I have chosen not to use the “N-word,” but I sometimes backslide.
Just like what I’m willing to bet is the majority of Black men my age who laughed uncontrollably while watching that infamous Sanford and Son episode where Fred tells a white Los Angeles traffic cop in a courtroom packed with African-Americans there are “enough N-words in here to make a Tarzan movie.”
We liberally used the word (ending in “ah”, never ending in “er”) for decades when referring to each other, probably almost as often as we referred to each other by our given names.
Conversely, when riding in a church bus packed with young children and mostly female chaperones through Southwest Philadelphia in the 1970s to and from Elmwood Skating Rink, I heard it peppered in with the mix of bottles, bricks and rocks violently smashing into the bus’ windows.
I also heard it at the end of the school day, walking down Haverford Avenue, not far from City Avenue, with other Black children, as we made our way back to the buses that would ferry us from the “working class” white neighborhood and the better school on the edge of West Philly back to our neighborhoods and the middle schools our parents so desperately didn’t want us to attend.
The toxic and dangerous mix of flying objects and that notorious racist epithet could be counted on to intrude in our lives at least once a month during the school year. (Philadelphia Tribune)