Sunday, December 8, 2013

I just started reading a book about the history of the "n-word"...

I downloaded this book some time ago.  I know there was a reason I downloaded it, but I don't remember what it is.  Anyway, I just started reading it and am a few pages into it.  The book was written by a black, Harvard educated law professor and it is literally peppered with the word "nigger".  I am surprised by how it makes me wince to read that word, even though having grown up in the South in the 70s and 80s, I heard it many times.  I am now very sensitized to it, though.  It makes me cringe.

So far, I have read about how the author's mother and grandmother were verbally assaulted with the n-word and how the author, while attending an excellent private boarding school, was told a racist joke by a classmate who apparently momentarily forgot his friend was black.  I read a review that has sort of prepared me for what the author proposes about the word "nigger" and I have a feeling I will agree with him.

I posted about this book on Facebook this morning and three or four people immediately started a conversation about it.  One was a man from the South who used to use that word regularly.  He asked me why I needed to read about the history of that word, then suggested that I ask a rapper, since they use it so much in their music.  A very liberal friend immediately took my southern friend to task, letting him know that if he didn't know why it was okay for rappers to use that word, maybe he should read the book himself.

Personally, I don't agree with my liberal friend.  I don't think it's appropriate to make certain words only available for certain people.  I also don't believe in burying language.  Sometimes it is appropriate to use objectionable words.  It's the context that is important, not wholesale banning of so-called "bad words".  At the same time, when someone asked me the name of the book, I felt compelled to send her a private message.  You never know what will offend people in our PC world.

The author is very good with language.  I look forward to learning new things and writing a review that may stimulate some discussion… and hopefully the discussion won't become ugly.

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