Say the N-word around my family, and tensions will spark.
Raised in a Nigerian family, my immigrant parents never heard of the word, which was used by slave masters in the United States to threaten slaves and make them feel inferior and inhuman, until they came to the U.S.
“Why are people saying it if it has a negative connotation?” my mother once said while cooking. “I don’t care – white, black or orange – people shouldn’t use it.”
As a Nigerian American I do not consider myself African-American or black.
In fact, I don’t associate with any terms that come to mind when people refer to people of “color.” But I do take offense to a person of any color using the racial slur.
When used from person to person, the speaker is saying, “You are my cattle.” Since the job of cattle is to obey the demands of the master, it is as if saying the word to someone is giving them no voice at all – just as it did to slaves.
“We had slaves in Africa too,” my 63-year-old grandmother said, “but they weren’t harshly treated.”
A part of Nigerian culture places emphasis on respecting one another in relationships; whether it is a relationship between siblings or from an adult to child – each relationship has significance and requires reverence.
The way the N-word can be used among my peers adheres to none of the values my family taught me. No matter how it’s used, it is a disrespectful racial slur and should not be used in a joking matter.