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Burying the 'N-word'

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POSTED: August 2, 2007 5:02 a.m.
I’m sure, by now, many of you have seen it, read it or heard about it.
The NAACP buried the “N” word during its annual convention in Detroit this past week as part of its “STOP” Campaign, an initiative of the organization’s Youth & College Division.
The division works to eliminate the demeaning images of African-Americans in the media, especially the portrayal of African-American women.
Hundreds of onlookers watched as NAACP delegates from across the country marched about a quarter-mile from downtown Detroit’s Cobo Center to Hart Plaza, while two Percheron horses pulled a pine box decorated with a bouquet of phony black roses and a black ribbon.
The funeral service followed recent events in which actor/comedian Michael Richards used the “N” word during a meltdown on stage and radio host Don Imus was fired by CBS for using derogatory language to describe the Rutgers University women’s basketball players, although he did not use the term.
The organization has also increased its pressure on the rap industry that has created a number of millionaire performers and record executives through lyrics that often include the “N” word, to ban using the expression.
While the sentiment and anger is understood, I cannot help but wonder if the time and money put into a mock funeral could not have been used in a more productive and effective way.
As much as I am aware of the hatred behind the word and agree it has demeaned an entire race of people for hundreds of years, I am smart enough to realize, sadly, that at this point the word has seeped so far into the everyday language of Americans it will never die.
It also does not help when some African-Americans want it both ways: they show anger when other races and ethnic groups use the term, but justify its use as a term of endearment between African-Americans. There are even those who use the word to disrespect other blacks — part of the unspoken hierarchy that exists in some sectors of the black community.
I applaud the NAACP’s attempt, but I think organizers would have been better off using their time strengthening the group’s efforts to educate African-Americans about the health, educational and financial disparities that continue to affect the black community. These are real barriers that hinder the advancement of African-Americans each day and are far more important than one word.
I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon of saying one of the most influential civil rights organizations in history is out of touch with the realities of today, but a symbolic march to stop the use of a term even African-Americans cannot agree is always derogatory does not address the true needs of the community.
 

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