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The "N-Word" Among Blacks: Not Always Okay

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

WNYC

A day after a Manhattan jury said it's not acceptable for black people to use the "n-word" at work, many are worried about the impact of the decision on conversations at the water cooler.

The verdict came after Brandi Johnson sued her supervisor, Rob Carmona for using the "n-word" while reprimanding her. Carona said he was using the word to convey "tough love" to his employee.

It's unclear how this will affect peer-to-peer relationships, but Zerlina Maxwell, political analyst and writer for the African-American website The Grio said that everyone should take pause before using the word at work, even with their friends.  Citing precedents set by sexual harassment cases, Maxwell explained people who overhear the word used will be able to sue for discrimination, even if the word wasn't directed at them.

She said, however, that she doesn't expect the verdict to have an impact on the broader use of the "n-word" among members of the black community. But she believes there is an appropriate place for it.

"I live in Harlem and I pass people who are using it all the time; it's really up to the individual," said Maxwell. "I think we should be using casual conversational words like the 'n-word' in casual conversations only."

To hear host Amy Eddings' full conversation with Zerlina Maxwell, click the audio link above.

Guests:

Zerlina Maxwell

Hosted by:

Amy Eddings

Editors:

Gisele Regatao

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