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Panel Discussion Kicks off Black History Month

By Emma Ladouceur


"N" word panel discussion held on Feb. 12 (Emma Ladouceur / ASP)

The Africana Studies Department kicked off Black History Month on Wednesday, Feb. 12 with a panel discussion regarding the use of the “N” word in popular culture.


Dr. Oscar Williams and Dr. Marcia Sutherland of the Africana Studies department were the lead panelists, introducing the historical significance of the “N” word and talking about its evolution in music, advertising, politics and the spread of racial violence.


“When you have American slavery spread throughout the United States, not surprisingly, this word evolves very quickly,” Dr. Williams said. Into the era of slavery and then Jim Crow laws he explained, “the ‘N’ word became a commonplace word.”


Charles Rogers also joined the panel, discussing how his position as Senior Associate Director of Residential Life for 30 years has been impacted by the use of the “N” word by students he works with. According to Rogers, a double-standard is created when non-black students use the controversial word.


“My concern is that in the last 400 years it went from being this very terrible, derogatory word, where now we have, one of our first black billionaires, Jay-Z, who uses the word in pretty much every other song he has written,” he said. “I wonder at times if we give people license to continue to oppress us.”


Dr. Sutherland discussed the connection between the “N” word and social media, pointing out its widespread influence on young people.


“The goal of being a human being is for the common good,” she said. “The historical perspective showed that those, as the historians have said, at the beginning of time had a certain level of insecurity because if you are a secure human being, you do not have to put down anybody.”


Similar discussions and informational sessions will continue throughout the month and into April. The events can be found at https://www.albany.edu/africana/news/black-history-month.