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Debating the acceptable usage of the N Word

Melvin B. Miller

A few years ago there was a national dispute about whether the idiomatic speech of African Americans from low-income urban neighborhoods qualified as a distinct language. Although it was referred to as Ebonics, it never attained a level greater than a form of Pidgin English.

A humorous episode in the debate occurred when a black college professor with a cultivated Oxonian accent tried to establish the existence of African roots for several inner-city idioms. At any rate, there is not much talk about Ebonics today. It soon became clear that this was a useless digression.

One issue that was never resolved was the acceptable use of the “N-word.” In fact the hip-hop generation just ran away with it and use it like normal punctuation. They have become desensitized to the insult, and do not seem to realize that their indiscriminate use of the N-word implies a license to others to use it.

Those blacks who live in an environment where vulgar speech and regular use of the N-word are common cannot impose acceptance of this on others who are not self deprecating blacks. That is undoubtedly when happened to generate a dispute between Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, two professional football players for the Miami Dolphins. Incognito is white and Martin is black.

African Americans soon realized that the Ebonics craze was not helpful. It was best to view Ebonics as mere street slang and acquire the language skills necessary for success in the highly competitive society. Standard English is the langua franca of commercial and professional success. It makes as little sense for blacks to communicate at less than the highest language levels, as for a musician to perfect his skills by practicing out of tune.

An unrelenting positive attitude is necessary to succeed in America. It is senseless for blacks to tolerate the indiscriminate use of the N-word or other insults that defame the character of an individual and make it more difficult to endure the inevitable obstacles.