The "N-word"
A Discussion
March, 2015


Chude Pam Parker Allen  Don Jelinek
Cathy CadeWillie B. Wazir Peacock
Miriam GlickmanJimmy Rogers
Bruce HartfordEugene Turitz
Phil Hutchings 
[If you were part of the Southern Freedom Movement, and are listed in the Veterans Roll Call, you are encouraged to add your comments to this discussion by emailing them to (If you add a comment, please indicate where in the transcript it should be inserted.)]

Gene: The question was about a discussion I had with my family, the kids as well as the adults, about the use of the "N" word. And not only the use, but whether, when you're reading Huckleberry Finn or a number of other stories, whether you read it [aloud]? Or how do you read it? Who should read it? And the discussion went from 9-year-olds who were confronting this to teenagers, and included teachers. A bunch of my family are teachers, and one daughter is also a probation officer. And they all have different ways they participate in the pop-cultural world, so it's all the different things that they're hearing, what other kids are using. I don't know if they use it or not. I don't think so, but I'm not sure.

And talking about how does one claim the different ideas about using the word, from Richard Pryor on to the rappers. And I told Don that one story that came up was one of my daughters said she had heard an interview on KPFA of a Black rapper who was talking about touring in Europe, or in Yugoslavia or Serbia or something, and having a meal with a woman from there who kept calling him the favorite "N" phrase.

And he said, "You know, why are you using that word?" And she said, "Well, what do you mean?" And he said, "Well, you know, it's really an offensive word." She said it's all she knew, because she had never traveled to the United States and she didn't know any other Black people, but she loved rap music. And she said, "This is what I hear all the time. Isn't that what you say?" So he then, in the interview, talked about coming back to this country and thinking about, "Well, what does it mean when we're using it? And how do you do it?"

Anyway, we didn't come to any conclusion in our discussion. It was just sort of very — I was fascinated to hear the different ways people were looking at this, including my daughters who are parents of kids, since these discussions are not quite taking place in the schools, amongst even the parents. I'm not talking about necessarily the teachers, but you know, there are groups of parents of students of African descent and stuff like that, and so there are all these different people, and they're sort of touching on the topics, but they're not having them.

And linking to us, I did comment on Bruce's article that he was using the term "Afro" quite frequently in what he had written about Lowndes County which kind of surprised me, and I didn't know whether this was something that has become accepted as a way of reference or stuff like that. So these questions are just what we've been talking about.

Chude: We should mention that [when we spoke to students at] Notre Dame [a catholic school in San Jose] it was the last question that came up. It was not from a student. The students had asked very good questions, and then there was this pause. Then a teacher stood up and said there was this issue going on in the school about the use of the "N" word and people having different feelings about it. There were probably, out of 160, wouldn't you guess 12 Black students? So the Black students are very, very vocal and verbal during our presentation [about the Freedom Movement]. One of them first did a wonderful poem that she had done to start the whole thing, and then some of the others asked questions. So they were very visible with us, but they weren't the ones that raised the question.

Gene: But one of them did say that she did not know how to talk to her friends when the word came up. But this poem that this girl had done was really — the phrases were release, thinking about the Martin in me, but then moving to thinking about the Malcolm in me. And both those things. So these were conscious kids.

Chude: Ron [Bridgeforth] was holding the microphone when the question was asked, so he went first. And he basically said, "Well, my generation says 'no,' you don't use it." And he said a little bit more, but that's basically what he said was "No."

And then I talked about — I used the term "the elephant in the room," and sometimes you may be the only person saying — you may be the only one standing up and saying 'no' to something, or speaking about it. And that it's very difficult, but that you may have to do it. And then Gene — 

Gene: She talked against [using it].

Bruce: Being a white person who says, "Well, this is not a word that should be used in this context."

Chude: Yeah. And then Gene spoke about the insult word for being Jewish?

Miriam: One word? There are many. [Laughter]

Gene: Well, I talked about one in particular.

Bruce: Might that one have been, "kike?"

Gene: It would.

Chude: And then how the word was almost always connected to being hit. And that there were — 

Don: Being what?

Chude: Hit.

Gene: Violence.

Chude: Violence. And that he did not find it ever acceptable. And that there were Jewish comedians that would use the word but that he, Gene, never experienced it as funny. And my thought was that because each of us were so different, that we spoke to a lot of different issues that underlie the question.

But I did think, Gene, that there was something very profound about stepping away from the particular word, and then speaking out of an experience that said the same thing, "This is always hurtful to me. It is never OK." Because that was the feeling I had in the room is that the young women for whom it was hurtful did not feel that they could always stand up and say, "This is hurting."

So I thought, in that sense, it went very well, but to finish that, when I wrote the Assistant Principal the next day to say thank you, she wrote us back and said that she had sat in on one of the classes and that some of the students were very upset that we judged them for having had this problem. And so I had to write back and say, "No, quite the contrary. We thought that they were really serious and had intelligent questions, and we were very moved."

Don: You mean judged them for saying it or not saying it?

Chude: For having it as a problem.

Cathy: For bringing up the question.

Gene: They thought we would think of them badly.

Chude: That we thought of them badly because they hadn't solved this problem.

Jimmy: Let me tell you something, I hate that word, and I think it's an insult. But I go over to a little restaurant there on the corner of Shattuck and University [in Berkeley CA], and all these youngsters come in there, and when they come in, they're talking to each other at the top of their voices using the "N" word.

Bruce: Black or white?

Jimmy: They're Black.

Cathy: And what do you think?

Jimmy: And I looked at all my friends that are sitting there, and most of the time, they'll be Black, and they'll look at me, and I'll look at them, and, "What are they talking about?" They say, "There ain't no hope for that kind of stuff."

Wazir: Every time I hear it — I'll be around it a little bit too — and every time I hear it, I flinch. I want to hit 'em. I want to wake 'em up.

Speaking of hitting, my best friend we ran away from home together. He called me {UNCLEAR} to some white person that he was trying to smooth up to. And down he went. [Laughter]

Jimmy: I'm not surprised!

Wazir: And the white person looked at him, and we were tussling, and I said, "Man," I said, "You..."

Jimmy: That was an accident! [Laughter]

Wazir: That was no accident. It couldn't have been an accident at all. Everybody understood why he went down. [Laughter] And as I was beating on him, he kept saying the word. He kept saying the word.

Because he was trying, you know, we were the same age. A rivalry. And he saw that he had gotten my goat, and it didn't make him any difference about the beating. But anyway, they pulled us apart, but he never used that word around me.

Cathy: Back in the '60s when I was in the Movement, even before I got in the Movement, never to use the "N" word. But, if a Black person used the "N" word, I would never tell them they shouldn't because I was white. I still don't say the "N" word full out.

But the other thing that I'm thinking about is the word "dyke." It used to be very, very negative back in the '40s and '50s, that was a word you could get hit for. Now I feel a joy at using it.

Jimmy: In the '60s and '70s too.

Cathy: And we reclaimed it.

Phil: And "queer" too.

Cathy: Yeah. Yeah.

Phil: If you were thought to be a queer 40 years ago, that was an insult.

Don: And "fag" also.

Phil: But there are people who proudly call themselves "queers" today.

Cathy: Absolutely, yes. So that's a different historical path, you know? That can happen.

Jimmy: Yeah, but we haven't reached that yet [with the "N" word].

Cathy: Well, but it's good to kind of know that it's possible. So, why the difference? The greater ...

Gene: But I'm not sure what the reclaiming is. That's what bothers me. And then when I talk about — because I was going to say, my son-in-law says, "Well, it's a different historical context. We don't feel the same way about the word." So I said, "Well, I can appreciate that in some ways about certain words, but there are some that — what I was saying in San Jose was that [some words] are so connected to violence that I'm not quite sure how — that one should allow that to happen.

In other words, I don't want young people saying it, giving an acquiescence to what was a word of horror, even by saying, "We claim it." It doesn't do it for me. Now, I don't know how to make it clear to my grandson. I mean, he certainly won't say it around me, because he knows how I feel, and he respects me enough not to. But I don't know if on his own, when he's playing basketball or whatever, whether he will or not. But I want him to understand, as much as I can, that it is a word of violence and hurtfulness and used as a word of oppression.

Now, does he take that in? I don't know. I can't tell. I don't know, because it is so commonly used, whether trying to explain that in context gets anywhere, or I don't know how to do it. Maybe I'm asking, "How do people think you do it?"

Wazir: We're really flooded, because the promoters of these rap groups, you know, they damn near pay these rappers to say it. And they got an international...

Bruce: Not damn near. I mean, that's out front.

Wazir: Out front. And the ones who say it a lot, they make the most money.

Cathy: Maybe the problem is that violence hasn't really changed that much historically. If it had changed a lot historically, maybe you could reclaim it.

Wazir: And they cut the people off. So much so, it insults the intelligence of these youngsters, because many of these younger people they know the history of that word. They know the history of that word. But the way it's promoted in the rap business and all that kind of stuff it gives them a way of not having to think about the historical content of it, in some kind of way. You know, just keep screaming and saying over and over and over and over and over again, that kind of thing.

Cathy: Maybe it's a way that they give the finger to the adults in their community.

Phil: Well, I'm going to say a couple of things. One is that this is clearly a generational issue here.

Cathy: Absolutely.

Phil: And with our generation it was basically taboo. As Jimmy and Wazir were talking about. And you didn't do it. But today, probably the majority of people who use the word are Black folks.

Jimmy: That's right.

Phil: And unfortunately we haven't had the movement, the education that the '60s had, to basically talk about what was the meaning of that word in a way that makes sense to them, that connects. That's one problem. So it happens.

What makes me mad, and to me, I think it's the question of who uses the word. I mean, I don't think white people under any situation have the right to use the word. [Many agreeing] And at the point where we feel OK about white folks using the word, then we will really be in a post-racial society. [Laughter]

And I don't think that's any time soon. But as somebody was just saying, the word has caught on, even beyond Black people. I mean, I hear Latinos call each other this and this, the "N" word and so on. I was in my neighborhood over on MacArthur and Fruitvale [in Oakland CA] one day, I was in a neighborhood at the package store, and some Asian kids were going around calling each other, "Nigger this, nigger this, nigger this." And I wanted to beat them up! [Laughter]

I wanted to jump on them. There was no excuse for them saying it, you know? And I had to hold myself back. I mean, probably they're much younger, and they might've beaten my ass. [Laughter]

But so, it's understanding, I think, the universality of that. And then I guess the other part which is a little different is there's a part of ethnic humor where different groups which are not positive — I mean, I'll give you a concrete example. As a kid, and even as an adult, I used to love Amos and Andy.

["Amos & Andy" was a popular comedy show. It started on radio in the 1920s with white southern actors writing and portraying Black characters in broad racially-stereotyped situations, using stereotype language, intonation, and responses. When the show moved to TV in the 1950s, Black actors were cast in the roles, though the content remained much the same.]

I wouldn't want to sit around and have white people see that with me and laugh at all this stuff. But it was like in-group humor. Even around some of our kind of pitfalls of life in the Black community that we could laugh at the Kingfish and Amos and this and so on, and there are other things that are like that.

And I've noticed that's true in other ethnic groups too. Asians, Latinos and so on. And not to mention Jews, and so on. So, it's like they can laugh at their own little pitfalls, but they don't want anybody else to laugh at them. And so there's a little mantra I have that I got from Alice Walker, which is not about this issue, but it's like she said, "We are all the same, but we are all different." And the ability to understand that, that we can be both. It's not either/or; it's the ability to broaden ourselves out on these different issues and say that some things work for certain people, and some things don't work for other people.

And we can say, "We don't want white people, or even Chicanos or Latinos or Asians using that word, but we have the right to use it, not that we will exercise it necessarily." In fact, I would love to use a Martin Luther King phrase, or Jessie Jackson rather, which is to raise the moral standard in the Black community against using the word. But like I say, we don't quite have that movement yet.

And then, you have to listen to — and this is a side point — how people really feel. I remember there was this issue a few years ago where we're trying to redeem the word. You know, the "N" word, that it could be a positive thing. And I think that's a bunch of shit. On one hand, but I also know from our own history how in the '60s we redeemed the word "black," because coming through the '50s, I know that to call somebody Black was an insult. And through the Black Consciousness Movement and the Black Power Movement, we were able to redeem that word and be proud. "Black is beautiful, Black is proud," and so on. And I think similar things have happened in other movements like that.

So I guess what I'm saying is that a lot of the fire is going to be there, but the question is, how do you resolve things? And certain things aren't going to be resolved until we have the movements which can both raise the moral standards and have the energy of people who are in those movements which we can connect to say, "This is wrong." And we don't have that yet. So in the absence, I'm just saying, "Hey, let's just make sure that non-Black people don't use that word." And try to say something, if possible where it might be relevant, to Black people who use it, but to know that it's not going to have a big effect right now.

Don: On the Jewish side, I was in Southern California visiting a friend and ran out of booze. He said, "C'mon into the store and get some." He's Christian. And we go to the store, and he starts haggling with the owner. Friendly haggling. And the owner says, "Hey, you trying to Jew me down?" [Laughter]

I kind of looked at my friend, and I figured, 'It'd probably be better if I kept my mouth shut.' But I couldn't, and I turned to the guy and said that, "You know, I'm sure you don't mean it in any derogatory way, but I'm Jewish, and it's considered a bad way of talking. And so I think you should think about and try not to use it again."

He didn't say anything, and we left. And the friend stopped being my friend. That was the last time I ever saw him. I think he felt I humiliated him.

Bruce: I think that there are several complex dynamics going on here. One of the things that happens is that language always goes through evolution. Language is always changing. For example, "gay" used to mean "cheerful," [Laughter]. Then it was a word of self-affirmation, now some young folk are using it in a derogatory way — "That's so gay." So there's a kind of Darwinian struggle going on over the meaning of "gay" — will the language retain it as a positive term, or will it become entirely negative, or will both connotations continue to be used simultaneously by different groups?

Another dynamic of language evolution, I think, is that groups that are the object of some kind of persecution or discrimination or negative thinking sometimes take the hate words, seize them, take control of them, and turn them into a positive, like you said about "black" or "queer." That's a dynamic that sometimes happens. And part of that is that sometimes there's a feeling that, "we who are members of that group can use the word, but from outsiders it's still an insult." Personally, I have no problem at all with a Jewish comic using "kike" in a joke. But if someone not Jewish used it in any context I would feel offended.

These dynamics have been around for a long time, and they create a complex mix. But I think there's two special problems with the "N" word.

The first is the unique history of hate, hurt and violence associated with it. More so, I think, than other hate words like "kike" or "queer." Use of the "N" word by whites expresses a world-view supporting and approving racial subjugation, oppression, and exploitation of Blacks. It's hard to think of other hate words that have such a broad meaning. I suppose, if a non-Jew made a derogatory statement or joke about Jews that approvingly used the phrase "final solution," it might come close — but I haven't heard anything like that in a long, long time.

The second problem is capitalism, which is using the "N" word, and misogynistic words, and other hate words, as marketing strategies. I totally agree with what Wazir said, using it as a way to disguise and cover over horrid realities. But they're also using it as a way to make money by falsely appearing to be on the edge, to be radical, and dangerous, without actually doing anything that is dangerous or hostile to the established order. So it's a way of appearing to be using words like the "N" word, the misogynistic words, the gangster-violence words, in ways that appear revolutionary and dangerous to appeal to the emotions of people who have huge and righteous fury, but in a way that makes sure that none of that anger is directed at any target that might actually discomfort the people who are in power. And that's what I think makes this whole discussion of the "N" word very difficult.

Sometimes, when I hear young Black kids using it I think they're using it like the dap back in the day. Remember when the dap first started? And Black people could dap each other? And it made no sense at all for whites, because it was like an expression of mutual solidarity with each other, right?

["Dap" refers to a kind of handshake greeting-ritual where two people touch hands or fists in a rhythmic series of moves that both participants must know. During the 1960s, Black GIs in Vietnam began to use it with each other as a gesture of mutual solidarity — and to some extent as a rejection of military saluting and the dominant culture/society in general. From Vietnam, the dap came into wider popularity.]

So, when I hear Black kids today, I think they're trying to use the "N" word in that way. As a solidarity way. But because it's being so manipulated by the record industry and the communications industry, and because of it's actual history, I don't think it can evolve in that way.

Chude: Well, I think two things. I was thinking before I came today what a joy it is to be in a room where everybody is trying to tell the truth. It's just such a joy. I was thinking, you know, that part of what the "Freedom Movement" meant — rather than the "Civil Rights Movement," the Freedom Movement — what it meant is that anybody who stood up was telling the truth that it really was a shitty situation and people really were hung from trees. I mean, you have to be willing to express pain to admit that you're oppressed and to join a movement against oppression.

And so I think there is that aspect to it that a movement for change requires us to say not only that things aren't good, but that we're hurt by it. So that's one point I want to make, that I think that for me, the "N" word is just filled with pain.

But the other thing I wanted to raise, which is a slightly different one, a number of years ago, you [Phil] and I talked about this. What do you do when you're telling a story, and that word was used against you, and you're white? So in my [discussion group] last April, this came up more than once that people had been called "N-lovers," only they used the word. And there was kind of that discharge-giggling that went with it. But it was clear in my small group that people had feelings about the fact that they had been called this word, this term, and that it was a loaded term. There was pain there.

And so when the transcript came out, and I looked at it, I wrote everybody, and I said, "In the transcript, let's drop the word and just [use "N" followed by asterisks]." And people agreed. Because I didn't feel we could put it out there. I didn't feel that as the facilitator that I could stop people from using a word that had been used against them. They were telling the truth. And the word had pain.

Phil and I once talked about it, and I have a story about having left the South, right? And being somewhere with my parents at an all white people thing, and I'm wearing my SNCC button. And some guy comes up to me and says, "What's that stand for? Some N****** Can't Count?" And I felt like I'd been slapped. I mean, seriously slapped. Now to me, to tell that story is partly to talk about how nice white folk are fucking racists. But it doesn't have the power if you say, "Some N-words can't count." So this becomes a different question.

And someone came up to me, an African-American woman, once came up afterwards when I had told that story publicly and said she just really could not handle a white person saying the word, which is why I had talked it over with Phil. I thanked her for telling me, but it puts me in that position of, this was like being physically slapped in this situation, and what I'm clear now, and this is many, many years later, is I could tell that story to a group of kids, and they wouldn't understand what the problem was. So I don't have that as the issue right now.

But I was aware in my discussion group that people had real feelings about the status of white activists being — you know, the racists putting us in this different category, and they were needing to say it out loud. But as I say, we didn't have to put it out on the website that way. So that's a slightly different question, but it was not being done cavalierly.

Bruce: I'd like to ask one slightly different question, similar to what Chude raised. What about using the "N" word when you're directly quoting a racist like [Selma sheriff] Jim Clark? I have a story where I'm in a confrontation with Jim Clark, and I quote him, and he uses the "N" word. How do people feel about that?

Miriam: No, I'd say, use "the N-word" instead of saying the word. People will know what you mean.

Don: It loses the power of the anecdote. And there, if you don't do the quote accurately, it feels like it's sterilizing, disinfecting the term. And so I feel, when it's quoted accurately of particularly a bad person — 

Bruce: An enemy.

Don:  — an enemy, I think it's appropriate.

Cathy: So do you think that you should say, before you do the quote, you should put it out there that you're going to use a — warn people that this word is coming? And that you know that — 

Bruce: I've done that on occasion.

Cathy: How does it work?

Bruce: Not very well. Nothing works well.

Cathy: It doesn't help.

Bruce: And so, I'm just curious what Phil, you, and Wazir and  — 

Wazir: I think when you're quoting, I think it has the best effect when you quote what Jim Clark or whoever the hell he is has said, exactly the way he said it.

Jimmy: He said it, yeah. I agree.

Wazir: Let it be known that you were quoting what he said. "As Ms. Cooper knocked his ass down, he said — "[Laughter]

Bruce: Phil, what do you think?

Phil: Well, I think it's difficult. I mean, I basically would loosely want to say what Wazir said, but I belong to this race-dialogue group that meets in Berkeley. And we've been meeting for 10 years, and part of our thing is, what we say is that you don't use the "N" word. You don't use the "B" word for women.

Cathy: Bitch, is that it?

Phil: B-I-T-C-H. And so on. Because people dwell on it, and I mean, it's like no matter what else you're saying, all of a sudden the mind just goes to that one word, and the rest of the conversation is forgotten. So they do use that. They would use the "N" word. And it's hard, because I think it does lose the power by saying "N-word."

Wazir: It sticks, because like when I was a little kid, I was sitting there talking about everything, something good, and I said "shit," and that's what stuck. And a little boy walking around, "Shit, shit, shit, shit." [Laughter]

Gene: I'll tell you a little story. The kids were playing out in the yard, and they were about eight years old, and they keep calling, all I hear is, "mother-fucker, mother-fucker, mother-fucker" going around. So one of my daughters came in the kitchen, and I asked, "What's going on?" They said, "Oh well, we're just playing." So I said, "Well, why do you use that language?" She said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well, you know, you're using horrible words." So I hear her go out and say, because actually they were saying, "Stupid mother-fucker, stupid mother-fucker." So she goes outside, and she says, "Hey kids, Gene doesn't like us calling each other stupid." [Laughter]

That was the word with meaning to them. [Laughter]

Wazir: The point is that those, where Phil is coming from, those summaries or you know where you're quoting, those words just kind of stick. And for some reason, those negative words, because it's like rolling down hill. We live in a world with a lot of negativity, and people gravitate to it. Their whole demeanor just seems to gravitate toward something negative, negative, negative, negative, negative.

Chude: But if you're quoting Jim Clark, there's a way in which it's appropriate, because he should come across as negative, negative, negative.

Wazir: That's right.

Bruce: I mean, he was dragging me off to jail and called me a "Communist." And because I was 21 years old, and dead stupid, I said, "Communist? What's a Communist?" [Laughter] And he said, "A Communist is any New York kike what wants our niggers to vote." [Laughter]

Cathy: Well, that says a lot! [Laughter] How can you not use that quote?!

Phil: A New York "K" who wants to  — [Laughter]

Bruce: See, I want to use the quote, but whenever I come to that in talking to a school, I've stopped. I put it on the website that way — at least on the website, I'll continue to use it, but it's difficult. I haven't been able to use it in addressing students.

Chude: But the thing that I think I'm finally realizing is they don't get it. You would not have the — 

Cathy: It's not real to them.

Bruce: But to the teachers, they would get very uncomfortable.

Chude: But you know, my grandson is reading, "To Kill a Mockingbird," and so I asked him, "Is the 'N' word in there?" And he said, "Oh yeah." I said, "Well, how do you deal with it?" And he said, "Well, we're not allowed to say it." I said, "Oh." And I said, "Well, what does it mean?" He said, "I don't know." We were in the car, so we only talked a little bit.

Gene: How old is he?

Chude: He's 13. He should know, he's part African-American. But he should know. And so his school has taught them it's a bad word, but not what its history is. Although, he is totally clear that, with the exception of Atticus Finch and the little kids, that these white people are really bad people, and are saying terrible things. He's clear about that in this story. But they are, because the subject is the white person, right? They are mean to Atticus. So we have some work to do.

Phil: That's news. [Laughter]

Don: Let me set forth what I believe was the consensus: When Bruce is quoting Jim Clark who is using "K" and "N," to say it as I just said it ("K" and "N," rather than the actual words), reminds me of my parents spelling out words like "s-e-x" and "p-e-n-i-s," until I was old enough to spell when they switched to whispering — which I usually heard. There would be no force to the statement unless we say it out loud — but then we should apologize to the audience, explain why we did it, and tell them our policy is not to use these terms under any other circumstances

Gene: I just think that, to me, what I want to be able to communicate is that these words are used for hurtful purposes. And that I do want my grandkids, I want anybody to understand, even if — See, I don't feel like you, that Jews could use that humor. And I relate that when I was a kid, I remember coming home and singing what turned out to be an anti-Semitic song. And my father said, "Where did you find that song?" And my father just said, "You don't sing that stuff." It was about a shopkeeper who used some kerosene to burn down their store, because business wasn't any good, you know? And it was like typical things about Jewish business people, how they would do it, you know? And we were not practicing Jews. We never went to temple or anything like that — 

Don: You were ethnic Jews.

Gene:  — Yeah. And to him, you didn't say this stuff, because it was done for hurtful purposes. Now I personally, and maybe I'm just not a very funny person, but I find that a lot of self-deprecating humor, although people enjoy it, part of the enjoyment is because you know that it's hurtful. And that you want to be able to laugh at these things that are hurtful, that you want to forget them.

And as you were saying about that the capitalists are using this, I think all these things come up where people of power are being challenged in their power. So sexist things come because men don't want to be challenged in their power, so they use words to demean women, because they don't want to lose their power. The police shoot people, because they don't want anyone to challenge their power and they want to judge themselves for it; it's not only that they shoot people, but they judge themselves. Every time a kid is shot, the police department says, "Well, this was a reasonable response," or "We don't indict," or "We don't do this," because they don't want any challenges to their power.

And the capitalists do this. I believe you're right, they diminish the value of these words, these feelings, by putting them in popular songs and making people say them. And yeah, people say, "Oh, who are we fighting against?" They forget about it. And I think it is our job to say to young people, say to our kids, "You know, if you want to win all the time, maybe you better examine what values you have. Maybe you're going to find out that you're going to join the wrong side, because they're the winners right now, and if you want to do something...."

I mean, we have to open that up in some way, and that's what we did in the South, I think. We said to people who had been on the bottom, on the bottom, on the bottom, "You know what? Something different can happen." And that made a difference. It made a difference to all sorts of people, and we have to do it again to all these people here. And sometimes it's our own families, whether they're white or Black or Asian. People aren't getting a great deal, and so we have to raise those issues.

[Later addition: On Wednesday evening, June 17, 2015, a white-supremacist entered the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston SC and shot to death nine Black worshipers attending Bible-study. In a radio interview released on Monday, June 22nd, President Barack Obama said, "Racism, we are not cured of it. And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say 'nigger' in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior."

His use of the "N-word" sparked immediate controversy. Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, for example, stated, "I wish he had chosen to say, quote, the 'N-word' as opposed to saying the word, because I have been long on record that coarse language used in any context in the pubic square is not the best way to talk about these types of issues. The 'N-word' has never had a positive meaning. On the other hand, Bakari Sellers — son of SNCC leader Cleveland Sellers and a former South Carolina legislator — defended Obama's choice of words, "I thought the President was right. He didn't mince terms. We are talking about racism being more than just the passive use of a derogatory term. We are talking about institutional and systemic racism. The President hit at the heart of the matter. This is not just about verbiage, this is about action."]

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