The original form of the N—word conjures up hate, superiority, dehumanization, lynching, marginalization, sexual and physical abuse and powerlessness, particularly on a group of people designated as Blacks.
Dr. Alwin SPENCE
In 1972, I attended my first post-graduate lecture and was greeted by a youthful professor who welcomed us, and immediately tried to put us all at ease.
She, no doubt was younger than most of us in her class but she sounded very self-assured. In her introductory remarks she mentioned that she occasionally used the F—word, and wanted to know if anyone would be offended or would have any serious objection to its use.
She got our nod, no one really cared. She went on to say if she is allowed to say it, other members of the class are also allowed.
One bright student then popped up and suggested that if anyone is in doubt, let us all use the F—word and sing up and down the musical scale. We all did, ending on a crescendo and a burst of laughter.
It was a great semester, a wonderful relationship between students and professor, and between students and students. The class was very unorthodox but the 11 students and the professor accomplished a lot.
Here was a professor who grew up in the Bronx, where at one time every second word was the F—one, asking her students the permission to use it. She had tremendous respect for the students she taught.
SO WHAT IS THIS FUSS OVER THE USE OF THE N—WORD?
For several years, many people know that the term ‘ N—word ‘ is the substitute for the poisonous original. Everyone knows that the original is not accepted, not used in our language anymore and the N—word is instead used in talking and writing.
The original is out of print, out of our spoken language, blotted out, crossed out, erased and forgotten. I do not know if there is a law that forbids its use, but somehow collectively everyone has deleted it, and is comfortable without its use, since there is an acceptable substitute.
So those who continue to use it in its old form are:
1. Not aware of the social change
2. Know of its implication and representation but don’t believe or care
3. Are racists who believe in their warped mind to be superior and
4. Use it and hide behind academic freedom.
While I pity those who fall in the first three categories, I have no patience for those who hide behind this so-called academic freedom. Freedom is not unlimited, it must stop somewhere.
It cannot be all the way especially when we are all social animals, dependent and interdependent on one another.
As such, respect must be given to all. Academic freedom stops when the professor infringes on the rights of the students.
So if the N—word is offensive to a particular group or individuals respect comes before teaching.
How successful can you be if what you teach and how you teach disrespects some or all of your students?
So once the professor recognizes what is painful to the students and if continued would violate their rights, he/she must change direction.
RESPECT FOR THE STUDENTS AND RESPECT FOR THE TEACHER MUST BE OBSERVED BEFORE ANY TEACHING/LEARNING CAN TAKE PLACE.
Good teaching is not only the superb knowledge of the subject matter or the method of presentation, these, and respect go to make a great class for students and teachers.
The original form of the N—word conjures up hate, superiority, dehumanization, lynching, marginalization, sexual and physical abuse and powerlessness, particularly on a group of people designated as ‘’BLACKS. ‘’
The memory of these inhumanities is debilitating, ugly and traumatic, more reason for repression and suppression.
Why then anyone, Blacks, Brown and Whites would perpetuate this unpleasantness knowing full well that Blacks are currently exposed to police shooting of Black men, prejudice and discrimination and racism?
THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING.
Many older teachers and professors will tell you that the classroom is not what it used to be. Students are demanding more, especially respect and recognition. Students know their rights.
So at all levels teachers and professors must be careful how they act and interact with the students. You will remember that as children any negative reference to one’s mother would be a justifiable reason for a fight resulting in a bloody nose or mouth.
My mother and your mother and their honor will always be fiercely defended. So if a negative reference to our mothers draws such spontaneous forceful reaction, one must imagine what could be the reaction to the use of the N— word.
The professor at the University of Ottawa was suspended because a student complained about her use of the N—word in class.
There was no denial of its use, and there was no plea of ignorance. There was a justification for its use based on academic freedom She was suspended for foolishly taking academic freedom too far.
Maybe intransigence and even stupidity earned her the suspension. Academic freedom is to be used, not to be abused. Running to support this professor is merely a knee-jerk reaction, surprisingly coming from high offices.
The few professors who gave their support speak for itself. In my own teaching experience I was once summoned to the office of sexual harassment at the university. I was not afraid, as I knew I had not broken any sexual rules.
When I arrived at the office and after exchanging pleasantries, she told me that a student had complained that the way I explained Freud’s theory of the Id, Ego, and Superego made her feel uncomfortable.
She, the officer was not rebuking me nor did the students accused me of anything but the officer said one does not know the experience of a particular student which would cause that student to react differently.
I did not try to find out which student, I did not want to know. As the officer said just be careful and be aware, things are changing. I went back to my class and after a few lectures I casually brought up the subject, apologizing for unwittingly making someone uncomfortable.
Subsequent explanation was different. If just one person is uncomfortable it is time for reassessment and adjustment. There is no defense for the use of the N—word by anyone, in a joke by some comic, in the privacy of one’s home and even between two Blacks.
So let us get it straight, once and for all. THE N—WORD IS A NO NO-PERIOD, DEAD BURIED AND WILL NEVER RISE AGAIN…