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The Flyers Talk: Do Your Words Empower or Disempower? panel, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, took place on Jan. 22 at 5 p.m. in the D’Arcy Great Room. The panel, organized by the Office of Multicultural Student Services (OMSS), mainly discussed the issue of students using the N-word on campus, as well as students’ experiences with the N-word.
The OMSS was created for the university to reflect its understanding, appreciation and celebration of diversity. Dedicated to the production of programs and services that develop cultural competence, the OMSS supports the needs of diverse populations and works to ensure inclusivity. The goal of OMSS is to empower students through education on a variety of issues, including race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
The panel opened with remarks from OMSS director, Dr. Kristi Kelly. History professor Dr. Mark Schultz then lectured on the history of the N-word.
“Racial identity is something that has evolved in the past 500 years,” said Schultz. “In 1775, it started being used as slur instead of being used in a descriptive manner.”
The majority of the panel discussion focused on the long history of the evolution of the word. As the words circulated, there has only been one instance in history in which there was a positive connotation associated with it: by mountain men in the nineteenth century.
Following Schultz’s remarks, two students read testimonies of their experiences with the N-word. Additionally, they expressed their views on the culture at Lewis.
“I’m just proud to be a black person,” said freshman aviation major, Nia Mitchell. “If we don’t fight for ourselves, who’s going to fight for us?”
Mitchell addressed discrimination she has experienced due to her choice of major. However, she reflected how being a female, African-American aviation student makes her unique.
“When other races call black people the N-word, it disempowers us,” said Mitchell. “Don’t say it in front of people you can offend. My main goal is to get people to stop using it. We need to have something positive instead of it.”
Freshman journalism and public relations double major, Jada Hoffman, then described how she has heard students using the N-word on campus. Throughout her testimony, she affirmed the N-word should not be used by anyone.
“It seems like it is the norm to use the N-word at Lewis University. Regardless of the intent of the word, it will always be derogatory. If I use the word, it implies that other people can say it around me. We must lead by example,” said Hoffman. “Honestly, I just want people to know about it and just get people to stop using it. More people probably sat and thought about it.”
This discussion allowed for more insight into how racial slurs disempower throughout the college environment.