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Friday, October 26, 2007

Letter to RedEye: Nas and the N-Word

It's been a while, so I decided to respond to one of today's RedEye's reader response boxes. The article was about some rapper named Nas who decided his next album's title was going to be "NIGGER". This has, obviously, turned heads and raised eyebrows and [verb]ed many [other body part]s. So the question was whether or not this was an acceptable move to make. After all, the rapper is just making a statement that just because the NAACP holds a ceremonial burial for a word, that doesn't mean it's dead. Not by a long shot. He sees it as empowering. Many kind of see it as nothing but hateful and/or stupid.

Here's my response:

Nas has every right to use that word as the title of his album. Words are just ways we convey ideas, and thankfully we can't control people's ideas the way that we seem to be attempting to control people's words. Sometimes I wonder what ever happened to this "Freedom of Speech" concept I learned about all throughout my education. You can't just banish or bury a word because you don't like the ideas it's conveying (whether or not it's conveying that exact idea you dislike). I still recall hearing that when they tried to banish one form of that word, people started replacing it with "ninja" instead. Are you going to banish that word and all its history and culture just because someone used it to possibly convey an idea of racism?

Frankly, I'm more upset over everyone hiding behind the term "N-word" instead of just saying it. Didn't Harry Potter just spend seven years of his fictional life trying to teach us that saying "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" only increased Voldemort's power over people? So why is it that nobody's allowed to use "That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Spelled", even if only to discuss it sensibly? We need to stop fighting the tool of lanugage and start fighting the real culprits - the ideas of racism and hatred that create the need for these words to be expressed. In the end though, I'd rather have people using words to express these ideas than actions.

Oh, and before you call me a hypocrite for saying "N-word" - I'm pretty sure this wouldn't get printed if I spelled it out just to make the point.

Aaron Samuels, 24, Bridgeport

As always, I'll keep you all informed if it gets printed. I doubt it, but it's worth trying.

Besides, I just wanted to get something new printed with my age now as 24...

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