Why Non-Black Latinx People Don’t Get a Pass on the N-word
It’s actually quite simple: Are you Black?
Then don’t use the N-word.
The N-word was a derogatory term for African people brought over as slaves to serve white people in this country. It’s being reclaimed by the descendants of those enslaved people as a source of power and agency over their own history. By using that term in a new way, people who are in the process of working through the historical trauma of slavery are reclaiming their own agency and power.
Do you share in that historical legacy?
Then you have no right, reason, or claim to be participating in the reclamation of that term. What to you may be cultural, to others is a legacy of trauma. Don’t share that trauma? Then don’t participate in perpetuating it by using a term that doesn’t mean anything to you except cultural inclusion. If you’re not actively reclaiming a term because you are reversing its power over your own historical oppression, then you’re actually just perpetuating said history and oppression.
There are other ways to participate in and enjoy culture you have grown up with that don’t include you overstepping your bounds. Learn your lane, and stay in your lane. Don’t perpetuate historical oppression because you want to feel included. You look and sound silly.
Reclaiming a term is the work of people who were oppressed and experienced trauma related to that term. That means you have to have a historical relationship with a term in order to transform its power over you. Don’t quite understand what that means? Check out this great article on the power of reclaiming oppressive language.
In light of the recent Gina Rodriguez controversy, let’s go through the list of standard (but ridiculous) reasons ya’ll think you can use this word and explain exactly why none of these reasons matter.
1. But I’m just singing along to a song!
Alright let’s break this one down. It’s just a lyric in your favorite song and you’re just signing along, right? For some reason you believe that saying a word in rhythm to a beat makes it less offensive.
You are 100% wrong.
You are still participating in perpetuating the legacy of oppression instead of the reclamation of power. Remember, only people who experienced the oppression can reclaim a term in order to reverse its power. That includes saying that term, singing that term, drawing that term, writing that term, or dancing that term. Just don’t. You are just doing it for fun, while other people are doing it for a political and social purpose. You look silly.
2. The Black Community popularized it, so now it ok to use.
This goes along with this line of thinking pulled straight from our own comments section on Latinx.com facebook:
“The Black Community as a whole needs to decide whether they want to continue monetizing off this word or come together to eradicate it….there is not middle ground….oh wait…there is…we’re here and confused “
Wow, girl. Just wow. Take you, yourself, and all that anti-blackness out of this room. If the Black community is separate and completely different from your own, then you have NO business commenting on its use of any term for any reason. How the Black community uses a term in art, music, and expression is entirely up to Black people and you have absolutely no say on that. The only middle ground here is in your head.
Are you part of the Black community?
Then you have no say on what happens there. Move along. Waaaaay along. Back to where you belong. In anti-racism school.
There is a popular misconception here that because some Latinx are people of color, they have a right to comment on Black culture, or are not capable of Anti-Blackness. This idea is not only wrong, its dangerous. One of the ways that Anti-Blackness is perpetuated in Latinx culture is through the ignorant belief that the Latinx struggle is somehow equivocal to the struggle of African Americans in this country.
There is absolutely no comparison between the historical legacy of slavery in this country and the plight of non-Black Latinx people. The United States may have messed with your country’s structure and government, may be denying your people entry into this country, may be holding massive amounts of your people in detention camps right now, may be actively trying to strip your people of citizenship— and yet: your people were not forcibly taken from their land, their families, and their communities and brought to a place to be treated as property, forced to work, and treated as less than human for over two centuries. Point blank. Now and forever and forever.
If you have any confusion on this point, inform yourself. Do the personal work to liberate yourself from your anti-black beliefs.
3. But I used it when I was in school with my friends, so its ok now.
Congratulations, you are no longer a teenager. Welcome to the present, where you are no longer in high school and have to take on an adult view of the world. It doesn’t matter what happened in high school or middle school, if your best friend was Black, if you have Black friends now, if you got a pass from one guy in P.E. class– this is not high school. You are in 2019, and in 2019, as a not black adult, you cannot say this word. Point blank. No excuses. You have to pay taxes and you can no longer say the n-word. Welcome.
4. Latinx people are a big mix, so we’re part Black.
This is about as sound an argument as all the white people who claim to be part Cherokee because their 23 and me test says they’re 1.6% Native. Are you Black is a very direct question with a very clear answer, but apparently clarification is needed for some of you.
Were you born to people of African descent living on this continent? Are you part of the African Diaspora? Do you have direct and personal lineage to the history of the enslaved people of this continent, either in the United States or in the many, many Latinx countries that used enslaved people in order to build capital and steal resources?
Then you are not Black.
So stop claiming heritage that isn’t yours. You look just as silly as the white people who claim to be Indigenous. If you don’t share the history, heritage, and culture of a group of people then you are not one of those people.