Who has the “Right” to Use the N-Word? A Survey of Attitudes about the Acceptability of Using the N-Word and its Derivatives

Document Type: Research Paper

Authors

Alabama State University, USA

Abstract

The N-word is the ultimate insult that has tormented generations of African-Americans. Yet over time, N-word derivatives have become popular terms of endearment by the descendants of the very people who once had to endure the N-word. Therein lies the root of an ongoing argument in society today: Who has the ‘right’ to use the N-word and N-word derivatives?  A quota sample (N=347) of undergraduate students at a historically Black college/university in the deep-South participated in this survey study. Participants were mostly Black (88%) and female (62%). Using a five-point semantic differential scale from ‘always’ to ‘never’, participants were asked the degree to which they believe it is acceptable to use the N-word and N-word derivatives. A majority (76%) of respondents agreed that it is never acceptable for non-Blacks to use the N-word with anyone in any situation. Fifty-six percent of respondents agreed that it is never acceptable for anyone to use N-word derivatives with anyone in any situation.

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