Dropping That N-Bomb: OV Needs Your Help

It is one of the most painful, difficult, and quintessentially American words in our language.

It’s been used to dehumanize, to hurt feelings, to show love, and to sell records. When popular talk radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger let fly with it on her national show last week, she stirred up a small hornet’s nest.

This Saturday, August 21, we’re having an OV family dialogue about the “N word.” Two of our correspondents – 64 and 21 years old – will have an inter-generational conversation about its meanings, uses, and controversies.

We will videotape and post the discussion.

Here’s where you come in. Please send us a ONE-sentence question or comment that you would like to be included in our conversation this Saturday.

Below, you can leave your thought as a comment. You can also comment on our Facebook page, or Tweet us using #OVNword. Be sure to give us your name (with pronunciation), and tell us where you’re writing from.

Have your comment or question in by Friday evening, Oakland time.

The debates about that word – about who can & can’t use it, when (not) to say it, whether or not its noxious history is a good enough reason not to use it today – aren’t new. They are all around us. Some complain about it with their friends. Others offend their elders with it. And of course there’s its confusing potency when it comes off the tongues of white people.

OV wants to bring some of those debates out into the open.

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  1. This debate is not new. The words have always had, and still have, different power in different contexts. The battle of race in this country has always used words as weopons. And youth culture has always used words to create identity. Check out this bit of pop music social comment from Sly and the Family Stones 1969 album, “Stand”. http://bit.ly/9XhW8Y

  2. The “N” word’s meaning depends on the intentions behind it. Some use the word to express camaraderie, union, and friendship. Others may use the word derogatorily or disrespectfully with intentions to hurt. I believe the world was born in the Black culture to create a more positive form of the word “Nigger,” which the white slave owners used to belittle minorities. “Nigga,” the “N” word in question, has a much more positive connotation only if used for that intention.

  3. I am a 14 year old girl & the use of the N word affects me differently. I feel like when the word “Nigger” is being used towards me , i take it offensively . The word “Nigga” not so much, because of how all my friends and everything i hear these days pretty much use the word in everything. Most of my friends parents don’t really get bothered when their child uses the word “Nigga” but i know in my house i cant . I don’t use the word offensively at all , but my family doesn’t allow me to use it so its not said much.

  4. I grew up in the heart of Wst Oakland and heard the word used as frequently and as freely as the word “hello”. I never chose to judge those that said it, but I made it a point not to use th word myself. Now, as the parent of a 14 year old, I hear the word very differently – in what music she listens to, from those she hangs around, just in general and I now choose to remind her friends that this is not a term that we use in my house, not on my daughter’s facebook page, not in her text messages, or any other form of communication. If that is how they choose to address one another, they have to do it elsewhere – I will not have it!

  5. @Ferehwot I live in Oakland, California, USA and I hear the “N” word all the time. I even say nigga myself, but I do not know the meaning of the “N” word.

    I have been told using it is bad, but I do not know why. I know some white people have called blacks Negros and Niggers, but I am not sure why it wrong.

    Once a white man yelled and called me a Nigger as he drove by me in his car. I felt bad, but I figured he was jealous because I looked cute that day. I knew he was not saying, “Have a good day, Nigger. I would call you by your name, but you look like a Nigger to me”. He intended to hurt me, but I don’t know why. I didn’t do anything to him. I was just walking down the street.

    Yes, his actions that day hurt me enough to remember and recite it to you today. He called me a Nigger, but his words cannot make me a Nigger.

  6. I would like for this one question to be answered in Saturday’s discussion:

    What is the origin and definition of the word “Nigger” ?

  7. I myself don’t use the n word it’s not a part of my vocabulary i feel that people should be careful how they use the n word a lot of people get offended especially when it’s used in arguments by it’s race or different races so no i don’t think it should be used even if it’s being used in a joking way people get offended either way you put it

  8. For me I have heard that n word since I was litle girl. I have also used the word NIGGA but it was used to people I was around and it was used like a slang word for me . Now that I have matured I try not to used it …. But it hard because I am so use to hearing it and saying it . But I do try to work on not saying it .

  9. I never hear that word in my country (Eretria-North Africa). So I do not understand that word or its meaning.

  10. I am 65-years-old, raised in an all-white midwestern community by parents who equated the N-word with profanity. Although I understand the need many (usually young) African Americans have to bandy the word about, perhaps in an attempt to own it, unfortunate undercurrents of self-deprecation and uncertainty remain. I feel race is an artificial construct and derogatory designations from any source only deepen the divide.

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