It’s 2023, why is the N-word still being used?
On March 16th the CBC reported that an HR Director within the City of Markham was placed on leave after saying the N-word during a presentation to college students. They also noted that the word was spelled out in full on a presentation slide. When this came up with an associate of mine the following words and feelings were conveyed: “Are you kidding me? It’s just ignorance; Don’t people think before they speak? How could this have been part of a planned presentation? Disappointing and disgusting; Why is this still an issue for some people? and, why aren’t more people talking about this?”
For me, the question of why this is still happening today stems from the fact that colonialism and systemic racism were well designed and integrated systems of oppression that continue to be interwoven in our societal norms and organizational culture. It is the invisible and unexamined ideology that we are all breathing.
In 2023, the oppression and devaluation of Black lives, wisdom, and culture continues in our homes and society, coupled with a lack of empathy and understanding of the experiences of Black people, our autopilot beliefs require constant examination. So when incidents like this happen, yes, I’m disheartened and disgusted, and I realize that one more person needs to unlearn, learn and do the individual self-reflective work.
For anyone who is trying to partake in anti-racism and anti-oppression work, if you don’t start by examining your own power, privilege, and biases as well as white supremacy culture, then you are wasting your time and resources. You have not done the work by simply attending a workshop on anti Black racism, reading a book or watching a video. This incident is an example of how default beliefs and behaviours can result in harmful consequences. It’s an example of what happens when we don’t pause to examine the culture, messages, narratives and systems that we are living in. It’s another indication that there is still a lot of work to do.