Dear White People:
There has been much confusion and strife regarding issues of race; in particular, the use of the n-word. From everyday racist whites who can’t quit Jim Crow, to idiot shock jocks whites like Clay Travis who think it’s perfectly acceptable to say the n-word in popular songs sung by contemporary hip hop and rap artists. To well-intentioned whites like Bill Maher when he uttered the phrase during a live telecast of his Friday night talk show, Real Time with Bill Maher.
Just recently, another well-intentioned white man, Viggo Mortensen, while doing the rounds promoting his new drama Green Book, had used the word in the middle of a Q&A session.
“People don’t say ‘nigger’ anymore,” Mortensen said at the Q&A, which immediately alarmed people at the event.
The actor later said he was trying to make “the point that many people casually used the n-word at the time in which the movie story takes place.”
To Mr. Mortensen’s credit, rather than double down on his remarks, or defend how he had used the word, he offered up a thoughtful and sincere apology to the people he had offended the night before:
“Although my intention was to speak strongly against racism, I have no right to even imagine the hurt that is caused by hearing that word in any context, especially from a white man. I do not use the word in public or private. I am very sorry that I did use the full word last night, and will not utter it again.”
Despite his apology and despite his attempt to use the word in context, this unfortunate event serves as a teaching lesson to all whites about how to approach and discuss the n-word: namely, you don’t.
As a basic reminder: the word “nigger” was used by slave-owners as a humiliating term to describe African slaves, as well as to rob us of our worth as human beings. The point was to display how it was fine to subjugate, exploit, torture and kill my ancestors because we were seen as inferior to whites as a species, and that word, even after the end of slavery was used for the very same reason: to put down the black man and woman, & display how we will always be seen as lesser in the eyes and minds of Jim Crow whites.
Point blank: it is a word that is synonymous with the degradation African-Americans have suffered for over a century, and now it’s become a word we have either taken back, or wish to leave in the dustbin of history. Regardless, it is not – I repeat, not – your place to say it, or to try to use it in any context whatsoever.
I do hope this (finally) clears up any confusion you might have about its use.