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Avellon Williams 

UNITED STATES- It is not uncommon to see instances of racial tension and injustice throughout the United States. It is unfortunate that neither the world nor the reactions they evoke are new.

Randall Kennedy, a Harvard law professor, and scholar has been concerned about this issue for a long time. He has studied and written extensively about the United States of America throughout his life. 

There are several topics covered in this article, including law and order, culture, and race.

The 20th Anniversary Edition of Kennedy’s book N-word: The Strange Career Of A Troublesome Word will be released on February 8. The book will include a new introduction in which Kennedy reiterates his original rejection of the N-word’s eradication and excessive censorship, explaining that the word is here to stay “for good and for bad.”.

In as much as the author’s subject of the book – the term N-word – remains an important term in American racial discourse, “the book has aged well.”  

This term is still used as a tool, a weapon, to humiliate and terrorize people. As the term is still very relevant in American culture, it deserves to be discussed. 

Kennedy told Newsweek, “It’s horrible that this word is still so prevalent, and it’s still used in such heinous ways.”


The first book he published was published in a different social setting before the rise of social media, which increased scrutiny of language use and exposed cases of racial and social injustice.

“As my predictions proved, I have been surprised – although I shouldn’t have been – by the dogmatic literalism of some of those I call ‘eradicationists’.”

As the scholar puts it, “We’re in a bad situation if we prioritize the elimination of danger. If we do that, then let’s just get rid of books, get rid of discussions, get rid of comedy, and get rid of satire.”

Kennedy’s new introduction, which is reproduced in part below, was exclusively provided to Newsweek.

In accordance with Newsweek policy, all occurrences of the N-word have been removed. Listen closely and you can almost hear Kennedy’s sigh of resignation.

Professor Randall Kennedy /Courtesy/

New Introduction — N-word: The Strange Career Of ATroublesome Word

Twenty yeаrs аgo, I rejected wholesаle erаdicаtionism, аnd I reject it now. One reаson is prudentiаl: there is а feаr thаt those in positions of power will do whаt people in power often do: аctstupidly аnd prejudicedly, giving vent to dictаtoriаl impulses like those thаt hаve led to the punishment of conscientious teаchers.

As а result, I’d like to limit the power of tаstemаkers, especiаlly those with governmentаl аuthority. I’d like to reduce their desire аnd аbility to limit whаt people cаn sаy, heаr, portrаy, or see.

Mr. Cecil Brown’s Life аnd Loves of Mr. Cecil Brown’s Life. The Artificiаl N-word, Jiveаss N-word, Gil Scott-Heron’s N-word Fаctory, CаrlSаndburg’s N-word Lover, Cаrl Vаn Vechten’s N-word Heаven, Flаnnery O’Connor’s Artificiаl N-word, Henry Dumаs’ Double N-word, Ed Bullins’ Electronic N-word, or Dick Gregory’s N-word—not to mention the mаny other stories, plаys, novels, аnd other works thаt аre constаntly threаtened becаuse they contаin the N word.

Twenty years ago, I rejected wholesale eradicationism, and I still reject it today. A prudential reason can be attributed to a fear that people in a position of authority will behave in the same way as people in power do, that is, with prejudice and stupidity, giving vent to dictatorial impulses like the ones that led to conscientious teachers being punished.

Therefore, I want to limit the power of arbiters of taste, especially those with government authority. The goal is to inhibit their desire and ability to restrict what people can say, hear, portray, or see. I want to restrain them from banning or bowdlerizing or confining to a locked closet Cecil Brown’s Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass N-word, Gil Scott-Heron’s N-word Factory, Carl Sandburg’s N-word Lover, Carl Van Vechten’s N-word Heaven, Flannery O’Connor’s Artificial N-word, Henry Dumas’s Double N-word, Ed Bullins’s Electronic N-word, or Dick Gregory’s N-word—not to mention the many other stories, plays, novels, and other works that are constantly threatened because they contain the N-word.

However, there are many other factors involved. Throughout history, people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities have used the N-word in ways that have been instructive, moving, and enjoyable. They do so through protests, satires, comedy, and a myriad of other gestures that are hard to characterize, but deeply expressive nonetheless.

The introduction began with a detailed description of the degrading uses of the N-word. My mind is still haunted by that catalogue of deplorable actions. Furthermore, I cannot ignore the way in which commentators, activists, novelists, playwrights, comedians, and many others have cleverly used the N-word to poke fun at racism, to stand in solidarity with those wrongly vilified by society, to provide amusing and ironic communication with friends, and to express all sorts of other sentiments.


The N-word was often used by my late father, an African American Louisianian born in 1917. It was one of the words he often used to pay compliments, as when he said that Professor Allison Davis was the smartest “N-word” he had ever encountered, Reverend James Hinton was the bravest, and Jackie Robinson was the best. 

In his friendly greeting, he would say: “Good to see you, my N-word.” He used it to convey respect: “Thurgood Marshall is a stand-up N-word.” He used the term to describe people he disapproved of: “Them N-word should be ashamed of themselves.” He also pridefully used the term to describe himself: “I am a stone N-word.” My father used the N-word often and without shame to convey a spectrum of beliefs and emotions that were understood only by paying attention to the intonation of his voice.

My childhood household was thus one where I learned about what Jarvis DeBerry, a journalist, described as the “multiplicity of functions” of the N-word. However, there are still some remnants of childhood socialization that must be eradicated. Sadly, this lesson on the complexities and capacities of language is not among them. On the contrary, it is an important lesson worth championing.


Having realized that the word N-word, like any other symbol, can be used to express conflicting emotions, I am glad I learned this. This lesson is something I am thankful for. It has helped keep me from being vulnerable to the trauma cited as a reason for obsessively scrubbing the N-word whenever it appears.

It also enabled me to appreciate teachings, creations, and performances that would be distorted, if not outright banned of N-word eradicationism were to win. 

Despite the N-word being liberally sprinkled in the mouths of their characters, August Wilson and Quentin Tarantino have a fun way with words. Still, D.R.E. (Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre) remains one of my favorites. Although the n-word is prevalent in lyrics of “My Mind Playing Tricks on Me” (Geto Boys) and “Dr. Dre,” “My Mind Plаying Tricks on Me,” аnd “My Mind Plаying Tricks on Me,” “My Mind Plаying Tricks on Me,” аnd “My Mind Plаying I enjoy Dаve Chаppelle’s, Kаtt Williаms’, Chris Rock’s, аnd Richаrd Pryor’s N-word-filled comedy routines, especiаlly when they use the N-word in new wаys, such аs when they use it to refer to white people like DonаldTrump. (I’m well аwаre thаt Pryor lаter repudiаted his eаrlieruse of the N-word in his lаter yeаrs.)

But I believe thаt the n-word comedy—аs exemplified in Thаt N-word’s Crаzy—wаsdeeper, shаrper, аnd funnier thаn his lаter work.

Protest for the killing of George Floyd /Courtesy/

Even today, the N-word is still a powerful derogatory weapon that spreads the contagion. People continue to use it to discriminate against others. In a racist context, it still has the ability to invoke psychic blood.

However, outright banning the N-word would be a foolish move, despite its heinous uses. The scope and intensity of repression needed to eradicate the N-word would far outweigh any possible benefits.

Tolerating offensive, even racist, usage of the N-word to some extent-even to a large extent-is in my view a reasonable price to pay for the freedoms that a robust ethic of expressive pluralism demands and encourages.

In that respect, I hope the “N-word…is destined to remain with us as a remembrance of the ironies and dilemmas, tragedies and triumphs, of the American experience,” as I have previously stated.

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Avellon Williams