Addressing the Use of the N-Word
By Bernie Michel
Someone has to say it; America has completely forgotten what it was meant to stand for. We now have this warped idea of what freedom and equality for “all” means. As Americans, we are free to choose if we want to stand for the national anthem. Those rights are what the veterans fought for, not to limit our freedom of expression in this country.
We are also not equal. The evidence of that is all over the news, with innocent black people being killed off like cattle by cops. This topic of police brutality is the true reason that many NFL players are kneeling during the anthem. Racism and police brutality is what started it all. It's the backbone for this movement because these issues are things that need to come to light and come to an end.
Many argue that kneeling does nothing, but it does bring attention to the racial injustice in America, which is something that many tend to turn a blind eye to. If we don't fight for change in our country, we will never see progress. It's time to take notice of what many black people are forced to deal with, and not just stand there and act like everything is fine and dandy.
Racism is still a thing. Just because slavery and Jim Crow laws have ended doesn't mean racism has as well. The amount of times I have seen the N-word written on desks and bathroom doors at Novato High is unsettling.
Novato High Assistant Principal Jennifer Nickl responded to this serious matter.
“So sad that one of my fellow Hornets has so much hate,” Nickl wrote in an email. “We had had a few incidents of hateful language written in bathrooms. We try to identify who wrote it, take photos, review surveillance cameras and get it erased as quickly as possible.”
The staff tries their best to get rid of the vandalism, but have not been able to escape the problem. It doesn't stop there, and that's the problem. Kids in school have gone as far as having the audacity to say the N-word in classrooms to each other as if it means nothing, as if the painful history behind that word doesn't exist.
White students should not think that having a black friend who is okay with the use of the N-word around them makes it okay to use the word in front of all black people. We are not all the same.
Novato High senior Mashayla Thompson, a fellow black student, described how she feels about the use of the N-word around school by non-black students.
“It makes me feel awkward and I end up doing a double take,” said Thompson. “If you’re not black you shouldn't use it; you don't have the right to use it.”
When asked if she herself uses the N-word, Thompson said “No I do not.”
Black students make up 4.3% of the NHS population. We are outnumbered, so some of us feel as if we can't say anything. People using the N-word may say they didn't mean it like “that” or possibly tell us to stop being so sensitive. When it comes to the N-word being said in classrooms, I shouldn't be the one to have to call that person out. Many teachers have turned a deaf ear to it and that also needs to end.
Nickl believes Novato High has been proactive about this.
“Racial inequality is everywhere, not just at NHS. I see NHS teachers and staff doing a good job being open about these inequalities and calling upon each of us to examine our own biases,” wrote Nickl.
Hearing the N-word around campus is no longer surprising. Novato High senior Asher Berezniy, described how he feels about the use of the N-word.
“I don't think we should use it,” said Berezniy. “We really don't need to; it's not a part of our culture.”
I am left with one big question: why do non-black students feel that they can use that word so freely? I don't remember going to a meeting inviting you into the black community. Yes, black people use that word, but it was a word that was used towards us with so much hate. We took it back and made it ours. We have that right. We also don't say it every chance we get like some students around the Novato High campus. These students clearly lack the self control and the understanding to know it’s not appropriate. If I don't scream epithets to my friends in the hallway, why do I hear the N-word so frequently?
If you feel any guilt or shame while reading this or that I'm talking directly to you, that's the point. I’m calling out all non-black people that use the word, as if it's theirs. Regardless of the current context, my ancestors had to endure what came with being labeled it.