by Elvis Slaughter
The N-word is one of the most hateful, racist, useless, and inhumane words in the English vocabulary, and schools play a big role in ensuring that the word is eliminated from their lexicon. But the question is, why is the N-word being used in some schools? Some English and reading teachers still require students to read books with the N-word. Interestingly, most of these books are no longer found on school reading lists for some good reasons.
The N-word has been used as far back as the 18th century to offend, harm, and insult African Americans. So it is a word that has an undeniable link to white supremacy, slavery, and colonialism. Racial epithets have vicarious and intergenerational consequences, which implies that they do not just harm the person the term is used against, but also are capable of hurting the entire student community. The N-word was heard from teachers using books, videos, and audio for many years, and at least 25 times this school year in just one class alone.
The use of racial epithets by educators is quite problematic, resulting from its long-term implications on a student’s ability to learn both in the classroom and institution. Based on the available data from a 2011 study in the Review of Educational Research, there is a strong correlation between the relationship between a student and the teacher and the student’s engagement and achievement in school.
It was discovered that positive student-teacher relationships often resulted in increased long-term student engagement and achievement. On the other hand, a negative student-teacher relationship negatively or harmfully affects long-term student engagement and achievement. In another study, researchers discovered that educators’ interpersonal skills are just as crucial or even more crucial than their knowledge of the subject matter. Presently, there is a need for more research on how educators’ use of racial slurs (such as the N-word) affects students.
Regardless of the context in which the N-word is used — either in the classroom or the pronunciation with a hard “r” or soft “a” at the end of the word — making use of the N-word will always be an insidious reminder of those who hold power in school and elite spaces. Unfortunately, the professional development classes, including Cultural Competency, had very little effect on eliminating the N-word at one school district, and it remains in both the curriculum and the students’ minds.
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