In my opinion it is unacceptable for anyone to use that word anymore. Although I understand and cautiously accept the position that from an historical, educational or entertainment perspective the "N" word may be used (I did see Django), I do not subscribe to the wholesale use of the word as a term of endearment among African Americans.
I'm not going to get into the historical reasons for my opinion. We all know what the word meant and how many people fought against the use of it.
My knee-jerk response to my friend's question was:
The issue is bigger than the "N" word. Somehow, somewhere we lost our sense of history and respect for those that came before us. Somewhere along the line speaking proper English became "sounding white". "Stupid" became cool. Individualism overtook community.
I don't know when it started or how it came to being but I believe there is a segment of the Black community, both male and female, that have lost their way. Some of the most derogatory words that can be used have been turned into terms of endearment. Niggas, bitches, and hoes were once words that we would never call each other. What ever happened to calling each other brother or sister? What's really insane is if other folk were to use those words there would be an uproar. So the gist of it is that it's cool to call each other demeaning and derogatory names since it stays in the family and we know what we really mean.
At one time I used to say that there are those that have just lost all manner of self respect. I don't feel that way anymore. These words have assimilated into our culture. They are being used with no concept of the negative imagery they portray.
Maybe it's because I grew up in a different era, I'm a product of the sixties and seventies. Maybe I'm making more of this than necessary. I just cannot accept the use of these words by ANYONE. There are thousands of people who have stood on the battlefield for civil and human rights that I pay homage to. I'm where I am today because I'm standing on the shoulders of those that came before me. It is unconscionable for these words to have become part of the mainstream vernacular.
I am absolutely certain that the majority of the African American community does not condone or subscribe to the use of these words. Unfortunately some of the content portrayed in the media these days only serves to perpetuate a less than favorable image of African Americans. What makes it worse is that we're allowing it to happen.
It starts now, let's get this thing done....
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.