The N-word was found written on a mirror in a Sue B. bathroom on Thursday morning.
The presence of racism on campus is not surprising, but the bluntness and senselessness of it is. There (seemingly) wasn’t a motive, or a target. There was just the N-word — hard r — slapped onto a bathroom mirror, out of the blue.
Still, this isn’t new. When members of the black community reclaim the slur and made it a part of their culture, people on the outside — non-black people — wanted to be cool, too. People say the N-word all the time on campus anyway — like at the Aminé concert two weeks ago, where he got the crowd to sing along to his hit “Caroline.” Right before the N-word came up, Aminé said “If you ain’t black don’t say it, [n-word].” People in the crowd still said it.
People also think it’s okay at parties, deflecting responsibility under the cover of drunkenness. If people are comfortable about it in one context, where do they learn to draw the line? Diluted racism gives way to overt racism.
The black community itself remains undecided about whether the word can and should be reclaimed. Though countless black rappers and comedians use it all the time, the NAACP held a funeral for the N-word in 2007. No one voice can define an entire community, but if you are not black, then it’s not your conversation to have.
The incident in the bathroom was a symptom of a far more pervasive issue: casual racism. It’s time to end that. Next time you hear somebody sing it at a party, use it in a joke, or slip it into a conversation, say something. If we keep giving a pass to the little things, we forfeit the right to keep feigning surprise when the uglier symptoms stare us in the face.