The cardinal rule regarding the use of the N-word is pretty straightforward: Don’t.
Racial slurs — and for that matter, slurs against various ethnic groups, people of different faiths, or any group — should be permanently consigned to history’s dustbin. There’s no place for any of them in our multiracial, multi-ethnic, multi-faith nation, where everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
That directive bears repeating since a Catholic teacher on the Southwest Side and a controversial podcaster recently made headlines for their use of the N-word. The circumstances were very different, but both offenders, who are white, have since acknowledged that they were wrong.
Mary DeVoto was fired from Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School last week after she used the N-word while teaching a World History class. And popular podcaster Joe Rogan, already in hot water for spreading misinformation on COVID-19 vaccines, remains on Spotify after singer India.Arie posted a video compilation that showed him using the N-word repeatedly on air.
DeVoto, who’d taught at Mother McAuley for 41 years, had good intentions when she used the N-word for the sake of comparison while discussing sports team names and mascots that are offensive to Native Americans.
To be clear, there was no need to use the full word. But DeVoto meant well when she explained to her students that the former name of Washington’s football team was just as dehumanizing and hurtful to Native Americans as the N-word is to Black Americans.
But what administrators say led to DeVoto being fired was her repeated use of the N-word during a discussion about her mistake with her bosses. As the Sun-Times’ Sophie Sherry reported, officials said DeVoto’s firing was made more imperative because “the same racial slur was communicated in its entirety several times despite clear and formal directives to stop.”
It’s hard to grasp why DeVoto compounded her mistake by repeating it during a meeting with her bosses.
Meanwhile, Rogan said the N-word roughly 20 times during a 12-year span, video clips show. He admitted on an Instagram post Saturday that “it’s not my word to use” and that he “hadn’t said it in years.” He also added that the clips were “taken out of context.”
Twenty times is no misstep or mistake. Nor does it matter whether some Black people use the N-word, which Rogan seems to be alluding to when he says “it’s not my word to use.” His repeated use of the word isn’t edgy, provocative or funny. It’s just offensive.
India.Arie’s decision to leave Spotify mostly has centered on Rogan’s “language around race,” not his vaccine misinformation. The Grammy-Award winner said she doesn’t believe Rogan is racist, but insensitive, for using the N-word.
“So just don’t,” she said.
It really is that simple.
Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.