White people don’t like being told that stuff’s off limits to us.
At least that’s my theory for why this question is still being asked:
White Person: “If Black people can just throw the N-word around all the time, why is it not okay for White people to use that word?”
So in as concise a way as possible, I want to answer this question as clearly as I can for all the White people still asking it.
4 Reasons White People Can’t Use the N-Word (No Matter What Black Folks are Doing)
1. We lost the privilege. You know that whole, you know, 600 year time period when White people were buying and selling Black people as chattel? Well, remember how that whole system was enforced by a violent system of repression whereby Black slaves who did not act the way the White folks wanted them to were beaten and murdered? Oh, and remember that time after slavery when Black people were locked in a system called Jim Crow that used a similar fear of violence and repression to keep Black people in “their place?” Well, in the midst of all that shit, there was a word invented by White people as a pejorative for Black folks. It was used just about every time a Black person was whipped, chained, beaten, insulted, spit upon, raped, lynched, or otherwise humiliated and mistreated by White folks.
Thus, I don’t care how much White folks want to use that word. I don’t care how unfair you think it is that someone else gets to use it when we don’t. Our people gave up the privilege to use that word the moment we invented it as a tool of oppression.
2. Why the hell should we get a say in the conversation about that word? There is a lively debate in African American communities between those who think it’s time to “Bury the N-Word” and those who think it can be reclaimed as a word of camaraderie and brotherhood/sisterhood.
That is a healthy conversation, and it’s a part of a long history of marginalized communities attempting to “reclaim” words that were once oppressive. No matter how long that conversation goes on in Black communities, though, White people do not get to take part. I’m sorry. As the ones from whom the word of violence and oppression must be reclaimed, we do not get to have a word in that conversation. Plain and simple.
3. Why should everything be in bounds to us? The question being asked is, in essence, the epitome of White Privilege. As White folks, we tend to think that every door should be open to us, every conversation should be ours, every space should welcome us. We think this way because, when it comes to racialized spaces, that tends to be the case. We have the privilege of having our voices heard and our presence recognized in just about every space there is. Thus, we HATE IT when we are told that we are not actually welcome in a conversation. But here’s what we need to understand: we’re the only people that get the privilege of access to whatever racialized space we want. White Women can hopefully begin to understand this when you think about the ways in which you are denied voice and space by dominant Men, but White people need to understand this. Just because we are not welcome to use one word in the English language does not mean that we are being discriminated against. It means that we, rightfully, need to shut up and listen.
4. It’s not, in fact, a double standard. It’s a standard:
So . . . White people . . . Can we put this to rest?