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‘The N-word is off limits to white people’

SUPPORT: Usher has defended his protégé Justin Bieber (left) even though he was caught on camera using the N-word

IT IS perhaps the most derogatory racial slur in history.

And despite gains made in civil rights and political correctness, the N-word is still being used as either an insult or – according to rapper Jay Z during a recent appearance on Oprah – as a ‘reclaimed’ term of endearment.

“We give words power,” the hip-hop mogul said. “And my generation took the power out of that word...we took a word that was very hurtful and turned it into a term of endearment.”

As a result, the ‘reclaimed’ N-word – which has a slightly different spelling – is now commonplace in popular culture with the lines blurred of who can use it and in what context. Yet, singer Madonna came under fire when she referred to her white son as ‘dis n**ga’ on her social media site. She apologised, but said it was a term of endearment. Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow also faced criticism for tweeting a photo with the caption ‘N**gas in Paris’ which is a hit song by her friends Jay Z and Kanye West.

Videos like the recent one of teen heartthrob Justin Beiber using it or Jeremy Clarkson mumbling it in an unaired Top Gear clip, shows it still causes offence and provokes outrage.

It has led many to wonder if black people themselves should take the step to banish the word in its entirety to the history books to prevent it having any legitimacy.

Retired LA Lakers basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said: “People who don’t understand what we fought for in this country during the civil rights movement think that they can clean that word up.

“I don’t think it can ever be cleaned up, and I think that black Americans should avoid using it.”

“What is interesting, however, is those very people who use the N-word get offended when white people use it.

Surprisingly, this, I understand, despite my overall stance since no issue is black or white,” Dionne Wright Poulton, author of It’s not always racist…but sometimes it is, told The Voice.

UNDER FIRE: Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson

“As much as I hate anyone using the N-word, as I state in my book, I think it is especially off-limits for white people because of its historical significance and the fact that it was used to reinforce the heinous degradation and treatment of black people. Yes it is a double standard, but this is a consequence of a history that was not created by black people.”

Charlamagne Tha God, co-host of The Breakfast Club radio show told Hip Hop Wired: “If we’re saying the N-word is a term of endearment, then let everybody use it. Don’t say when we use it, it’s good, when you use it, it’s bad. If not, stop complaining. If you’re not going to accept it as a term of endearment across the board, that means it’s not good.”

Poulton, a diversity consultant, added: “Should black people use the N-word? In a word, no. If I had it my way, everyone would stop using it, but I know this is wishful thinking.

“When black people use the N-word it is a demonstration of their level of consciousness and how much or how little they respect themselves and their ancestors.

“That word was uttered just before black men were hung from trees and slaughtered so how can this word suddenly be used as a term of endearment? Unfortunately, people use the N-word like the word ‘pal’ and it is offensive.

“I do not use the N-word, I get offended when others use it around me, and it will never be considered a term of endearment in my world.”

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