The N Word

If you were at a gym class and the song being played repeatedly used the N word, would you say something?

Walking into my body conditioning class this morning, I was greeted by the N word blaring out of the studio speakers.  The class instructor seemed completely oblivious to the word, blonde pony tail swinging in the air, she skipped around the classroom merrily encouraging us all to warm up.

My fellow class mates, if offended or disgusted by the repeated use of the racial slur, did nothing to voice their displeasure.

I alone complained.

I alone was the only person in the studio to whom the N word could be applied.

I wonder how many of those in the class would have unequivocally answered “Yes, of course!” to the first question, yet remained silent during the class? Are we only offended if we deem the word a personal offence?   If the song repeatedly used the word K*ke or fa**ot would that be acceptable to anyone who wasn’t Jewish or homosexual in the room? Are our responses different to different racial slurs?

This is the week that six students in Arizona thought it perfectly acceptable to spell out the N word on their T-Shirts at a school event.  From the students gleeful smiles and their school’s lacklustre response in reprimanding them, it would appear that the word is acceptable to them.   Even here in the UK, the lip service apology, wrapped up in excuses, delivered to me after my conversation with the gym manager, seemed to imply that the N word is (secretly) ok, nothing more than a social faux pas.

Macklemore addresses white priviledge
Macklemore addresses white priviledge

This is same week that Macklemore released a song entitled “white privilege”.  He tackles the position and influence he has in the fight for racial equality being a mainstream white artist performing black music.  He was prombted to write the song after his conversation with a fellow hip hop artist…

‘You have a platform, but silence is an action, and right now, you’re being silent.”

Maybe we don’t have the platform and influence of a multi platinum selling artist.   But each one of us has a voice.  Maybe the people in the gym class were just as offended by the music, but because they remained silent we will never know.  All I know is that if I had remained silent, I would be condoning the use of a word that for centuries has been used to ridicule, hurt and divide.

*You may have noticed the deliberate over use of questions in this post.  This post is an invitation to discussion.  Only through open dialogue can we learn from each other, as we all have different perspectives and experiences.




15 responses to “The N Word”

  1. Hello,
    First, I just wanted to say I’ve been following your blog for a while and have so enjoyed reading it.

    Second, I am so sorry to hear that this happened – no one should be subjected to this on any occasion. There is no excuse. I am glad you complained, and I hope that the gym will ensure that the song in question is never played again. If they do, please ‘name and shame’.

    Silence is an action, and to stay silent is to accept this abuse – and it is a form of abuse – as the norm, which is why it is vital that every time any language that is used to offend people on the grounds of race, gender, sexual preferences or other forms of discrimination should be at the very least questioned. The more we challenge these negative ‘norms’, the sooner they can be eradicated.

    Thank you for writing this post, and thank you for taking issue with the gym – it will help more people in a positive way than you will ever know.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I love your words “the more we challenge these negative ‘norms’. A perfect summary! Thank you

  2. It is important to NOT remain silent, to NOT make excuses for being silent. I am not a woman of color. I find that often people do not speak up unless someone of the target group is also present. This goes for sex, color, creed and ethnicity. I can be guilty of this and then I regret it immediately.To not speak up risks letting what gains have been made in to begin to slowly slip away. Let us not do that. Language does matter.

    1. Thank you for your response! I agree sometimes a situation occurs, and it shocks you into silence. You are not sure if you have the “right” to respond on that persons behalf. I’m trying to take courage from the times that other people have stood up for me and remember that it only takes one person to say something and it empowers the whole room. Thank again for sharing your experiences and thoughts Xx

  3. I would hope I would have spoken up. Sometimes I tune music out, so wouldn’t have noticed. I would hope it registered and I had words to articulate disagreement.

    1. Yes, I tend to tune out the music to but alas the lyrics were really prominent! Let’s hope we will all have the courage to stand up and say something x

  4. We find ourselves here again. What separates us from the Jewish or the white homosexual community is simply MONEY economic power will make it virtually impossible for derogatory language to be used against them in the wholesale fashion that the ‘N’ word is so prolific in music and film. We don’t write the cheques in the music or film business and those who do like Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey the Wayan Brothers are part of the same ideology i.e captialist, misogynist and racist. They make it fashionable, trival and seductive, they encourage and incite hate in the most insidious way by fetishizing and sexualizing black women while denigrating them in Hip Hop culture and animalising black men. And that is why your blond bouncing instructor saw nothing wrong in playing that offensive foolishness.

    1. Yes I agree, money and power are the key. It’s very importantly to take ownership of your portrayal in the media, and also to explain and educate young people from all black grounds the history of certain words and why they should never tolerated.

  5. Reblogged this on clickone212 and commented:
    Interesting perspective from the UK

  6. I hope I would have spoken out too! Sometimes I rely on other to be the first to speak up but I have to consider that my initial silence is in a way condoning the situation. Thank you for posting this article.

    1. Yes, sometimes it is really difficult to speak up! I suppose we all have to find our voice. Thank you for your honesty.

  7. Dear Brixton Housewife,

    My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. I recently stumbled across your blog and read the above post entitled “The N Word.” It’s well written, thought provoking, and compelling. I think it would make a wonderful youshare, because we have a long way to go to heal the deep racial wounds that plague communities all around the world, and as you say above “only from open dialogue can we learn from each other.” Youshare not only publishes personal stories, we offer a safe space in which to have tough conversations in the name of progress.

    If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to share your story with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.


  8. I really enjoyed reading this post! Very thought provoking, thanks for sharing.

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