GREENE COLUMN: N-word will never be OK

Never say never, the saying goes. But not in this case. There will never be enough change in spelling or meaning for me to accept the use of the N-word. Not now. Not ever.

And while I will never presume to speak for all African-Americans, I believe most abhor the word.

The N-word, no matter how you spell it or try to put a positive spin on it, is still being used as a weapon to hurt and degrade African-Americans.

And for most, it still breeds anger from way down deep within. Many blacks have either had the racial slur used against them or know a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent who has. The recent controversy about the white School of the Arts senior who tweeted a photo containing the N-word in reference to a black classmate brings to mind an incident I witnessed two months ago.

A flood of emotions came front and center in mid-March as I watched racial road rage unfold at a stoplight at Interstate 526 and Sam Rittenberg Boulevard.

Racial rage on I-526

It was dusk, and I had just gotten my hair done. I felt refreshed. I pulled up behind another car at the red light, and sat inattentively as others pulled up around me.

Suddenly, I heard yelling, and cracked my passenger side window to hear what was going on.

An under-40 white man in an SUV or truck in the right turn lane was leaning out his driver's window and repeatedly yelling the “n” word at someone in a car in the lane to the left of him. No one responded.

But he kept shouting that word over and over and over again. Screaming it from the top of his voice. His body shook. He was in a rage.

The only words that changed were the adjectives preceding the N-word — dumb, stupid … you get the idea.

It seems like this went on forever and would never stop.

I became emotional, angry, then quickly afraid, not knowing the object of his rage or what would happen next. This man was livid. I thought: What if he pulls out a gun and starts shooting? I can't move, I am boxed in by other vehicles. What should I do?

What if the other person gets angry and pulls out a weapon himself?

God, don't let me die in a crossfire on this highway.

After what seemed like an eternity, a woman in the right center lane opened her car door and jumped out quickly as if to challenge the man.

That's when the light turned green and the man made a right turn and sped away. The woman got back into her car and drove away.

“Thank you, Lord,” I said as I drove away slowly, my thoughts and heart racing, wondering what that was all about. Maybe someone had made an incorrect lane change that sent this man on a tear that could not be mistaken for anything but rage against a black person.

It's not OK

So, no. No one, not rappers or hip-hop artists or songs by them will ever persuade me to change my stance on a word that was born of racial hatred and used by many over generations to demean blacks.

No, not every white person thinks the word is OK. And everyone should think twice before using words that can hurt others.

Some blacks think the word is OK for blacks to say, but not whites.

Many younger blacks use a variation of the word to greet friends, black and white. And some younger whites think it's OK to do the same. It's not. On any level. The word carries the historical weight of racial hatred. And while your small group of friends may accept it, there will always be someone within earshot or on social media who may have lived through segregation and the spit-in-your-face, punch-in-the-gut feel of this awful word.

So my advice: Don't use the N-word. Ever.



Reach Assistant Features Editor Shirley A. Greene at 937-5555, or sgreene@postandcourier.com.

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