Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Looking at the Nov. 17 "Imagine..." column

There is a weekly column in The Concordian called "Imagine...". It is written by MariLuz Diaz, the Opinions Editor. I think she's a sophomore. I'm not sure. In one of her columns she mentioned that she was an English major, I think. She's allergic to smoke. She wrote about that a month ago or so. That's all I know about her.

I enjoy reading MariLuz's column in the paper each week. I think she has an interesting perspective on things. I mentioned her column briefly over a month ago in my "Concord musings" blog. I wrote about how her column had the potential to be really good, but she just needed to find out how to successfully complain in an article. She's getting better. The only way to get better is to keep writing, so she's on the right track.

I was reading the Nov. 17, issue and checked out her "Imagine..." column. For those who don't know, it opens the same way each week. She starts with "Imagine..." and writes about a scenario and it leads into whatever her column is about.

[side note - I tried to find the article on in order to link it, but I can't seem to locate it anywhere. I don't know if it's temporarily missing, or was never posted, or what. If anybody finds it online somewhere, feel free to send a link. Otherwise, check out the hardcopy issue around campus.]

Close your eyes and imagine some rude people disrupting her lunch in the cafeteria. As Diaz writes, "I was sitting down to lunch with one of my friends, when the people at the nearby tables disturbed us. They were yelling across our table at each other, sometimes using the 'n-word.'"

She continues, "I am pretty sure that everyone knows which 'n-word' I refer to. This word truly offends me." She never mentions what that word is, but we're all adults here and can have a civil discourse regarding the use of the word "nigger."

Diaz notes the historical significance of the word, with some facts about slavery and even brings up that her great-great-great-great grandparents were slaves. To help her cause, she also breaks out the definition: "a person of any race or origin regarded as contemptible, inferior, ignorant, etc; a victim of prejudice similar to that suffered by blacks; a person who is economically, politically, or socially disenfranchised." She uses this to illustrate that you're not just being offensive to black people if you break out the "n-word," but to lots of other people.

The main point Diaz makes with her column is that people are ignorant for using the word "nigger."

She writes:

...Isn't the fact that you made it to college proof that you're not ignorant? And for a people who have been fighting against oppression and racism, why keep this term around as if it was a term of endearment? Your oppressors used it against your ancestors, and yet you sit around yelling it at each other like nothing.

I think if you can't stop calling each other racial slurs, then you shouldn't be in college. Our ancestors died for the right to be seen as human beings, not as slaves, not as inferiors, but as humans. And look at us, we're throwing it in their faces, and using it every day. Wake up people and think before you talk.

I'm not disputing Diaz' point, that this word has historically been a very offensive and derogatory term. Something that I feel needs to be brought up has been how "nigger" has developed a not-as-offensive connotation over the years.

I'm not saying that I feel as though Diaz is wrong to feel the way she does. I'm not condoning usage of the word. I'm just saying that in some instances the negative stigma is gone., a site that is purely for entertainment, has the definition listed as: "1. describes an ignorant, uneducated, foolish individual regardless of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, etc. 2. endearing term between two or more individuals to describe a friendship or bond."

An endearing term to describe a friendship or bond. Urbandictionary isn't a serious website, but that is a legitimate connotation that has developed recently.

I wrote about this issue back in February. Musician John Mayer dropped the "n-bomb" in an interview with Playboy magazine. Click here to read that blog. Two of the three YouTube videos I embedded are no longer available. Mayer is asked about being accepted by black people, having a "hood pass." Mayer said that if you actually had a hood pass, you could call it a "nigger pass."

This is a hot-button issue and I feel like more attention should have been paid to the connotation, rather than the denotation. I don't believe the people that were using the "n-word" in the cafeteria were trying to disrespect their ancestors, but rather using a word that is slowly becoming acceptable in certain circles.

Do I think that's right? I don't know. Do I think Diaz is wrong in her opinion? No. She doesn't like that word and that's perfectly fine. Some people do like it. Are they wrong? No.

I feel as though this debate has now entered into that category. You know, where no amount of debate will really change any feelings about it. "Is 'nigger' okay to say" is now in the same category as "Should marijuana be legalized," "Should the drinking age be lowered," "Are abortions ethical," and so forth.

Thoughts? Anonymous comments are allowed. If you go that route, keep it civil.


  1. Marijuana should be legal and the drinking age should be lowered - no opinion on the "n-word."

  2. I find the assumption that once you've made it to college that you're not ignorant quite hilarious.


  4. My comments:

    This is a great blog post Slater.

    I think the "Imagine" column is getting better but hopefully like fine wine she will get better with time.

    Justin: You are soooo right on!

    Ms. Mullins

  5. wow... i don't know what to say... obviously, thank you for liking my column... and i guess thank you for telling me how to improve... i'm rolling my eyes at a few of these comments, but i know that everyone is entitled to their own opinion...

    PS When I was talking about college students not being ignorant, I was leaving out the athletes

  6. Mullins,

    Thank you. We need more opinions from more people in the paper in order to get more discussion out there. It's much easier said than done, as my biggest goal during all my years on the staff was to get increased staff & community involvement on the Opinions section. One thing I'm proud of is that there were a lot of Letters to the Editor during my tenure as EIC. I think the biggest way to get community involvemnt is to try & encourage staff participation. Make the Opinions section important & others will see it that way. I think the "Imagine" column can be an important part of making that section important again.

  7. MariLuz,

    Keep up the good work. A great way to improve is to read other columns from other writers. Charles Blow from the NY Times is one of my favorites. Coincidentally, he written a lot about the race debate that you & I just discussed. Find people you like and follow them. Take the formats and styles you like from other people and give them your own twist.

  8. The Imagine columns are getting worse to me. Each week it complains more and more. The use of the "n" word isn't going to stop. People havent taken it and embraced it and have made it their own... but I think something she forgets to realize is that it's not "nigger" that persons typically use, it's more like "nigga" and the inflection is often different than if they were meaning it to be derrogatory.

  9. @Chris:

    I always enjoy reading your material. My favorite thing about you is your ability to always question the situation and the presentation.

    race, race, race....

    First of all, I am not black. I've never been black, and don't see myself becoming black. I would never be so naive as to state that any amount of exposure to black people, black culture, history, studies, or anything else of the kind would make me fit to speak on the behalf of an entire race.

    I am, however, a human.

    A human, who in my time, has had quite the open and assertive stance against racism. All racism. It must be seen as all because most people today view racism as a white and black issue. It couldn't be further from the truth.

    I was once an english/grammar major until I began to discover how grammar itself is purely arbitrary. I find words and their usage as a whole to be quite arbitrary.

    Racism is not.
    Words are.

    My questions are:
    Who are you to insert yourself into a conversation that you are not a part of and then begin to pass judgments? If this word bothered you so badly, then why didn't you confront them? I believe in being politically correct, but this sounds more like a case of being politically polite.

    Do I condone their actions? No. But was I part of the context? Not at all.

    Some of my friends who are black do not say this word to each other because they believe it to be furthering oppression. Some will also state that it has became their word, and they will use it as often as they like.

    It's not my word, and I don't want it.

    My opinion is that we, as a society, are too hung up on words.

    If the term "couch" became offensive all of a sudden, I would most certainly not hesitate to talk about furniture in public. However, if someone explained that the furniture needed a beating because it was a couch, I would definitely step in and take action.

    Bad analogy..oh well, I'm not deleting it.

    By the way, I do feel that your parting shot of "PS When I was talking about college students not being ignorant, I was leaving out the athletes" doesn't do anything for your credibility.

    Anyway, assuming folks in college are of sound mind will also leave you the fool. Degrees are bought and sold like pizzas, as are the entry way into a collegiate setting.

    I have not responded to blast you or your position, but I do want you to consider a variety of standpoints concerning race. Politically correct language can often hide a Politically incorrect agenda.

    I need to brush my teeth.

    One love.

  10. I disagree about the column getting worse. I think they started out a little rough and have slowly gotten better. Although, the one about a few weeks back about how awesome JD Estep is was pointless. I'm not saying that he's not awesome - I have no idea. Not to make light of this, but I thought it was ironic that she wrote a column about a guy she thought was awesome and then next week's column was about how she and her boyfriend broke up.

    But, I do agree with you on the point on the intent of the word, the "er" versus "a" issue. Sometimes the intent of the word isn't malicious. It's like George Carlin said - "There is absolutely nothing wrong with the word 'nigger' in and of itself. It's the racist asshole using it that you ought to be concerned about."

  11. Slater,

    Good use of Carlin...I also like the post above that discusses the difference between "nigga" and "nigger." (see urban dictionary's second definition above that you provided) Sometimes the use of the word (both of them) is acceptable in social circles. I prefer to join the group that doesn't use either of the "n" words we are discussing. Lastly, I think we could get great responses to articles if those of us who were bold enough to complain on here would send their responses to the column in to us via email at


    Try to avoid attacking people when they comment/criticize your work. When you place your work out there to be read it is only natural for it to be discussed and critiqued. Use the positive feedback (i.e. Slater's suggestion to view other columns) to your advantage and the negative feedback as a reminder that there are people out there who are going to find holes in your opinions pieces. Use the negative comments to remind yourself to review pieces and think about what isn't logical. You also need to do your research before you make comments. More athletes graduate from Concord then students who are non-athletes (35% v.s 55% Source:Coach Kellar.) This means that saying something like, "PS When I was talking about college students not being ignorant, I was leaving out the athletes" isn't an effective response." Why not challenge them to write a response to your column?

    Lastly, I have to agree that the Estep column wasn't your finest work.It was basically a rant. Be sure to back up your pieces with facts.

    Keep Reading!

    Ms. Mullins

  12. I seriously miss writing my inflammatory opinion pieces every week!

  13. I do understand that there's a difference between "nigger" and "nigga". My only point was that I don't like the use of the word, period. Just because some people think it's ok to use it as an endearment, doesn't make it ok. If someone was to ever try to call me a "nigga" I would just ignore them and walk away because the person who is being ignorant is the one assuming that I would respond to such a thing. I'm just mad that it has come down to this... It's an endearment, but depends on who is saying it. If a geeky whit boy was to go up to a black guy and call him "nigga" then he would get beat up. All I was trying to say with my column is that I'm insulted by the use of the word and I feel like it shouldn't be used anymore.

    BTW, In my column, I did use the word "nigger" but the editor in chief sensored it.

    -MariLuz Diaz
    PS anyone else who wants to say something about me can email me at

  14. "PS When I was talking about college students not being ignorant, I was leaving out the athletes"

    I find this comment to be the most ignorant of all. I was a collegiate athlete (1 Conference Championship and All-Conference). I graduated from Concord in 4 year. With a GPA right around 3.5 -- How can you even begin to down athletes? Making a comment like that shows how ignorant YOU really are. If you want to be a good journalist then you need to learn how to act in the public eye... sooner rather than later. I haven't even read one of your articles yet and I already have zero respect for you.

  15. Sorry I just got around to reading this. I haven't read any of that girl's articles either, but I have no respect for her simply because stereotyping another group of people makes her just as ignorant as those stereotyping her. Who is she to say that athletes are ignorant? One of the valedictorians at my graduation was a baseball player. She definitely needs to think before she speaks and if she is going to get mad when people make comments on her work, maybe journalism isn't the route she needs to go. As a matter of fact, maybe she needs to not leave home or communicate with the rest of the world because no matter what you do, people are going to have something to say about it. I haven't taken a single journalism course in my life, but I feel like there are certain things an 'educated' person should know. For example, years ago when our parents were growing up, a lot of people didn't obtain college educations, but these days, people do. I agree with the notion that the fact that someone GRADUATED from a respectable institution leads you to believe they are of above average intelligence, but it ends there. These days you can almost literally buy a degree online or on television. Nine times out of ten those people only want your money and from my perspective that makes you appear even more ignorant. All in all, this appears to be a half-assed rant that someone wrote because they were angry. From what I gather about journalism, there is no room for feelings. Opinions yes, feelings no. If she felt that her opinion was merited, I think that she could have done the proper research to support it. I am almost embarrassed to say that an article like this is representative of my race and in the broadest sense, a representation of me. Do I feel that the use of that word can be offensive -- most definitely. But its 2010 and it hasn't gone anywhere. When Obama was elected, I heard a lady on Sirius radio say that her great grandmother had grown up a slave and lived to see the first 'black' president. Yes, its almost sad that in this day and age we, as a people, take pride in that, but it speaks volumes for us. Its like, for all those times black mothers and fathers told their children they could be whatever they wanted, they FINALLY have someone who is not an athlete or hip-hop star to use as an example. Those hopes and dreams have substance. Do you honestly believe Obama would be where he is today if he ranted and raved every time he heard the ''n-word" used? I don't think so. If anything, her tirade was a waste of energy, because its a battle that will never be won. If she wants to prove a point, maybe she should stop going on and on about the use of a particular word and do something to prove the doubters wrong. I am a young, African American female. I have been called the "n-word" a couple times to my face and probably a million times behind my back. But you had better believe I walk into a predominately white work place five days a week with my head held high. No matter how many dirty looks I get or derogatory names people may choose to call me, I know I deserve to be there and I WILL be successful on whatever path I choose. I won't be successful because of the color of my skin, but because I am the opposite of everything the"n- word" suggests. I am certain that that is a bigger slap in the face to the racist nay-sayers out there than any ranting or raving I could ever do.

  16. MariLuz, I am not an athlete, but really? You cry ignorance and then show yours quite proudly. You're stereotyping athletes and then playing advocate for races. Please step back and consider what you say before you say it!