New York City Council Symbolically Bans N-Word

Thursday, March 1st 2007, 6:02 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ The City Council's symbolic ban of the n-word is intended to educate a new generation about the epithet's painful past, but some young people are already shrugging off the move.

The council on Wednesday approved a resolution calling for the city _ and, its sponsor hopes, the country _ to voluntarily stop using the word. The term has historically been a derogatory epithet against blacks, but has more recently been adapted by black entertainers and youths as a term of endearment.

To that end, some youths said the resolution is a waste of time.

``We grew up saying it, and it's what I say all the time,'' said Tiara Smith, 17, of Dallas. ``It's not going to stop anybody from saying it.''

Sabrina Vidal, 19, of New York, said it doesn't really bother her to hear the word in music lyrics.

``Some people are really offended by it, but me personally, I think there is much more out there to worry about than some word. There are actual physical problems that can be fixed,'' she said.

Hip-hop culture in particular has been blamed for popularizing the term in music and entertainment.

Some blacks argue that co-opting the word is empowering, that reclaiming a slur and giving it a new meaning takes away its punch. In an interview last December with The Associated Press, Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx said he would not stop using the word, and didn't see anything inappropriate about blacks using it within their own circles.

But backers of the resolution say it is impossible to paper over the epithet's origin and ugly history of humiliating and demoralizing blacks.

``I forgive those young people who do not know their history, and I blame myself and my generation for not preparing you,'' said Councilman Albert Vann. ``But today we are going to know our history, we are not going to refer to ourselves by anything negative, the way the slave master referred to black people, using the n-word.''

The effort began at the start of Black History Month and has gradually caught on around the country. Other cities have passed measures similar to New York City's, and a historically black college in Alabama recently held a four-day conference to discuss the term.

Councilman Leroy Comrie, who sponsored the resolution, said he hopes it sparks a nationwide movement. Backers of the measure are considering a letter-writing and e-mail campaign to persuade entertainment leaders and companies to join the cause.

In New York, supporters gathered at City Hall on Wednesday, many of them wearing small pins featuring an encircled white ``N'' severed by a red slash.

``People are using it out of context,'' Comrie said. ``People are also denigrating themselves by using the word, and disrespecting their history, disrespecting the history of a people and a country and also putting themselves in a negative light that we need to correct.''