My White Conversation About The N-Word, Pt. 1 – An “Ask Mr. Philosopher” Special

It was a brisk spring evening and after class, a buddy and I were hanging out at a local bar.  Usually when he and I talk, things inevitably come to some sort of race discussion.  And no, I’m not the one bringing it up (usually).  And yes, he’s white.  He’s also the kind of white guy that’s aware of the social boundaries but does want to push them, at times just for the sake of argument.  He’s also second generation immigrant on one side of his family so he offers a unique perspective on cultural issues.  He’s never offended me even though we’ve had some very good back-and-forth on contentious issues (such as his claim that African-Americans is not the right name for the current group of slave descendants – claiming simply American would be more accurate because the connection to Africa was, unfortunately, severed.  I responded that ancestry is enough – Korean-Americans trace their ancestry back to Korea, Filipino-Americans to the Philippines, etc.  Due to the severed connection, African-Americans might not be able to claim a certain country – hence Kenyan-American designating someone born in Kenya, not in America – but both on good faith because of the severed connection and ancestry, the title still fits.  We went back and forth about this for awhile).  This particular repartee was no different, as he took a swig of his beer and asked me, “Why can’t white people say the N word? Continue reading

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