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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/4/10

Should Black People Stop Using the N-Word?

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The tide seems to be turning regarding the N-Word even in Black circles
The tide seems to be turning regarding the N-Word even in Black circles
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Let's face it: YouTube rocks if you know what you're searching for, but if you're just clicking on random links, it's usually a pretty disappointing experience.

Except when it's not! This particular YouTube video made my day.

It has just 700 views. I wish it had 7 million.

I'm tempted to just end this post here. Surely the video speaks for itself.

Besides, as a non-Black person, I try to avoid even the appearance of telling Black persons what they should or should not do, or, in NVC (nonviolent communication) parlance, what they would or would not enjoy.

But I do want to share what *I* found so enjoyable.

In no particular order:

1. I enjoyed the surprise of discovering that another word might reasonably be found more disturbing than the N-word.

2. I enjoyed the awareness that the argument in #1 could only reasonably be made by a Black person, because only the target of the N-word is in a position to fully understand its impact. It reminded me again why diversity (of experience, of ideology, and yes, of race) is so important.

3. As someone who has been studying and practicing NVC for over a year now, I enjoyed hearing both the language and the principles applied to racial issues, which have been my primary personal and professional focus for over 10 years.

4. I enjoyed the self-disclosure. It helped me understand a little bit of his personal journey. It connected me to him and helped me care about him as a person, not just as someone with an interesting idea.

5. I enjoyed the depth of the response.

6. I enjoyed being reminded that no one "makes us" have emotional reactions -- that emotions are always an interaction between the external world and our own private and personal way of giving that external world meaning. It's an amazingly empowering idea because if we really internalize it, it means that no one can push our buttons. Now that's autonomy!

7. I enjoyed that he didn't minimize the impact of the N-word. Just because we can choose how we want to respond to an external stimulus doesn't mean that said stimulus doesn't pack a punch. It does. It seeks to dehumanize -- not only a particular individual target, but an entire group, and this malevolent intention should not be lost, no matter how well some particular individual has learned to protect himself.

8. I enjoyed how the video, ultimately, didn't prescribe a particular response toward the N-word. The video is really about choice. We all want autonomy over our own bodies and our own lives...and, if we want such autonomy for ourselves, shouldn't we be willing to grant others the same freedom?

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Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D., is a teaching associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he teaches Psychology of Race and Ethnicity and courses on restorative justice.

Since 2009, Mikhail has been studying and working with conflict, particularly via Restorative Circles (a restorative practice developed in Brazil by Dominic Barter and associates) and other restorative responses to conflict. Together with Elaine Shpungin, he now supports schools, organizations, and workplaces in developing restorative strategies for engaging conflict, building conflict facilitation skills and evaluating the outcomes associated with restorative responses via Conflict 180.

In addition to conflict and restorative (more...)

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