Monica Haynes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan. 16, 2007
The N-word is no longer welcome in Ebony and Jet magazines.
In the February issue of Ebony, which hit stands yesterday, Bryan Monroe, vice president and editorial director of Johnson Publishing Co., explains why these venerable African-American publications will no longer use the controversial noun “nigger.”
“N-word has been swung like a clumsy nightstick by whites for years, trying to demean, dehumanize and destroy the dignity of black America,” Mr. Monroe writes. “We have a generation who have been desensitized to — or never were taught — the real origins and impact of such a hateful term. But whether it ends in ‘er’ or ‘ah’ or ‘a,’ the word — and the pain — is still the same.”
The word is derived from the Latin “niger” or the French “negre,” both of which mean “black,” according to “Enough! Why Blacks and Whites Should Never Use the ‘N-Word’ Again,” Ebony’s package of articles and essays on the word and its history.
Johnson Publishing is part of a small, scattered but increasingly vocal movement to ban the use of a word described by Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy in his book, “Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word,” as “arguably the most consequential social insult in American History.”
Paul Mooney, a protege of Richard Pryor who’s written for numerous television sitcoms and sketch comedy shows, made a living for decades incorporating the word into his act. He even joked that he recited the word as much as he could every day because it made his teeth white.
Actor/singer/comedian Jamie Foxx, who is on tour, was asked recently about the N-word by a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News.
“Oh, man, they trippin’,” Mr. Foxx responded. “That’s my word. I don’t know what they talking about. I need that word in certain situations.”
Those behind the movement to stop use of the word disagree.
“The dependency of this word as a greeting, to complete sentences and start conversations, is a total disregard for every movement that gave us the many freedoms we enjoy today,” reads the introductory statement on www.abolishthenword.com.
The site was established by a small group of Brooklyn residents who want to put an end to the word being used personally and in entertainment.
“I think there are better things we can do with our time,” said Dr. Boyce Watkins, a Syracuse University professor who writes about issues concerning young African-Americans.
Dr. Watkins believes the ban the N-word movement is aimed mostly at young black males and others who copy them.
“I would love to see the civil rights leaders get equally as passionate about the millions of black men incarcerated in the penitentiaries and the millions of children thrown away by the educational system,” Dr. Watkins said.