Q: Why is it that blacks can use the “n” word all they want but when a white person uses it all hell breaks loose?
A: Simply put…White supremacy.
Elizabeth Martínez says,
White Supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.
By not seeing that racism is systemic (part of a system), people often personalize or individualize racist acts. For example, they will reduce racist police behavior to “a few bad apples” who need to be removed, rather than seeing it exists in police departments all over the country and is basic to the society. This mistake has real consequences: refusing to see police brutality as part of a system, and that the system needs to be changed, means that the brutality will continue.
The term White Supremacy gives white people a clear choice of supporting or opposing a system, rather than getting bogged down in claims to be anti-racist (or not) in their personal behavior.
The ‘n word’ has been used for centuries to separate white people from black people and to denote who was a slave and who was a master. It wasn’t always this way, but in the US the ‘n word’ was specifically used against black people by white people. When white people use this word we remind black people that we, as white people benefit from white privilege. When white people use that word we reinforce white supremacy. We remind black people that we stole black people from their countries and brought them to the US to be slaves.
Why would you want to cause pain?
Professor Kaba Kamene (aka Booker T. Coleman) from the Department of Black Studies at SUNY New Paltz spoke at the “N—-” program hosted by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. in 2013. He is speaking specifically to a black student audience.
TW: Professor Kamene uses a lot of words used against various groups of people in this video. Professor Kamene is clear that he means no offense and is using words to demonstrate something, to use and break down the meaning and origin of words. White folks, even in education settings, it is not usually a good idea for us to use the actual words. Think about your privilege!