BUS debates usage of notorious word in panel

Katie Greenwald

It might seem hard to imagine an old white man sitting in his office thinking, “I got them niggers to call themselves niggers.”

That’s what Damareo Cooper, president of Black United Students, said is happening right now.

He was one of four who sat on a panel last night addressing questions about the use of the word “nigger” in American society.

Teddy Harris, public affairs executive of BUS and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater, organized the panel, which was held at Oscar Richie Hall.

One audience member asked what positive aspects can come out of using the word nigger.

Alene Barnes, Pan-African Studies professor and panel member who has an expertise in language, said it may be helpful for blacks who have been hurt by the word to use it as an endearing term.

“Words have to take on new connotation to take the pain away,” she said.

Cooper disagrees.

He said young black people should respect their ancestors, and they can’t do that by using a word that was once meant to be degrading.

He said if people can’t use it in prayers to their ancestors, they shouldn’t use it at all.

But it’s undeniable the word “nigger” is used in our society, and one audience member said it’s not going away.

A common theme among the audience members who agreed with the word’s usage was that it’s something they grew up with and are used to, and that makes it hard to stop.

Contact student finance reporter Katie Greenwald at [email protected].