I have always had to deal with the awkward N-word question from my white friends.
You know it… “Why can’t white people say the N-word, but black people can?”
It usually ends with the black friend having to try to explain the complex history of the word, explain cultural wordings, etc… so here let me put it out plain and simple.
White people had their turn to use the word…for over 200 years.
They had their turn when they ripped us away from Africa.
They had their turn while we were working in the fields planting tobacco, cotton, and other agricultural goods.
They had their turn while raping their black female slaves.
They had their turn when they sold us and separated our families.
They had their turn when they established the Jim Crow laws.
They had their turn when they lynched us.
They had their turn when the Klan burned crosses on our lawns.
They had their turn when they wouldn’t let us sit in the diners to eat lunch.
They had their turn when they made us sit in the back of the bus.
They had their turn when they turned they bombed our churches.
They had their turn when they turned firehouses and dogs on our peaceful protests.
They had their turn when they killed Civil Rights activists.
During that ENTIRE time. Guess what word they used for people with skin the color of ebony? What word poured from the lips of the Klan as they lynched our men in the trees? What word did they sing in the minstrel shows? You know the word. Can you comprehend the pain of a culture? So, some people in our culture decide to take that word and make it one of empowerment, endearment, or what ever they decided. They did it to remove the sting, the prick of pain the word has caused. But now its off limits to white people.
White people are upset they can’t use the word anymore. If you think about it, the N-word is one of the few things white America can not take away from us. They can not use it in jokes, they can not rap a song with the word in it. It is off limits, and it makes them furious. Especially considering, most white people do not know how to live with something being denied them. Black people on the other hand? Its part of our cultural experience in America. Black America knows how to be denied, it knows how to suffer. White America has never experienced that, and this little word is the one thing they can’t have. And it drives them insane.
White privilege has for centuries allowed them to take what ever they could from people of color: land, food, money, etc. but it is at our language where they have found a barrier they can not break past and it frightens them.
It is a word they built, that they crafted from hate and fear to make sure black America never grew, and now its forever out of their reach.