The Future of the N-Word

Last week, I watched a special report on CNN hosted by Don Lemon.  It was about the N-word.  Given recent news like the George Zimmerman trial and the Paula Deen scandal, what place does that word have in our society today?  What does it mean to us here in the 21st Century?  Is it still or hateful word, or as some of Don Lemon’s guests suggested, has it transformed into a term of endearment in the black community?

As a science fiction writer, I have to look at this from a slightly different perspective.  Science fiction is not just about the advancement of science and technology but also about the evolution of our society in the future.  So does the N-Word have any place in a futuristic society?  Would people in the 22nd Century and beyond still use it, and what would it mean if they did?

Personally, I think the fact that we still use the N-word in the 21st Century is troubling enough.  If that word remained in the vocabulary of 22nd Century humans, it would show an astonishing lack of progress, regardless of which demographic used the word, what context it was used in, or whether it was spelled ending with an “-er” or an “-a.”

What do you think?  What does the N-word mean to you, and do you think it has any place in our future?

P.S.: If you didn’t see Don Lemon’s report on CNN, click here to watch a selection from it.  Star Trek’s LeVar Burton talks about racism and law enforcement.

2 thoughts on “The Future of the N-Word

  1. This is a difficult subject to discuss, which is part of the problem. African Americans have taken the word and made it a part of their culture. It’s sort of like the eff word, it gets used for everything and it’s a stand in for friend, enemy, brother, bad person, good person. It’s not really a term of endearment but an expression of simple black-personhood. It’s equally used as a derogatory thing as it is an endearment.

    The problem is context. People can argue all they want about who is ALLOWED to say something, but the context matters. I have friends who I will playfully call a bitch. If someone who wasn’t their friend called them that, I’d be furious. Call me a hypocrite but it’s not black and white. Context matters. So when Paual Deen admitted to saying it (and kudos to her for being gutsy enough to admit it- she could have lied) I was more interested in the context of it. I’m mixed race and I grew up in a very small, very white town. That word was tossed at me a lot and it’s not one I like. But I would also be lying if I said I had never said it myself. So if I say I’ve said it, does that automatically make a racist hate monger? I’d say no. It makes me a person who has had some hateful moments.

    This is rambling and not very helpful to you but I don’t think there is an answer. Is it troubling that this word still gets used in a perjorative way? It depends on whether you truly believe that racism can be fully eradicated. If you believe in a world without prejudice and hate, then yes, it’s troubling. But if you believe, as I do, that people will always find someone to hate and someone to look down upon, then it’s merely status quo. It doesn’t shock me or sadden me, but then again, I’ve had a lot of white people call me that word, so I’m a bit jaded about it.


    1. I’d like to think that one day, racism will be nothing more than part of history. But you’re right. It’s hard to believe that there will ever come a time when everyone is respectful and tolerant of everyone else. Maybe it’s too much a part of human nature to find someone to hate. Thank you for your perspective on this.


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