BLACK VOICES

N-Word Deemed Unacceptable By NY Jury, But Will Verdict Impact Broader Use Of The Term? (TELL US)

Sep 05, 2013
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A federal court ruled earlier this week that it is illegal to use the N-word in the workplace, even if you're black, reviving debate over whether the term is ever acceptable to use.

In the case of Brandi Johnson vs. Rob Carmona, founder of the STRIVE empowerment center in East Harlem, the jury ruled that Carmona must pay $25,000 and his organization must pay $5,000 in punitive damages for using the epithet during a four-minute tirade aimed at Johnson in March 2012.

Carmona, who identifies as black and Hispanic, told the court that his use of the term was one of love and endearment when he aimed it at Johnson, a black employee.

In an interview with WNYC Wednesday, Zerlina Maxwell, political analyst and writer for The Grio described the precedent that the ruling has set, noting that now, "people who overhear the word used will be able to sue for discrimination, even if the word wasn't directed at them."

But, Maxwell adds that the verdict doesn't mean that use of the n-word will begin to decline. "People make an independent choice whether or not they want to use the n-word in whatever context they want to and the debate over whether black people can re-appropriate the term in a positive way, is a debate that is as old as I am," she said, citing a "funeral" held by the NAACP in 2007 aimed at symbolically burying the term.

While some questioned the circumstances by which the debate has sprung up again...

...others point to popular culture as the reason it persists.

We took the question to Facebook and Twitter and here's what you had to say:

Tell us more: Are there situations when using the N-word is appropriate?

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