Impacts of the N-word

Zaahir Hall, Contributor

Being on OPRF’s majority-white soccer team as the only fully-black kid, you’d think kids at a school who prides itself on being progressive would go out of their way to make me feel welcomed. I quickly realized it was the complete opposite case – maybe as early as the first week of OPRF soccer, I heard white teammates saying the n-word and found out this had been considered normal since long before I joined the team. 

When I was called n****r in a game my sophomore year, only one of my teammates stood up for me. The rest made fun of him for doing so. That’s when it all started. 

The next big incident was my junior year, but it wasn’t with me. My best friend is of mixed African-American descent, and one of our white captains called him a “c**n” – yes, you read that right; a c**n. 

And little did I know my senior year, the same friend and I would experience “absentee dad jokes.” Almost every practice – one of the most hurtful ones being before senior night – there were a handful of kids who jokingly asked us, knowing all the stereotypes, “are your dads coming to senior night?” and laughing together.

Being seen as the “white” black kid, a lot of nonblack people have felt free to say the n-word around me and that is completely on me. I never said anything because I didn’t want to lose friends. As I have grown mentally, I understand the Caucasian kids who use that word are not my friends and need to be educated on why they can’t say it. 

When I hear a white person use that word in a conversation with me, I think about all of my ancestors who were beaten, raped, and killed, while being called that word. 

It doesn’t matter whether it is reading, singing a song, or saying “what up?” in a slang manner to try and make me feel comfortable. The same rule applies to the white teacher who used the n-word. Hearing a white person saying it hurts black kids; it messes with their heads.

When black kids hear that word used by the people who created it to dehumanize us, it’s not just a direct tie to our history – it’s a repetition of it.