The N-word discussion sparks controversy

“1, 2, 3… Nigger” resounded throughout Baird Library.

At the command of the night’s speaker, Butch Slaughter, author of web site, the phrase was repeated over and over until he thought everyone felt comfortable with the term.

The Feb. 28 BSL/MAC sponsored event was entitled “The N-Word Tragedy” and was focused on the connotations of the word “nigger.” Before the night was over, more than just the “n-word” was making students sit uncomfortably in their seats.

Slaughter tried to lighten the mood of the evening by encouraging the students to repeat the n-word. He promptly moved on to explain the two different forms of the “n-word:” “nigger” and “nigga.”

According to Slaughter, “nigger” was a name placed on black people. “Nigga” is a name that black people accepted.

What Slaughter said next brought uneasiness to the room. Slaughter used the Tuskegee Airmen and Martin Luther King Jr. as examples of his definition of “niggas.” As Slaughter described it, a “nigga” is a nothing, an ignorant person with no purpose and no position.

“A lot of people didn’t feel what he was saying,” sophomore Shafarr Savoy said. “They thought that he was speaking some truth, but there were some things that they did not agree with.”

Slaughter’s argument was not as simple as it may seem. He talked about the Tuskegee Airmen as fighting for a country that didn’t want them for anything. As far as King was concerned, Slaughter said that he was soft with his strategies for the greater part of his life.

“He did not practice what he preached,” Slaughter said about King. “If he really had something to give up, why didn’t he step forward and give it up from the beginning?”

“A lot of students did say that they were uncomfortable with what he [Slaughter] said about Martin Luther King Jr.,” sophomore Denise Gadson said.

Slaughter also boldly proclaimed that, in his mind, there is no black community. He referenced political leaders Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell as examples of “niggas” who had achieved individual power but have done nothing to advance the black people. In his words, “They have forgotten where they came from.”

“He expressed one opinion about problems with the black community,” SGA President Jared Bass said. “I don’t think that’s the only way.”

The forum, which was only supposed to last two hours, went almost three. Students, black and white, raised questions and participated in a dialogue with Slaughter after his presentation that lasted nearly two hours. Although several students did exit before the discussions ended, many stayed until the end.

Slaughter semi-concluded the discussion by coming back to his main point: “There is no place for the word [nigga].”

“His definition of the word ‘nigga’ really changed the way that I look at the word,” Savoy said. “Knowing the secular hip-hop culture, it’s all about self. I agree with him.”

The discussions are likely to continue as professor Jackie Irving plans on inviting Slaughter back to Eastern for further conversations and clarification.

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