Why Words Matter

Meichelle Vertus , Founder

You might have heard last year a teacher allegedly used the N-word and it was just gossip in the school. Students in all grades were learning about the situation in several different ways and it was hard for the truth to come out. The different versions of the story were created all by students, causing confusion about the whole situation. Some believed it was used during reading a passage in a book, some stories were that the teacher used it negatively towards a student, and others thought he was using it because a student told him to. To this day it is unclear what the truth is. This event caused students to feel like the school wasn’t doing enough and teachers felt like students weren’t understanding the whole situation.

I had a thought that if there was a school newspaper this issue would have been addressed and people would have the truth. The newspaper would allow students and teachers to share how they truly feel about situations happening in the school and in the world. But there was no newspaper so the truth was never known and people were not able to share how they felt about the situation. But now we have a newspaper that gives students a place to voice their opinion and share how they feel. That’s why I made the newspaper and found great people who equally care about giving students a voice and sharing the truth.

Who can say the N-word should be very clear, but several students at PHA are still confused. Everyone should understand that Black people and people who identify as being Black or Afro-Latina/o are the only people allowed to say it. But recently the lines have been blurred and people are starting to say it very freely. Hispanics, Indians, Latinas/os, and other people of color have been saying it. They are saying it either because they believe that since they are not White they can say it or their Black peers allow them to say it.

The first issue is that people believe because they are not White they can say it. That is not the case and this idea is bothersome. This idea is ignorant. The reason Black people are able to say the N-word is because of the years of pain and oppression that our ancestors endured. We decided to take the term back and to make it positive. We decided to be empowered by and not let it demean us anymore. The N-word is deeper to us than just a word you hear in music and a word that gets thrown around everyday.

The N-word appears to be a word that is just used loosely but it is meant to empower and liberate Black people. The N-word is showing White people that they don’t have control over us any longer. The N-word is for Black people because only Black people have gone through such horrible torture with the word being a constant reminder that our ancestors were enslaved.

In addition, people who choose to use the N-word believe it is “just a word.” And they claim to not understand why it is such a big issue. If it was just a word, people wouldn’t get so bothered by it. If it was just a word, it wouldn’t be such an issue to not say it. If it was just a word, people wouldn’t feel guilty from using it when they know they shouldn’t. If it was just a word, it should be easy to not use it.

The N-word is not just a word. It’s Black history. It’s my history. When people say it’s just a word, these are the images I see. When people misuse the word, these are the images I see because they clearly don’t respect or understand why the word is used. Because they don’t understand, they shouldn’t use it.

People of color can’t say the N-word just because they are minorities. Minorities do not get a pass to say it. Many minorities actually have anti-Black practices and tendencies. Meaning that they don’t like Black people and try to avoid any history of Black people. For example, Hispanics and Latinas/os, who have African ancestry tend to deny and neglect their Black ancestry. And they do this because the worst thing for them is to admit that they are Black. It seems as though they find it embarrassing. Black people are hated by people everywhere and they still feel the right to say the N-word when they don’t respect Black people. They love to say the N-word but hate Black people–that’s the issue. 

Another misconception around this word is the idea that Black people give “passes” to people to say the N-word. This is imaginary. It doesn’t exist. People don’t get passes to say the N-word. Black people that give passes are Black people who are uneducated about the issue and don’t understand how ignorant it is to give passes. They give passes to people who really don’t even like Black people and who only see them as being loud, ghetto, and criminals. This is why they don’t deserve a pass because they act as though they are an ally to Black people when in actuality they allow what White people say about Black people guide their opinions.

People make an argument that because it is always said in songs they should get to say it. It is not like people are being asked to remove several words from their vocabulary, they are only being asked to not say one. One word that has several centuries of hurt and pain behind it. And people that are not Black who say it are literally saying FUCK YOU and the torture, castration, humiliation, oppression, and embarrassment that Black people have gone through and continue to go through today.

The newspaper’s mission is to give students a voice and to allow a place for them to come and learn the truth about the school. A lot at Prospect Hill has either been lightly glossed over or never talked about and it causes a lack of school spirit and confusion around the school. It is time for the confusion to end and everything to be discussed. It is time for the students to have a voice that will actually be heard.

This newspaper is a place where students can share their personal pieces, be informed, and feel advocated for. The purpose of the newspaper is to stop the gossip and share the truth in a way that is understood and respected. It is intended to shine a light on anything that is covered up by the administration.