Will The NFL Ban The N-Word?
The 2013 hit single, “My N***a,” features rapper YG saying the n-word 128 times. The “clean” version of the song, where the n-word is replaced by “hitta”, has spent more than fourteen weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100.
In the song, YG explains how his n-words are an invaluable part of his life. He’s got “love and loyalty” for them and he’s not really enjoying himself (“going in”) unless he’s with his them.
It would appear as though YG is endearingly paying homage to his best friends – his n-words - and how intertwined his life is with theirs.
If the n-word can be used in such an endearing manner, why is the NFL trying to block its use during football matches?
In his article “Legislating Language: Will the NFL Ban the N-Word?”, Sports Illustrated column writer Peter King cites Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman and Tennessee cornerback Jason McCourty’s offended reactions to the proposal, which has been in debate by the NFL Competition Committee since February 28.
Sherman calls the idea “atrocious”, and Tennessee cornerback Jason McCourty feels that the word is a common form of address between African-American players and people who are friendly in nature.
Professor of sociology at the MDC Wolfson Campus, Dr. Alejandro Angee, contends that the question is a difficult one. “When young black males call each other [the n-word],” he says, ”they are not necessarily discriminating or acting out their prejudices against one another … the context and the subtle changes to the pronunciation (removing the ER at the end) become important parts of the use of the word as well.”
Harry Carson, a linebacker who played 13 seasons for the Giants and is currently 60, felt the wrath of racism through the n-word and is therefore unable to see how the subtle changes in pronunciation can justify contemporary amicable use of the term, according to King.
I am not African-American; I’m Hispanic. I’ve overheard the n-word a sufficient amount of times to know that African-American people who use it don’t do so in a degrading manner. For these individuals, calling someone “their [n-word]” is to acknowledge the bond they have with them.
Therefore, I think that Carson’s own veteran status in the world of American football illuminates the possibly outdated nature of his perspective, especially when contemporary players can enter a locker room and hear songs like YG’s “My N***a” blaring on the radio.
The n-word has transitioned from being a derogatory term used by whites to demean African-Americans to one used by youth growing in the post-Civil Rights era. The very ubiquity of the newly amicable term speaks volumes about the gross social changes that have occurred in America. A historically oppressed people have been able to take a once-derogatory term and make it not only benign, but affectionate.
Regardless, the outcome of this sociocultural debacle won’t be had until the next set of NFL owners’ meetings in Orlando beginning March 23rd.
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