I ‘Dred Scott’ When I Hear The N-Word

The NAACP tried to ban it, while Oprah has shunned it.

Nonetheless, the “N” word—no matter the spelling—is used frequently in today’s pop culture. In music, it is said in unison amongst thousands at music festivals across the country. In movies, the word is used so much that you might lose count (i.e. The Hateful Eight). In neighborhoods across the county, individuals use variations of the N-word as part of greetings and conversations.  Regardless the race, many still choose to exclude the word from their vocabulary because of its racial past. Langston Hughes once said, “Used rightly or wrongly, ironically or seriously, or for the sake of comedy…The word nigger, sums up all the bitter years of insult and struggle in America.”

Sometimes, the word is said without being followed by strong criticisms. Sometimes, it is Tweeted.

Last weekend, former WWE star Tamar “Sunny” Sytch, became the latest of well-known (but non-verified) Twitter users accused of being a racist after sending a tweet gone wrong.

After receiving less-than enthusiastic responses to her choice of words, Sytch apologized, with a somewhat weird explanation:

*Sigh*

So, how can someone be viewed as a potential racist—or racially insensitive—if all they did was use a “pet” name? A brief history on the word may provide a better understanding.

The word “nigger” became prevalent in the United States during 19th Century, as a term to identify slaves from any citizens in the community that may share the same name. For instance, a slave by the name of Joe, would be called “Nigger Joe.” Adding “nigger” to the handle of a slave’s name drove home the message that even though slaves had names, they weren’t people.

In 1857, a slave by the name of Dred Scott attempted to sue for his freedom in the landmark Supreme Court case, Dred Scott v. Sandford. On a 6-3 vote, the Court held that the “any law that would deprive a slaveholder of his property, such as his slaves,” was unconstitutional.

The ruling made it clear that slaves were classified not to be classified as people but as property.

Thankfully, the slave trade is over, and no person in the United States needs to worry about being limited to the same rights and restrictions as Doug the Pug or Percy the parrot. A person’s memory span is much more advanced than a goldfish.  The hurtfulness that the N-word has caused is still remembered and felt by many.

Plus, sweetie wasn’t available? Bae? I digress.

Eason Wilson

A law student full of dreams and sometimes, I sleep.

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