This Author Breaks Down Why You Can’t Use The N-Word Or Other Potentially Offensive Terms

“I think there’s actually a lot to be learned from refraining.”

For the second time in a matter of weeks, author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates is imparting some much-needed knowledge on the American people. Earlier this month Coates debunked White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's false and damaging claims about the Civil War, and now he's taken on the N-word in rap music.


In a video clip from an event last month at Evanston Township High School in Illinois that has since gone viral, Coates explains why White people shouldn't use the N-word when singing along to a rap song. "Words don't have a meaning without context," he explained in response to a White student who said she didn't know how to handle her White friends using the word in a song.

The Between the World and Me author then cited several examples illustrating the importance of context, including his wife's penchant for calling him "honey," as well as her use of the word "bitch" amongst girlfriends. "I do not join in," Coates said of instances when his wife uses the word bitch. "I don't do that ― and perhaps more importantly, I don't have a desire to do it."

Coates made a similar argument about the F-word (a slur against the LGBTQ community), noting he doesn't use it because, as a straight man, it's not his "relationship with the LGBTQ community."

Though the 42-year-old noted it is "normal" for groups of people to use derogatory words in an ironic fashion, he made the distinction that White people often fail to recognize why they can't utilize certain terms, such as the N-word. "The question one must ask is why so many White people have difficulty extending things that are basic laws of how human beings interact to Black people," he said as the audience applauded. "And I think I know why."

For Coates, the reason why is painfully obvious — White privilege. "When you're White in this country, you're taught that everything belongs to you," he explained. "You think you have a right to everything, and you are conditioned this way. The laws and the culture tell you this." 

It's White privilege, Coates continued, that gives White people the perceived right to use the N-word even though he'd previously explained how and why it's actually not theirs to utter.

In the powerful conclusion of his argument, Coates likened White people's inability to use the N-word with the Black experience itself. "To be Black is to walk through the world and watch people doing things that you can't join in and do," he said. "I think there's actually a lot to be learned from refraining."

Listen to Coates' speech in the video above.

(H/T: HuffPost)


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