what it must have been like to be a slave. It must have been absolutely torturous. It was wrong, disgusting, and an ugly part of humanity. When the Civil Rights movement started, black people demanded to be treated fairly, and even they had to go through extreme hardships just to be given the same treatment as white people. We all know this. Anyone who’s been to high school has studied this. In this time, “The N-Word” was derogatory, it was disgusting, it was wrong to use. Today, you could argue that it is still wrong to use, I am not here to make that claim. However, when a generation of us, as black people, use this word every day in various places ranging from TV, Movies, Music, and everyday life (I can tell you that I have said it, and I am not ashamed of it) then it is improper, immoral and illogical to say that other people, other human beings, cannot use this word.

In my high school, the n-word was once used in a derogatory manner by a white person. This person used it with intention to harm, and to make the people that it was directed toward feel like less of a human being. It was completely unnecessary and an absolutely terrible thing to say, regardless of the circumstances. However it was not a terrible thing for him to say “the N-Word” because he was a white man, on the contrary, it was because he used it in a hateful, derogatory manner that made the term unacceptable. Especially with “the N-Word” used in music so blatantly, it’s absolutely ridiculous to think that people, regardless of their race should have to shy away from it, or feel uncomfortable by its use in those terms.

“the n-word caught me completely off-guard. What would I do? What should I do?”

This is in no way an acceptable reaction. How could it be? Putting people in a situation where there is no clear cut response is a terrible idea. But you cannot blame the man for his reaction, it is basically what was ingrained in him, to “not say it” and to avoid any sort of reaction or discussion about it. Why? because he’s not black. Because his race is not my race, somehow he should not be able to say words that we are allowed to say, even use as terms of endearment, no less. Once again. This is racism.

I’ll admit, I was pretty angry at the fact that this article needed to exist. However since it is a pretty normal reaction, I wasn’t too angry. That is, until the quote from Mr Jamie King:

“ We don't have ownership, as [white people], of that word. I think that word does come up, and that is perhaps a word where, with the radio edits, there is an opportunity to not say it. We certainly don't make it a central part of the story or the career mode. That is a very personal decision in that point and time, regardless of race, creed and color as for how you use that word in the context of the song. Obviously, these artists are using it; they've empowered it and own it. To just shy away and be frightened doesn't mean we should abuse it, and hopefully I think we've treated it in a respectful manner the way all these artists and their content in their work would expect us to.”

“We don’t have ownership, as [white people], of that word.”

Are you kidding me? Do people, regardless of race, think that “they do not have ownership of a word?” We’ll, I’ll admit he is right. Why? Because it is a word! You couldn’t own a word more than you could own the vaccine for Polio. Nobody has ownership of words. Nobody. And nobody has any right, no matter who they are to tell you that there are words you cannot say. That is the very definition of discrimination.

“Obviously, these artists are using it; they’ve empowered it and own it.”

There’s that word again. “Own.” What he means by this statement is: “black people use it, and they own the word, and have empowered it.” Now everyone has heard this “we took the word and made it cool” argument before. Thats fine. If you took it and made it cool, I absolutely support that. But if that is true, then you cannot say to someone else that they are not allowed to use it. Black people are not a club. They are not the Boy Scouts of America, and therefore cannot discriminate against people and tell them what they can and cannot do. If you took the word and made it acceptable, than it is acceptable for every single person to say, no matter who they are. If it is not acceptable to say, you yourself cannot use the word. If you use the n word, you are entitling everyone of every race, age and background to use the n word. It’s that simple.

“To just shy away and be frightened doesn’t mean we should abuse it, and hopefully I think we’ve treated it in a respectful manner the way all these artists and their content in their work would expect us to.”

This actually makes the most sense out of everything that he’s said. If it is acceptable to say (as it has obviously become) than no one should “shy away and be frightened” from it. The rest of that statement is basically justifying that they put “the N-Word” in there and are not going to take it out. Which I support. In fact I wish that they would have used the actual songs, and not the radio edits, because if we are purchasing that product, we should be allowed to sing the song as it was made, and not a version acceptable for parents and the FCC.

Among my friends, every person I know knows it is completely acceptable to say “the n word” around me, use it in jokes, statements or whatever way they want to use it, as long as it is not used with intent to harm. Why? because I use it in jokes, statements and other ways, but I do not use it with intent to demean. I don’t of course use it in all social circles, in the same way that I do not curse in all social circles. So to black people: know that if you use “the N-Word”, you must be willing to invite everyone you know to use the word with you. If it is acceptable for you to use, it is acceptable for everyone to use. To everyone else: at some point in your life, you’ll come across “the N-Word”. It happens, especially in today’s society. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t be writing this post now. Hopefully the people using it are enlightened enough to realize that it is, in all aspects, just a word. The only meaning it has is the meaning that you give it, and the intent in which you have to use it.

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