What’s So Bad About Using the “N” Word?

What’s So Bad About Using the “N” Word?

We say it in mixed company or during table talk– when we’re having polite conversation.  We say it about people that we’ve just met, or about those that we’ve known for a long time.  Though many people are deserving of this label, others aren’t deserving at all; but still, we say it anyway. And if we’re opposed by others during our times of usage, we’ll vehemently defend our case with the tenancy of Johnnie Cochran and stick to our guns.  What am I talking about?  I’m talking about the ‘N’ word? The word that we shouldn’t use so loosely, but we do.

Of late the ‘N’ word has been the subject of much controversy.  And the question is, why? People have been quoted as saying it, and in some instances, they’ve said it more than once in the same sentence.  And even though I’ve used it myself, I’m posing the question, “why are we saying it about people who don’t fit the bill?”

Would you be angry if someone called you ‘stubborn or selfish’ even though you know you are?  Would you be upset if someone called you pretty or handsome, even when you know that you aren’t?  So what’s so wrong about using the ‘N’ word when appropriately describing someone or other?   Often we use it when talking about people we know… those we think we know… or those that we’ve just met. We generally say it because we have a feeling and this word applies to them.  Sometimes our feelings are wrong…and sometimes, they’re right.  And sometimes we say it to appease others, while letting their feelings cloud our good judgment, even when we know they’re wrong.

You can go to any office, school, or even church, and at some point, before the building has closed or school’s let out, or before Sunday service is over, I guarantee you that someone has affixed the ‘N’ word to someone’s name.

Certainly, there are worse things to be said about people, and I’m sure that more often than not, worse has been said.  But for now, we’re talking about the ‘N’ word.

Whether in public or private, the ‘N’ word has been, and will continue to be spoken routinely in describing our sentiments.

Though it’s derived from the Latin root-word nescius, which means ‘ignorant,’ I’d like to think that the word has more depth than that.

After all, Past President, Jimmy Carter was quoted using it more than once. And news anchor Barbara Walters has said it.  Even Nelson Mandela has used it in a speech or two.  And I’m sure that countless others, including you, the reader, are guilty as well.

For me, the ‘N’ word is not a word that I shy away from.  And I’ll say it again, “if people aren’t deserving of this label, then we should keep our mouths shut and not say it about them.  But if it applies to them, then say it.  And say it loudly!  Because I ask you, “what’s so wrong about using the ‘N’ word… NICE?”


Globalization, as defined by rich people like us, is a very nice thing… you are talking about the Internet, you are talking about cell phones, you are talking about computers. This doesn’t affect two-thirds of the people of the world…..Jimmy Carter

Success can make you go one of two ways. It can make you a prima donna – or it can smooth the edges, take away the insecurities, and let the nice things come out….Barbara Walters

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line then there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership…Nelson Mandela


Written By:  DeBorah Heggs-Alston

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