Speaker: ‘n-word’ hasn’t changed its meaning

Christina Stavale

Bryant K. Smith, author of “Black Not Blind” and CEO of Smith Consulting and Networking, asks the audience questions about the “n-word” yesterday evening at the Student Center Ballroom. DANIEL OWEN | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Ron Soltys

With the rate people are using the “n-word” in today’s society, Bryant Smith predicts that within ten years, someone will name a professional sports team after that very word.

Bryant, the CEO of Smith Consulting and Networking and Black United Students’ keynote speaker for Black History Month, spoke last night in the Student Center Ballroom about the history of the word and the way it is used in the world today.

He said he presented his professional sports team theory to students while working at a university by posting fliers for an intramural sports team that would be named after the “n-word.” Bryant said some people didn’t believe it would work, but days later students were lined up to play for this team.

So last night, as he showed a picture of students wearing these uniforms, he warned students that unless they are prepared to see jerseys like these in the mall some day, they should take his advice.

“What I want is that the term n- be given the cultural respect that (terms for) other cultural groups are given,” Bryant said. “As a community, we agree that unless we’re talking about it in (historical) aspect, we’re not gonna use it.”

He explained the history of the “n-word” and the way people claim to have changed its meaning throughout the years. Bryant said while in today’s world some people say the word loses its original meaning when it is used a as a term of camaraderie, it’s impossible to completely disconnect it from the historical meaning.

He illustrated this by playing a song with the “n-word” played repeatedly and phrases such as “n-s are scared of revolution” in it. He asked the audience to close their eyes as they listened, and when the song was over, asked who was not left with an image of a black person in their head. Only one person raised their hand.

“When it boils down to it, the image is strong,” Bryant said, “and it’s always that of a black person.”

He also showed pictures of ways the “n-word” was used in the past. One picture showed a car with the following spray-painted on it:

“Bounty $2.00 for a dozen n- ears.”

“When you’re discussing with your grandfather or grandmother about the word n- being cool and hip, that’s why they don’t like it,” he said. “They’ve seen things like this car driving around.”

Bryant said that the first time most college-aged students heard the “n-word” was probably in some form of entertainment. He pointed out that while plenty top songs use this word, none use terms that are racially offensive for other cultures.

“What would happen if black people said they didn’t want the word n- in a song?” he asked. “They would laugh at us.”

Adrian Neal, BUS public relations chair, said BUS chose Bryant as their keynote speaker because they had heard he had a powerful message.

“It deals with a sensitive subject,” he said. “A lot of things that people try to slide under the door.”

He said it was good people could hear what he had to say, but he wishes more people would have attended the event.

Contact minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].