“I don’t use it because of its history, and I don’t believe in saying it,” said Kasandra Mackay, a student at Millersville.
One of the most offensive words in the English language today, and there is still controversy over who can use it, and what context it can be used in. Darjanae Naylor, a psychology major, stated that it does depend on the context and that the word has changed over time.
The word was once, and still is, used to oppress an entire race and to dismantle their culture. In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it was claimed that self-concept has two defining factors: self-esteem and shyness, which indicate how much people believe in themselves.
By the constant use of this word (among other discriminatory and prejudice acts), an entire race has been undermined and their self-concept has been engrained to feel like the lesser people.
Darjanae Naylor is right: the word has changed over time. The African-American community has reclaimed the word, using it as a source of empowerment and solidarity. When I interviewed Kara Buckner, an African-American student majoring in social work, she stated that when her white friends say it, she becomes upset and offended.
Reclamation of a word for solidarity that was once used to oppress an entire race is a huge step in racial justice and it counteracts the already instilled self-concept created by slavery, segregation, and discrimination. Imagine that you have an older brother and you both have big ears. Your older brother was made fun of and called “Dumbo” in high school, and now other kids call you “Dumbo” too. So, you and your brother start calling each other “Dumbo” in an endearing way, a way to empower yourselves over your similarities. It simply wouldn’t be the same if another person came along and called you and your brother “Dumbo”.
I hear the word used around campus a lot. Whether it’s being used in a casual setting, or in a derogatory context, it is inappropriate. Depending on where you are and where you’re from, the word is used more or less.
“I lived outside of Philadelphia. I never thought it was a suitable word. Never okay,” stated student James Roussel.
So, what can you do about it? As a citizen, a student, a believer in racial and social justice, what can you do to end the perpetual racism and discrimination?
Chase Martin, a secondary education major, says that he doesn’t interject when he hears someone say the word. He believes that if someone is as ignorant as to use a derogatory term, there is nothing he can do to change that person’s mind. Martin states, “I don’t take offense to the word; but I don’t approve of its use.”
I disagree with this concept. If you hear the word, or any derogatory term being used that you take offense to, or you know someone who takes offense to that word, speak up. Don’t just refrain from the use of such language; speak out against it. There is nothing wrong with progression and speaking out against racial or social injustices.