The debate over the use of the “n” word continues

Columnist Sierra Lyons

Last Tuesday, Latina actress, Gina Rodriguez came under fire after posting a video to her Instagram story of her singing along to a Fugees song, and ultimately singing the “n” word.

Hours after realizing that the video had caused the internet to go up in flames, Rodriguez deleted the video off of her social media and released a very abrupt apology where she said she was sorry “If she offended anyone by singing along to the Fugees.”

Many different debates sparked from this scenario. The use of the “n” word by people that aren’t black, how latinx people self-identify ethnically, and should the word be thrown out altogether from society’s vocabulary are all conversations that have taken place over the past week.

However, the debate of black artists using the word in their music has been a debate that has caught my eye the most.

A popular idea is that if non-black people can’t sing/rap the “n” word, then black artists shouldn’t include it in their music.

While this opinion is more prominent in non-black communities, I was surprised to learn just how many black people in fact agree with this idea.

Black comic, and co-host of daytime talk show The Real, Loni Love surprised her co-hosts as she passionately stated that if black artists don’t want non-black people singing the “n” word, they shouldn’t include it in their music.

As someone who views this topic from many different standpoints, it’s worth asking two things: why is it that black people are constantly expected to accommodate to other members of society and, how legitimate is the argument that black people using the word amongst each other is a way of taking back the word and giving it power?

Are black people asking too much by asking non-black people to skip over the word when it comes up in a song, or to play the clean version? I don’t think so. 

What many fail to realize is that hip-hop isn’t just a genre of music.

Hip-hop encompasses an entire culture and art form and because of that there are cultural colloquialisms that have stemmed from the creation of hip hop. Whether you agree with it or not, the “n” word is a colloquialism used within the culture of hip hop.

On the contrary, whether or not black people using the word actually gives us power in reclaiming the word is arguable. 

In colonial America, the use of the racial slur began among those of European descent as a way to disrespect and dehumanize black people. With that being said, technically the “n” word never originally belonged to black people, making it justifiable for us to “take it back.”

Perhaps when people say “take it back” they don’t mean it in the literal sense, that it originally belonged to us. Black people’s resilience has shone bright throughout history and we are notorious for taking the bad things thrown our way and turning them into good.

Sadly, the “n” word may not be one of those things that has been turned around for good. No matter your ethnic background, the next time you are about to use the “n” word, simply ask yourself: why?