MPAS brings the N-word debate to BBC

Rashawn Raysor/Staff Writer

The n-word perhaps one of the most controversial words in the English language at this time. A word that can cause people to lose their jobs. A word that can cause somebody to be labeled a racist. A word that’s usage remains heavily debated in and outside the black community. The Multicultural Programs and Services decided to bring the debate to the Biscayne Bay Campus.  

On Tuesday, Jan. 30, MPAS held a workshop discussing the use of the N-word as a part of their Social Justice Series. A small sampling of FIU’s black student body was there in attendance. The one who led the discussion was Jeffrey McNamee, associate director at MPAS. The discussion served as a way of engaging the students. McNamee provided structure and guidance throughout the discussion. But the rhetoric was fueled by the students themselves. They were at the center of the conversation.

Students were shown to have a variety of views on the n-word. Some students said they were using the wordless and less in an effort to decrease its use within their peer groups. Others felt it was perfectly fine to use, at least within the black community.  

In the single hour that was allotted for the workshop, a lot of ground was covered. Questions were raised about whether there were multiple n-words or not.

“Was it all just different spellings or entirely different words? Is n— just a derivative of the derogatory slur?” McNamee himself posed the question to the students, “What is the difference?”

Questions were also raised about how possible linguistic reclamation is. Reclamation being a common defense among Black Americans to continue using the word amongst themselves. Reclamation refers to a linguistic process whereby a pejorative word, usually a slur, is taken back by the community the word was used against.

Examples of reclaimed words include queer, dyke, white trash and redneck. McNamee also asked students to examine what reclamation meant to them and if the n-word had been successfully reclaimed.

“If you’re taking back the word are you changing the word? You guys say we took back the word, right? So if you took back the word is it not the same word?” said McNamee to the students. One student said that a new word was created from the slur, rather than the slur being reclaimed. Others explored alternative lines of thought. This exploration is exactly what McNamee wanted from the students.

The main goal of the workshop was to help students further develop their critical thinking skills so that they might be better able to grapple with such issues outside of FIU. Indeed, the purpose of the Social Justice series of workshops is to in, McNamee’s words “learn how to critically think about these very hot button and important topics.”

At the end of the workshop, McNamee asked the students if the n-word would ever fall out of popular usage. The students came to the conclusion that the word would not be a part of the American lexicon. They felt as if people in the black community will simply continue to debate the appropriateness of the word.


Featured photo was taken from the FIU MPAS Facebook.