Why we won’t write the N-word

Staff Editorial

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In running today’s headline story on an incident of racist graffiti, we grappled with the ethical decision of whether or not to print the word n—–.

To begin, we are opposed to its usage by white people as it is a racial slur with a loaded history of oppression. The n—– word originated from European encounters with Africans in the 16th century. Though there was not an inherently racist connotation then, the use of the word acquired its current meaning through the development of slavery in the United States.

We think it’s important for white students to understand the impact of this word. But we decided, with input of the affected communities, that it would ultimately be insensitive and potentially harmful to those students. We further worried the effect that seeing this word in print could have on younger and more sensitive readers.

In a speech at Evanston Township High School on Oct. 18, author Ta-Nehisi Coates spoke on the issue. “When you’re white in this country, you’re taught that everything belongs to you. You think you have a right to everything. You’re conditioned this way,” he said. We share in his sentiment in that this is a word that white Americans do not own.
Therefore The New Trier News has opted not to print the derogatory language.

In the interviews for today’s news article, it was not black community members who were surprised. Rather, white students were shocked and appalled. Though we assume good intent, by not being public about this incident, the administration sheltered white students from considering racism in our community and in our school.

The administration decided not to be public about this incident, not to address and discuss it, likely to protect New Trier’s African American community. However, we question who these actions really protect.

While a staff meeting was held, and an internal memo distributed, the administration should have further directed advisors to facilitate discussions about the issue in advisery. The school could have pushed students to consider the effect that these slurs have.

While the administration has made efforts to make the school as accepting as possible, this event forces us to reflect on why the school decided to not hold a racial seminar day this year.

It appears to us that the school’s mission in hiding this information from the student body was more likely to protect its reputation than to see a true improvement in the school’s culture. Events like this tarnish the reputation of the school, as it reveals what nobody wants to talk about –racism.

Racism exists amongst the student body, just as it unfortunately does among the general population.

In light of the racist actions of one student, the New Trier News has found it necessary to once again implore the student body to consider racism —not just today, not just on MLK Jr. Day, but everyday.

One way we can change this is by having open and equitable discussions about our language, about words, and about power. We all should talk about and learn from events like these, so that others in the future won’t have to.

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