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Racial slur banned in New York

BBC | March 1, 2007
Jeremy Cooke

The city council of New York has voted to ban the use of the word "nigger".

The resolution to ban the so-called "N-word" is largely symbolic as it carries no weight in law and those who use the word would face no punishment.

But it reflects a growing unease that the racial slur is now part of everyday conversation and that the taboo against its usage has been swept away.

The word is in common usage among sections of the younger generation in the United States.

'Throwback to slavery'

For many years the "N-word" has been used by young African Americans who have appropriated it as a, perhaps ironic, term of endearment.

Now, other ethnic groups have started to use it in a similar context, and those who insist it should be banned are growing increasingly outraged.

Many African American community leaders, with the backing of fellow lawmakers, say it is offensive in every context and that is a word which should never be said.

For them the word is loaded with offensiveness.

They regard it as degrading and a throwback to the times of slavery when blacks were regarded as sub-human, to be bought and sold by their white owners.

The New York City resolution was sponsored by Councilman Leroy Comrie, who says the "N-word" was derived solely out of hate and anger and that its meaning cannot be changed.

But for America's so-called hip-hop generation using the word among themselves is about self-empowerment.

Its usage is habitual and seems culturally fixed and to stop it is likely to take a change in their attitudes rather than an edict from elected officials.

 
 

 

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