It’s the word you think it is. The n-word. And yes, I’m referring to nonBlack folks here. Black folks are gonna deal with their their relationship to the word in whatever way they see fit and I have no say in that. Their use does not give you permission, implied or otherwise.

Also, since Black people don’t exactly run the world, remember that this is an act of your own volition. There’s no word police barring you from saying or typing it, only the unspoken contract of human decency.

If you do say or type it, you aren’t being brave or breaking any taboos. You’re just being an unempathetic jerk and signaling that to the rest of the world. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a racist, just that you participate in racist stuff. If that doesn’t feel like much of a difference, welp.

About a year ago, my wife’s colleague called me a n*gger. I mean, she didn’t call ME a n*gger. She just said it twice while staring me down as we sat with my wife and another (nonWhite) colleague in a trendy Bushwick diner. She wasn’t directing the word towards me, she was just staring me down as she argued that White people should be allowed to say it when singing along or when they weren’t directly calling someone the word. It was a real life “are you biting your thumb” situation. I didn’t Capulet, I capitulated.

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