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.
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.