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Despite mock burial, teen journalists say, N-word not gone

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Despite mock burial, teen journalists say, N-word not gone

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - By the time the epitaph had been said over the N-word, symbolically buried by the NAACP last week, youth around the nation had already dug it back up thousands of times.
"Wait a minute. Did they bury e-r or g-a?" asked 16-year-old LaNesha Kearse, a student in the NovelTeens'Ink summer journalism camp, being held at Howard University.

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - By the time the epitaph had been said over the N-word, symbolically buried by the NAACP last week, youth around the nation had already dug it back up thousands of times.

"Wait a minute. Did they bury e-r or g-a?" asked 16-year-old LaNesha Kearse, a student in the NovelTeens'Ink summer journalism camp, being held at Howard University.

In one of 25 written responses to the action by the NAACP, Kearse explained, "Nigga is a word used by minorities that means friend or person you have love for. Nigger is a derogatory name used to degrade a certain people because of their skin color. They are both one in the same, but have multiple meanings. People don't call each other niggers, they call each other niggas."

Brian Sprowl, 14, says the NAACP did the right thing, but, "To be perfectly honest, the N word will never go away," he writes. "Racists will always use this word as a derogatory term towards Blacks and Blacks will always use this word as a form of bonding with each other."

So stated the budding young journalists, who were given five minutes to write their thoughts and submit them to NNPA. Some of the teens not only insinuated that the NAACP had buried the wrong word, but also questioned what else the 98-year-old civil rights organization had done during its six-day convention in Detroit.

"I am writing a story about AIDS/HIV in the Washington, D.C. area. I look around the African American community I live in and what I see on TV. There are teens killing teens," writes 17-year-old Jasmine Berry. "If we can...just fix more of the bigger issues, the small ones, for example, how we talk to each other, will all fall into place. You can symbolically bury the N-word. Yet that doesn't fix the real issues around us."

Actually, the NAACP dealt heavily with civil rights issues during the conference, including the announcement of a major housing law suit, criticized Bush administration policies and held a presidential forum. But, the march and symbolic burial of the N-Word, with the support of thousands of teen NAACP members, seemed to resonate the most with the general public.

An expert on teen thinking says the N-word is used so often among youth for reasons that many would least expect.

Wanda Gnahoui, a child psychiatrist in the District of Columbia's Department of Mental Health says she hears the N-word used among youth in correctional programs all the time. Often, it's a struggle for power, she says.

"It's how they identify with the person who's in power because you don't want to be the person not in power. The system that brought it about is still in power," says Gnahoui. She says the word being said out loud is a none-issue to many of them because they are made to feel less than on a daily basis. "Without cleaning up the schools, without preparing adequate teachers, without taking their parents off of drugs, without taking the gangs out of schools, to them, it's pretty meaningless."

Just as easily as some teens scoffed at the burial, a few revealed strong knowledge of the N-word's history, rejecting its use under any circumstances.

"Our (Black) ancestors were forced into slavery, abused and broken. As they were whipped, angry (white) men spat on them, calling them niggers, as if the[y] weren't as valuable as dirt," writes Sharanda Adams, 15. "How dare we make a mockery of such a conspiracy and turn such an ugly word into a popular, as well as accepted part of our everyday vocabulary. In my opinion, both words mean the same thing."

But, the historicity of the word is the very reason 16-year-old Catherine Ball says the word should not have been buried.

"Even though this word is a bad part of history, it&
 

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