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By CHRIS ECHEGARAY The Tampa Tribune
TAMPA - It’s defended as a term of endearment, a greeting that goes with clasping hands and a quick, one-armed hug. It’s pop culture, as much a part of rap as expensive clothes and flashy jewelry.
But to a different group, those who heard it shouted angrily by mobs and saw it scrawled on churches, it’s about lynchings and discrimination.
It’s the “n word,” the only racial slur universally known by its first letter.
And now a new, national movement powered by intense images is demanding that everyone drop it from the lexicon. Abolishthenword.com starts with a nearly two-minute slide show of graphic lynching and beating photos set to the song “Strange Fruit,” sung by Billie Holiday, about hangings of black men.
The site has garnered international attention, with visitors supporting the effort, according to creators Kovon Flowers and Jill Merritt of New York City’s Brooklyn. Visitors can order 10 wallet-size cards with the history of the “n word” for $7.50 - an option so popular the stock of cards is out until Tuesday, the site said. Visitors can print out and sign a pledge to stop using the word.
The site urges record labels and hip-hop artists to stop using the slur and to sell edited versions of their work. The next step is to send record labels a link to an online petition, said Flowers, 36.
Radio Show Inspired Him
The site was started in late April after Flowers heard a discussion on a local radio station.
“I listened to them talk about how the ‘n word’ was used way too much,” he said. “I’ve used it a couple of times. I took a step back, looked from the outside. There’s too many kids using it. It’s out of control.”
Similar past efforts, called Ban the N Word and Renounce the N Word, created small stirs and disappeared. This one is getting national media coverage and gaining traction in large part, organizers say, because of educator interest.
Teachers buy T-shirts and download personal contracts to show their students, Flowers said. Teachers in Miami and Orlando have contacted the creators, backing their efforts, he said.
There is support in Tampa, too. During the school year, Tampa police Officer Susan Bowers, the Middleton High School resource officer, hears students greet each other with the “n word.”
The 10-year Tampa Police Department veteran gives them a brief lesson in black-American history before they head to class or home.
“I’ve heard it used 25 times in an hour,” Bowers said. “They need to abolish it. They need to be educated in what the word really means. The kids tell me all the time that it’s all right when they say it to each other.”
The word started as a neutral noun in the 17th century, experts say, but by 1830 was a harsh insult.
The word’s crossover into pop culture stems from the racist entertainment of years past, said David Pilgrim, a sociology professor at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich.
Games, toys and poems that made fun of blacks also increased the use of the “n word,” said Pilgrim, also the curator of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia on the university’s campus.
“A negative black image grew, and so did that word,” he said. “Certainly in the 1800s it was so common and again in pop culture with mass entertainment. It became bigger since blaxploitation, ghetto exploitation and gangster rap.”
‘A Touchy Situation’
Some young people were thinking about it even before the site.
Saraya Tobler, 19, refuses to use the “n word” as part of today’s vernacular.
“I hear it a lot in groups, and when there’s different races hanging out and a black person uses it, the white person will wonder why they can’t say it,” she said. “It’s a touchy situation.”
Fifteen-year-old Jordan White, who works with Tobler at University Park as a camp counselor, said he uses the word to greet friends.
“I mean no disrespect by it,” he said. “That’s how some people talk to their homies, friends. It’s ‘What’s up,’ and you add an extra word.”
The creators of the movement said they have been criticized by blacks for paying attention to a word and not the issues that plague black communities.
“I know there are deeper ills than the ‘n word,’” Flowers said. “It’s not going away right away. Maybe this will set the tone. It’s a building block.”
Contact Chris Echegaray at
Link to the groupĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s web site: AbolishTheNWord.com (GRAPHIC CONTENT)
Posted by Courtnyey, Indiana on 11/27 at 01:27 PM
I refuse to use the “N” word and I can not stand to hear peolpe say it or call other people it.
Posted by Lydia Taylor, tampa bay fl on 06/07 at 04:23 PM
District Administrators’ Hiring. Understand the boards way of thinking.Revise transportation let go the top person in that system.And do what you want for the rest. Want that system to move ahead guess NOT. What’s Mr. Franklin going to think, you are paying this person a higher salary.The one he replaced,that’s funny.Ms.Elia she worked hard for her degrees. And yet put two back at their same pay and no degrees. Mr. Franklin just got a slap in the face with that decision.She must not think this man cant run the Transporation Department and make the decision without Ms. Strickland there in the second command position. Ms. Elia knows when employees go to a lower job they loose their pay, at least the workers do.
Posted by BUBBA JONES, JAIL on 02/02 at 04:51 PM
IS THIS A JOKE? OR IS IT A SIGN THE GOVERMENT NEEDS TO CUT BACK ON THE WELFARE CHECKS TO KEEP THE STUPID ONES FROM BUYING COMPUTERS… O YA THATS RIGHT THEY ARE STEALING COMPUTERS FROM THE WHITE MAN…
Posted by Paula Avarez, Tampa on 06/16 at 04:07 PM
Oh, I know, I KNOW!!!
Let’s just erase all the words in the dictionary and start OVER!!!!!!!!
Then when the next person gets offended, we’ll do it again!!
Posted by Thomas Weaver, Pensacola on 06/15 at 11:15 PM
The “N” word. I have many uses for that word ‘besides’ racial. My question is whether the newspaper which is a sort of a ‘lexicon’ to their community has taken the time to research all uses.
If the “N” word goes, so does “Whitey” or/and “Uncle Tom” as well as “Bossman” and any other similiar language. Where does it end - Can we include “Kite”? Or “Grease Ball”, etc.?
Posted by Linda Abbott, Plant City on 06/15 at 09:18 PM
Come on TBO. Get a grip and then get a life. What a waste of paper and ink!
Posted by Anthony Cowper, South Tampa on 06/15 at 06:30 PM
What a joke. Calling for a ban on the word will only increase the frequency with which idiotic people will use it. Growing up, calling someone an N-word would infuriate the receiver, as if the person had just killed their mother. This is where the “power” of the word is derived. If you just laugh off the word, you take away it’s effectiveness. Proclaiming that you DEMAND the word be banned will only increase the level with which it is already used. (Well-explained in even the most basic books on child psychology) People, do you have NOTHING else more productive to do with your time? What the hell is this world coming to? Everyday, I see dumber and dumber “causes”. Get a clue, you morons.
Posted by Richard D. Dynamyte, New Tampa on 06/15 at 04:29 PM
I think that the word is fine. It is only apart of culture as America and should not be ignored. If rappers choose to use it fine..I mean everyone had no problem with the racial slurs that were being thrown the way of all of the people of Mid-Eastern descent post 9/11. I’m from rural Florida where they have named an elemenatry school Cracker Trail Elem. Black protested and petitioned for the school not to be named that but it was wriiten anyway. Grow up america..use the word if you want but be prepared for the consequences that follow..if there are any.
Posted by Thomas Warren, Boston on 06/15 at 04:03 PM
I am white and middle aged. My parents taught us that this was a bad word not to be used. And while I didn’t learn the actual implications until later, I always have considered the N word to be offensive and unacceptable. I am surprised that anyone would be willing to use a word that insulted their race for so long. But I am not a part of that generation and I am sure there are certain dynamics that only similarly aged people would understand.
Posted by Gordon Ovenshine, Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania on 06/15 at 03:52 PM
All this hype about a word misses the point. Hate produced lynchings, not the N word. We want to eliminate hate and prejudice, not the use of a word.
The N word campaign, Trib story and chatarazzi about my brotha’ and my homey only perpetuate the notion that blacks use different vernacular and are somehow different from the rest of America society.
If I were black, I would resent it.
It’s the contempt, stupid.
Posted by Mark Ellis, Merritt Island, FL on 06/15 at 03:34 PM
I went to their web site. Not ONE SINGLE PICTURE they show with the lynchings and other atrocities are in color. Quit living in the past!
Posted by Mark Blazick, Dade City on 06/15 at 03:03 PM
It is a word that was around before it started being used in a bigotted fashion. It is also a word that I have hreard blacks call each other frequently yet understandably they do not like to be called this, no one would. The word is a descriptive word that means ignorant and that applies to any race, color or religion. Get used to it. It is just a word but should not be used to show hatred or bigotry but still should not be banished from the English language. It is a legitimate word and part of the language.
Posted by Laura Bemis, Tampa, Fla on 06/15 at 02:18 PM
Obviously the prior responders of this article haven’t been on the receiving end of that particular discriminatory word or look. We are an international community in this world of ours. The use of a word that brings nothing but thoughts of the bondage and slavery that was used to build our FREE America is hurtful and shameful. I do not want my grandchildren being called by a racial slur! Life is hard enough for our young people considering who they choose as role models. The best way to stop this is by education.
Posted by Mike Bowman, Dallas, TX on 06/15 at 01:23 PM
Does the “N” word stand for Nonsense? There’s hundreds of words out there that offends somebody. This is just ANOTHER one of those crazy PC ideas.
Posted by Sean Michael, Tampa Fl on 06/15 at 12:56 PM
I think we should start with the so called RAPPERS. They are the ones who are offended by the word yet they use it all the time in there songs.
Posted by Mike Henley, St. Louis on 06/15 at 11:29 AM
I think it is a good thing to drop a racially derogatory word from the dictionary such as the “n” word. But, lets not forget the words like,wop,#####,white trash,honky,etc. that also need to be removed from our dictionaries.
Posted by Juanita Burrows, Monroe, La on 06/15 at 10:42 AM
You know there is alot of other words that need be erased from our vocabulary. What is wrong with you people in Tampa? That place is like big melting pot. Move forward, not backwards.
Posted by Jason Hepburn, ther land of the not so free speech ,FL on 06/15 at 10:30 AM
so if guys get rid of the “N” word now it’ll only be a matter of time before people find another word to try and get rid of.. i thought Americans had free speech? I guess not too bad
Posted by Charlie Cacioppo, Wesley Chapel on 06/15 at 10:24 AM
Why stop with the “N” word? Let do away with the “F” word and few other choice adjectives that too many people use as ‘normal’ language. I am afraid that if we do away with all these words, some of these guys will be left with ‘nothing’ to say. You gotta love the economy of vocabulary. Less is more!
Posted by Jerry Don, Univ of South Florida on 06/15 at 10:12 AM
I support the use of the-N-word and i look forward to its continued transition into common society’s verbage. I use it and my kids will most likely use it. you can never banish or abolish a word the best you can do is take part in shaping it and controlling it. Thinking that you will prevent people from using it is ridiculous and ultimately causes more problems… because by cutting down on volume you merely increase the intensity of those who will continue to use it maliciously… inadvertently adding more firepower to the racist arsenal.
Posted by joe cook, tampa on 06/15 at 09:55 AM
Good idea but you have to start with the source of it these days. Listen to the “rap” garbage in the recording industry, the people doing it and the notoriety surrounding the “performers” due to the violence they seem to perpetuate. Little children hear it and then we all know what happens next. Don’t blame the kids, blame the ones fathering (fathering is a joke too) them.
Posted by Wes Spruill, Brandon on 06/15 at 09:52 AM
It must be a slow news day if this is the lead story on TBO.com.
Posted by Pat Reilly, New Tampa, FL on 06/15 at 09:42 AM
If we were able to move back in time to the days of Shakespeare, we probably would think they were speaking a foreign language, even though they were speaking English. Some words and pronunciation like everything else, become obsolete overtime and new words and pronunciation come into fashion. I am a supporter of feedom of speech, however, I am an advocate of discouraging the use of the “n” word. I was raised in the 50’s - 60’s and as a child I was told never to use the word. My parents (immigrants) found it rude and disrespectful. I am unconfortable around anyone using the word, however, there seems to be a double standard. Blacks can use it, but white people can’t.
Posted by David G. Smith, Tampa on 06/15 at 09:37 AM
are you seriouse? political correctness has now gotten to a new low. now we are trying to BAN WORDS. what has happened to America? is it George Orwels 1984??
Posted by Susan Hubbard, Tampa, FL on 06/15 at 09:33 AM
I want my freedom of speech….period. If you don’t like what I have to say, don’t listen.
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