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Abolish the "N" Word

When I work out at my local health club, I generally let my iPod Shuffle do its thing rather than plug in to the machine attachments to hear any of the various programs of twelve or so stations on as many televisions. But I do find distraction in glancing from screen to screen and catching whatever nibbles of Pop Culture I deem appropriate at that moment. Just recently, stomping away on Treadmill E (Speed: 3.2, Incline: 5, Heart Rate: 143), I saw a spot on CNN about a website called Abolish the "N" Word. I continued listening to my music, but I watched and imagined what the site's proprietors might be saying. A man and woman, both African American, took turns looking serious and determined as the news blurb showed various photos of lynching and rap artists. I made a mental note of the site's name, which CNN prominently advertised above the centipedic news ticker at the bottom of the screen, so I could check it out later.

Abolish the "N" Word is a straightforward site both pleasing to the eye and simple to navigate. The URL leads to a Flash introduction of a somber song, disturbing imagery and written dialogue repeatedly begging the question, "Why would you use the 'N' word today?" Once the intro segues to the actual pages, it quickly becomes apparent that its target audience is indeed African American. "The dependency of this word as a greeting, to complete sentences and start conversations is a total disregard for every movement that gave us the many freedoms we enjoy today," condemns the opening statement in "About Us." Similarly, "Mission" is a bullet list of things African Americans can do every day and into the future to help reduce and eliminate the use of "the 'N' word." There is even a downloadable PDF contract one can sign, date, and prominently display for others to see (suggested in "Mission") that you are working toward abolishing the 'N' word.

I have no particular problem with Abolish the 'N' Word, but there are technical issues that could and should have been addressed before the site was advertised on a prominent network like CNN. Almost half of the "Links" are non-functional, though the accessible ones are clearly germane to the meaning and conversation of the site. Also, the message board is peculiarly archaic in terms of our modern Internet. There is but one unnamed topic, which contains about 500 varying comments. (That number has been changing minute to minute since the CNN story aired, apparently.) A reply does attach itself to the particular comment involved; however, with so many messages to navigate and no way to know if message 43 is in any way related to message 433, this message board just seems like a mess. I was also disappointed that I was unable to find the man and woman I saw speaking in the report. A link on the "About Us" page to short biographies of those folks would have pleased me greatly. Finally, I believe I will email those very people, whose names I do not know, to offer free of charge my copy-editing skills. The site is littered with typos and some questionable style choices.

Abolish the 'N' Word does hawk some wares, t-shirts and "Educate" cards, but they do not seem especially pricey. The "Mission" document is free, however, and if that's what it takes to educate and inform those around you, I wholeheartedly concur with the spirit of the site. As someone who has never in his life spoken "the 'N' word" in a derogatory manner towards a person of color (or any person, for that matter), I wither in synchronicity with the site founders at its continued use and misuse in our country and culture. Any step toward even a reduction of its prominence in rap music and everyday language of today's youth—black, white or whatever—would be welcome and a sign of much-needed improvement.


©2006, Robert A. Geise - May not be reprinted without express permission. Hot-linking welcome.

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