Opinion: ‘Intolerable;’ Use of racial slurs at WKU is unacceptable

From Mark Twain, to Paula Dean, to college students today, the use of racial slurs has prompted discussion about its acceptability in today’s society.

Herald Editorial Board

Issue: Following a recent viral video on Twitter of some members of WKU’s Alpha Xi Delta chapter singing along to Saweetie’s “My Type,” which includes the use of a racial slur, some white people have made it clear on social media that they believe it is acceptable to use this language depend- ing on the context.

Our stance: No matter the context, it is never tolerable for white people to use this word, as its origins trace back to a history of violence and oppression that is unparalleled in the history of the United States.

It should be evident that this word is not for white people to use, as for centuries white people have used it to demean and marginalize people of color. It is a word black people heard the entire time they were being sold into slavery, and it was often the last thing they heard before they were killed.

The word simply does not mean the same thing to white people as it does for people of color. Black people have spent years reclaiming it, whether through music, comedy or everyday dialect, trying to minimize the harm the word carries and creating a less hateful environment for themselves.

If the people in the video singing “My Type” would have been in an environment of predominantly black people then they most likely would have stayed silent for the use of the slur, but because they were in an area with mostly white people then they felt comfortable saying it, showing they understood the weight it carried and used it with a double standard.

The word has different meanings when used among black people. For some, it can be used as a term of endearment, while others believe the word has no place in anyone’s vocabulary.

There is not even complete solidarity in the black community surround- ing the word, so for white people to assume they can use it with impunity is both ignorant and wrong. Some find it more offensive and believe not even other people of color should say it, so why should white people decide when it gets to be used?

It is not a word for white people to say in colloquial language or singing a song. It’s not hard to find another word to use — there’s over 170,000 in the English language — and when singing a song it is respectful (and not hard at all) to stay silent for the second the word is used.

People can physically say what they want, as protected by the First Amendment, but they should be ready to face the appropriate repercussions if they use a racial slur, such as necessary criticism or damaged personal relationships.

It’s best for everyone if white people entirely avoid the use of the word. Understanding it shouldn’t be used is a matter of understanding the country’s history and appreciating the plight of black people since the beginning of the United States.