A cruelly used word with a misunderstood meaning

By Mark Howard | Staff Writer

Imagine being the only Black student in a class of forty and discussing the word nigger.

If you have taken an RCC English course you may have been there.

“The Meanings of a Word” by Gloria Naylor is published in the Bedford Reader, which is a required reading in the RCC’s English 50 course. Naylor’s essay describes novelist’s frustration with attempting to use written language to capture the essence of the spoken word.

“I consider the written word inferior to the spoken, and much of the frustration experienced by novelists is the awareness that whatever we manage to capture in even the most transcendent passages falls far short of the richness of life,” Naylor said.

I agree with this fully, but Naylor’s objective is lost, or maybe highly emphasized, in her usage of the word nigger as she describes her childhood.

After reading this selection aloud as a class, English 50 students are required to forum and then journal there honest opinion of the considered reading.

I thought this reading may have been a great selection to consider personally and privately.

But in compliments to Naylor’s position on language’s fail to represent life, I could never fully express how I felt as this sample was read aloud and discussed as an un-diverse class.

I felt it was inappropriate and I was highly offended by the reading and the discussion of it in the class. I thought the account was completely false and destructive for Black people.

As a Black person I have never called another Black person the word nigger in my life. I thought it was unfair for the author to generalize this as a statement for all Black people.

There is a great difference between the word nigger and the expression nigga. I was uncomfortable with the use of the word and most of all I was I was uncomfortable with how comfortable my classmates and my professor where with using the word nigger.

The word was passed freely and loosely as if it was a relevant word in a relevant text.

I was completely disappointed in this writing and in myself for allowing this ridiculous story to be read and critically analyzed scholastically without voicing my certain objection to it or its usage.

My only concurrent feeling with the reading was being called the word nigger for the first time.

It was also in a grade school. I was confused, hurt, shocked and sad.

Imagine my feelings coming to college and being called a nigger indirectly for a whole 2 days reading.

That’s all I think this text was good for in granting the privilege for the word nigger to be used outside of thought for a day.

I was highly disappointed in Mrs. Naylor text. She aims to be the balance for an under representation of Black perspective in writing but I feel that she failed to correctly represent the Black voice in this text.

I don’t feel that was accurate representation at all. I’m concerned that this may be considered as a socially educational text.

If the actual meaning of a word was the intention, (as titled) then I believe I am obligated to clarify that there is a great difference between the meaning of the word Nigger and the expression nigga.

Outside of reference to racism, there is no relevancy in the world for the word nigger to be used.

I also found it ironic that this would be considered an relevant educational text when “Black Men and Public Space” By Brent Staples, which was also featured in Bedford Reader, was not.

I agree fully with Naylor’s position on language’s fail to represent life.

Words fail me to express the isolation I felt in those class discussions of the word nigger.

“The spoken word, like the written word, amounts to a nonsensical arrangement of sounds or letters without a consensus that assigns meaning. And building from the meanings of what we hear, we order reality. Words themselves are innocuous; it is the consensus that gives them true power.” Naylor, said.