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Language Builds Fences: How Love Takes Them Down

It was only a couple weeks ago when news broke that food mogul, Paula Deen admitted to using the “n-word”. News sources questioned if she was a racist. She was dropped from 12 of her endorsements including Wal-Mart and the Food Network.  The queen of butter quickly fell from grace because she admitted to using racial slurs.

While this has been all over the news, I’ve wrestled with the question of WHY. Why is this SUCH a big deal? (Let me explain because this has been a question of mine probably since the beginning of time.)

Language is something that is constantly changing. Just recently the word “tweet” was added to the dictionary. But there’s one word that its use has changed, yet remained the same, of course, depending on who says it.

The N-Word.

As a bi-racial adult, I feel caught in the middle of some racial controversy. Why is the n-word okay for some to say and others they’re deemed as racist?

I did some research. The word goes back long ago.

“It is often traced to the Latin niger meaning black. The Latin niger became the noun negro (black person) in English, and simply the color black in Spanish and Portuguese. It is likely that it is a phonetic spelling of the white Southern mispronunciation of negro. Whatever its origins, by the early 1800s it was firmly established as a denigrative epithet. Almost two centuries later, it remains a chief symbol of white racism.” (Dr. David Pilgrim, Professor of Sociology, and Dr. Phillip Middleton, Professor of Languages and Literature,
Ferris State University. Sept., 2001)

We all know there’s pain behind the word. The Civil War divided our nation for a few years and race was apart of that. Decades later, Martin Luther King Jr and others fought for their civil rights. Our country was divided once again. That was only 50 years ago, but division is still prevalent in our nation.

I posted on Facebook that I was going to write this post and wanted people’s opinions. Of the comments I received, everyone said that the N-word, or any word like it used as a racial slur shouldn’t be used at all. They also agreed that it seemed there was a double standard.

So I went back to my research.

Popularized by hip hop and rap cultures the slightly changed spelling of the n-word has a different meaning. One friend explained, “I grew up in a place where we used it just to acknowledge each other as friends.” But he also explained, “if used in a derogatory way it is one of the most hurtful words we have.”

And he’s right. History proves this word harbors so much hate, but it’s not just this word that has me concerned. There are other words in our language that are used so freely, yet the history of the use of the word has so much hate behind it. I don’t even have to specifically mention any other word because I’m sure you’ve already thought up 5 on your own.

My point is not to say that one race or person is right and the other is wrong. This is my point: PEOPLE, we’re fighting in a war against ourselves!

We have created double standards for living by just simply being human. No matter your race, religious background, sexuality–you name it. The language we use is preventing community. And we’ve built fences to separate ourselves.

A woman I would describe as my second mom said, “Seems to me that we have created a double standard. I personally think the n-word should be eliminated on both sides of the fence…and then maybe we can take the fence down!”

What an interesting perspective! 

Jesus was the perfect example of taking down fences. I mean, let’s be real–that should’ve been in his job description while here on earth, and yet He’s still doing it today. And I’m not talking about literal fences, made of wood or metal that separate a yard from the yard next door. I’m talking about how we’ve fenced off our hearts, minds–whatever is different from those around us. But what’s crazy awesome about God is that he wasn’t afraid to love those he disagreed with or lived differently than how he did.

The simple question with the complicated answer is why can’t we do that? Obviously, sin gets in our way, but that shouldn’t be the reason why we don’t.

Now, I’m all for getting my hands dirty and maybe even torn up to remove the fences in my life. I realize that the only thing fences do is keep me from seeing another perspective. It keeps me from loving others as Christ would. It keeps me from giving love to those that need it the most–and it some cases it keeps me from receiving it from those I wouldn’t expect I could get love from.

You see? Christ died for us. His love was so unmatched that he could love his disciples, the sinners, the religious leaders…all of much that he died for every single person. And love is the only way he could take those fences down.

I don’t know about you, but I need to love others better because it’s the only way those fences will fall.

So what about you?


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