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Using the "N" word

Over the years, we have been called by so many different names. I find it interesting the phrase, “I won’t call you outside of your name,” that I hear people saying to one another. I always wonder what they mean exactly. There are many names you can call a person, and that’s just being proper. The other sorts of names…well, we won’t go there.

 What’s in a name? Is it power or is it simply identification?

                You know the worse name for us. The “N” word. I heard it as a child, directed at me and my brother, when we first moved to a predominately White area. I hear it now in rap songs and on the Boondocks cartoon. It is still jarring. It still gets my attention. Inside…it still hurts. We should have never empowered that “N” word.

                We have been Negroes too, for quite a long time. Where did the Negroes go off to? Was it too close to the “N” word? I am unsure. I have returned to the days of the Negro in my new novel. Set in 1947, in rural Alabama. In that space and time, that is what we were called. That is what we were.

                My grandfather lived for a very long time. He was born in the late 1800’s. He was at first a Negro, then he was colored, then Black. I think he was just becoming an African American when he passed away. He used all of those names quite freely to talk about different people but I think inside he may have been stuck on being colored.

                I am not sure why my book had to be set in 1947 but it did. I don't know why we have to be Negroes in my book. Why it is still very possible that the “N” word will be hurled at my characters, as the worse type of insult. It is a very intriguing territory to live in and write in and when you write it you live it. Only time will tell the significance.

A to Z April Challenge N is for the "N" word
*These paintings are from the Harlem Renaissance by various artists.


  1. I don't even like the use of the "N" word in raps or on t.v. shows. I find it still very disrespectful. You are right why have empowered this word. Thanks for posting this wonderful post.

    1. Candy, hate is a strong word but I pretty much hate it whenever I hear that word used. You're right, it is very disrespectful. I wish it was not empowered.

  2. Visiting via SheWrites. I wonder whether you chose 1947 precisely because that made it possible to explore the terminology and names without having to factor in any more modern connotations that have freighted the words. Interesting.

    1. Deborah, for me writing is a mystical process. The number of that year seemed to have called out to me, rather than me choosing it, and I decided to go with it. The year 1947 allows me to explore a lot of different territories than most of us are really familiar with. I am learning as I go.

  3. I love the images that go alongside your words. So vivid and rich!

    I am not a fan of the N word. I am an actor and stumbled across it in a line of dialogue and completely broke out of character to exclaim, "That is the first time I have ever said that word in my life!" I wanted to go wash my own mouth out with soap.


    I appreciate it so much when these topics are brought up, though - I think we all learn more when we talk about them openly. THANK YOU!

    Julie Jordan Scott
    The Bold Writer from A to Z

  4. Julie thanks for stopping by from the A to Z challenge. I really enjoyed your post on your blog about writing naturally. Thanks also for sharing your story about having to use that word in your work. I think history and the arts can take us in some very surprising and unexpected directions.

  5. This was so powerful. I am originally from Mexico and moved to the States as a child but old enough 11and to me the Black culture was fascinating and simply another culture; ( I lived in a very culturally diverse area outside DC) A few years ago I stumbled upon a book written by a good friend of my youth with whom I lost contact, not re-connected ,and when I read about his experience as a black man I felt terrible that when we were friends it never occurred to me he had any such experiences, the book is KLANDESTINE a BLACK MAN's Journey through the Klu Klux Klan , he is an amazing musician and a Civil Rights activist today. Your post reminded me of the book, very well said ! #AtoZchallenge ☮Peace ☮ ღ ONE ℒℴνℯ ღ ☼ Light ☼ visiting from

  6. M.C.V, I am going to check out your blog in a minute.Thanks for taking the time to respond to this post and to share your experience. I am very intrigued by the book you mentioned. I'll be sure to check it out!

  7. Stephanie, this is so powerfully and beautifully said! I think words...the way they call to us... develop around mystically as a writing subject demands to be brought to life. I grew up in an area where this word was routinely thrown around by very uneducated, uncultured, angry people. I connect the word to their powerlessness, and my desire to have more and learn more from life without those limits.

    1. Angie, thanks so much for stopping by my blog! I really appreciate the opportunity to hear how this word has existed within the people you have known, as well as your interpretation of why they use it. Some food for thought for sure in your comment!


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