Dear Editor: I'm writing about the absolute ban on the use of "the N-word." (I'm not using the word itself because my letter wouldn't get published.) This absolute ban, without regard for intent, context or anything else, has had the paradoxical effect of "weaponizing" the word. It has increased the word's potency and shock value so that its use is like a violation of archaic blasphemy laws, leading to horrendous consequences for violators. (See MMSD's personnel decisions in the last couple of years.) It has also made great literature like Huckleberry Finn and works of James Baldwin unacceptable unless Bowdlerized. Its common use within parts of the black community adds an element of racial division in how its use is treated. I suggest ending the ban and letting the word return to its normal place as an epithet that can be hateful, affectionate or historical (as in Huckleberry Finn) depending on intent.

Sam Smith


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