The N-Word at San Rafael High School

Giovanna Bruciati, Contributor

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My mother taught me about the N-word growing up and how I should never say it, yet I hear it everyday. I hear it from adults and teenagers as I walk down the street, I hear it when I go to parties, but I hear it the most from students at San Rafael High School.  

I am always told that the word has no meaning. That it’s just a word. But to me, it is not just a word. To me, an African American girl, I think it is disgraceful to my culture when someone who is not African American uses it. When I say it, I feel uncomfortable and when I hear it from other races, I feel disturbed. I do not feel disturbed when black people say it in front of me because they have the right to.

Black people went through the pain of this word being used against them, rightfully reclaimed the word as theirs, and chose to use it in a positive way. So, when students who are not black say the N-word, they have no respect for the black community. People who are not black should not have an opinion on whether they should say it or not. They have no right to say the word because they have not suffered the racism and discrimination that African Americans have suffered and still suffer today.

Rap music is a big part of my life because I listen to it everyday. It is apart of many other teens’ lives because of its popularity. Many rap artists are black. A lot of these artists use the N-word in their music that becomes popular across the nation and in our Marin bubble. The word is heard by millions of teenagers, so I do understand how students who are not black can hear this word and think it is “cool” to say because our favorite artists say it. However, it is not a word that should be casually said if you don’t understand the meaning of the word.

Growing up in Marin is like growing up in a bubble. Marin is full of privilege because we live in one of the wealthiest counties in the nation. Meeting people’s standards is a big part of living here and being accepted by people is a priority. Many students in Marin make decisions based off of what everyone else in our bubble is doing. Teens are impressionable, despite their race. With the influence of rap and social media today, these oblivious teens are under the impression that the word has lost its meaning and that it is just another word in their everyday vocabulary.

I hear the N-word countless amounts of times in my classes every year at San Rafael High School. There have been many situations where my teacher at school has ignored the inappropriate term coming from a white or Hispanic boy and no action has been taken to resolve the problem and educate students about why that word is not okay to say.

The teachers at San Rafael High obviously feel uncomfortable dealing with this word which shows how powerful the word really is. These students are growing up  in a different era. They do not feel as if the word carries the same meaning as it once did which shows the ignorance of these students and how they were never properly educated or influenced on the power that the word beholds.  

In every school across America, teachers are required to assign their students a number of books in order to teach them about literature, writing, and life. One of the books that students are required to read is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This book contains symbols and figurative language to make a larger statement about the racism and social injustices in the South during the 1930s. This read is required in many schools, including San Rafael High School, yet students still do not seem to retain the novel’s message with the continuous use of the N-word all around campus.

Black history and the real struggles of my ancestors are not properly taught to students who are continuously growing and learning new information. Teenagers are forced to attend school, so while we are present, teachers should use this time to develop a student’s understanding of social and racial injustices like using the N-word. A classroom is a normal and regular setting for a student and we are supposed to learn something new everyday, so teachers should not feel awkward or uncomfortable about teaching the truth.

Instead of teaching the ‘achievements’ of the white man, my mother taught me the agony and hardships that the black men and women have faced throughout their history in America. I learned the struggles of an innocent race and the origins of a hateful word. I represent a piece of the black community and as I live my life, I choose to be greater than the N-word.