Writer ponders reasons, usage of the "N" word

Posted: Monday, February 09, 2009

Think of the worst word you know. The one word that you can't even bring yourself to whisper. A few weeks ago, the word I hate the most caused silence throughout an entire classroom. There are few things that I am completely intolerant of, but none are worse than the "N" word.

As a little girl, I grew up on Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow and Arthur. While sitting on the floor, I learned all about manners, literature, safaris in Africa and counting with the Count. These shows are composed of eclectic characters, different skin tones and accents, starring in the same half hour block on TV. The casts usually accepted each other, never mind the fact that Buster was a rabbit talking to Muffy, the monkey. The point being, my generation, those born in 1991 and after, share this common childhood memory. We watched the same shows that taught the same values and learned that some things in life are not OK.

Sometimes I assume too much of people, that is my tragic flaw. I assume everyone is deeply offended by derogatory language and would never degrade themselves by using it. They must realize how ignorant they sound, they simply must. Or perhaps they did not read books suggested every week by LeVar, an African American.

A few weeks ago in class, a peer said something that bothered me. It was a blatant enunciation of the "N" word. At the time, a discussion was taking place about someone using the 'N' word, the teacher never actually said the word itself. It was obviously unnecessary. My entire honors English class swiveled around to gape at the person, everyone was silent.

How did that word slip out? I thought society had conditioned us better than that. I was angry, I wanted to scream to make them understand that they were wrong.

So why didn't I?

Everything in me knew it was wrong, yet I was quiet. I was too afraid to speak up and voice my deepest opinion, and now I know that it was wrong of me. My silence was just as harmful as the word itself. It would be in good taste to refrain from uttering such an unforgivable stain on the English language. I hope this sentiment becomes universal since it apparently has yet to.

When I hear racist remarks, my eyes automatically narrow, internal temperature rises and the profane vocabulary in my mind goes on the fritz. It has always been this way, this strong instinctual impulse. I have never called anyone the "N" word, in jest or otherwise, and have never taken kindly to anyone that has.

My lifetime has never seen a Jim Crow law or "Separate but Equal" signs in public places and for that I am so thankful. We should always be aware of the words that our society has fought so hard to eliminate, and respect how far we've come.

This article is the opinion of Sophia Taeschner. Taeschner is a senior at Skyview High School.



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