Grade 10 – The Words We Can’t Use

We watched a video called “Ta-Nehisi Coates on words that don’t belong to everyone”. In the video, a woman in the audience explained how her friends used the ‘n’ word regularly, but they are white.

Coates then went on to talk about how words don’t mean anything without context. He gave examples of how his wife calls him ‘honey’┬ábecause that is their relationship with each other. He said that if they were walking along the street together and a random stranger called him ‘honey’, it would be very strange. Because that is what his wife and him call each other. For a stranger to call him that would be strange.

He gave more examples of other words that people say to each other, but would not include him. His wife and her friends call each other ‘girlfriend’┬ábecause that is their relationship with each other. He said it would be strange for him to start referring to them as ‘girlfriend’ because their name for each other does not include him. He said he has no desire to call them ‘girlfriend’.

He then says how he doesn’t know why white people feel the need to say the ‘n’ word, but he believes it could be because in their country, since the day they are born they are taught that everything belongs to them. They see inequalities everywhere, whether it is in the form of something big or small, and that influences them into believing everything belongs to them. Then when a word is made that only black people are allowed to use, they don’t understand the concept and don’t know how to not use the word. He said that once they accept that they have to refrain from using it and it is not their word to use, then they will be able to see into the life of a black person, and what it’s like to have so many restrictions and so many things they aren’t allowed to do or say because of their skin colour.

I completely agree with this because the word was not made for white people to use. I don’t understand how people can’t accept that and just not use the word. It is only one word out of all of the words in the English language. And people are having trouble NOT using it. It makes no sense. I completely agree with all of his points, and why. The reason why I referred to white people as ‘them’ was because he specifically said ‘white people in this country’, which is America, so to say ‘us’ when I’m not American would imply that he was talking about every white person.

I think we need to learn more about our boundaries and that, if we separated ourselves by our skin colour in the first place, then why is it so hard not to use one word that’s not ours. I would never use the ‘n’ word because I know it’s not my place to use it, and I know it could be extremely offensive to people. I believe that we are all equal, and if we treat other people a certain way, why are we surprised and thinking that it’s not okay when other people suddenly start treating us the same way we have been treating them all along.

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