Being a man of a certain age, I have a long history with the “N” word. I have heard it used in every way imaginable. That would be as a derogatory, ugly reference to my race (by wither black or white people), as a term of endearment (mostly but not exclusively by black people), and as a throwaway utterance (I didn’t mean nothin’ by it).
It’s always made me wince, no matter what the context, because I know its history.
That means no matter how rappers tried to rationalize their use of the “N” word, it rang hollow for me. Even gifted hip hop artists seem to just throw it into their lyrics as a means of gaining “street credibility”.
Now, all this having been said, it seems to me that use of the “N” word is starting to decline, at least among black people. Maybe it’s the election of President Barack Obama, or maybe linguistic fashion is changing, but I don’t hear it quite as much in ordinary conversation among young black people.
Some might argue that, as a black man of a certain age, I just don’t hear as much conversation among young black folks as I used to?
It’s possible that my perception is wrong, and that groups like Ban the “N” Word have had no impact at all.
However, a friend sent me one of those Funspace videos on Facebook the other day. Normally, I play about 10 seconds of it and then move on, but this one was different. It’s really only after the first 10 seconds that it gets interesting.
It’s a young man named Johnathan McCoy, winner of an oratorical contest at Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple, and his words about moving the “N” word from the vocabulary of black America might just have an impact.
So, instead of continuing with this rant, I give you 10-year-old Johnathan McCoy, whose voice hasn’t even changed yet, dispensing wisdom that should command all our attention.
Many thanks to my old friend Curtis Waller for sending this to me on Facebook.
But bottom line, you tell me. Can the words of this child make people think before they use the “N” word?