Readers respond to point/counter-point articles in Issue 3 about use of n-word


Not Racist, But Ignorant

I will try to keep this short. I won’t write about the n-word as it exists in society today or my feelings on how the Common Sense school newspaper went about explaining the subject to me. Feel free to ask me in the hallways if you’re really that interested in my opinion.
Instead I will discuss the difference between racism, or the prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior and ignorance, a lack of knowledge or information (Oxford Dictionaries). I don’t know anyone at Wootton High School who is racist, but I know quite a few people who are ignorant. Including myself; I am ignorant of the struggles of every race and culture that aren’t labeled Black or Dominican, I am ignorant of the history of discrimination against the LGBTQ community, and I am ignorant of the experience of being a woman in America.
I am not ignorant because of neglect to learn about the different people around me, rather I am ignorant because I cannot generalize about the experience of any group of people based on a wikipedia article or an icon that I consider representative of the population. No amount of empathy can make any of us less ignorant of the experience of those around us.
Yet we are all guilty of acting with ignorance; making assumptions, generalizations, and even setting expectations, all of which we have no right to do. I believe that the majority of us don’t act out of malice, hate, or racism. However, in a community with so many different groups represented, ignorance is not an excuse; it is the prerogative of any group of people to determine what offends them, what disgraces their history.
So no, don’t ask me why I feel the way I feel about the article, don’t ask me if the subject or method was offensive or racist, don’t ask me why people are angry, and don’t ask me why some people can say certain words and others can’t.
Accept your ignorance and ask me the important question; how do we move forward? I won’t have the answer but it’s a step in the right direction.
-Renato Omar Nunez, 12


Disturbed by formatting

To the Editorial Board of Common Sense

We applaud Common Sense’s accurate and thoughtful coverage of the Frost Middle School bus chant incident and the MCPS Minority Scholars Program in the October 4th issue of the Common Sense. The editorial, “Socially unacceptable becoming conversational” about the use of n-word in the October 21st issue, however, lacked this same thought and care.
While we appreciate the newspaper’s willingness to take on such a controversial topic, we are disturbed by the format used to present such a topic. The use of the n-word has long been debated among African Americans scholars and thinkers. Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Randall Kennedy, Michael Eric Dyson, and Cornell West, to name only a few, have all addressed this difficult and nuanced topic in writing and discussion. Even the NAACP took an institutional stance on the use of the word when they held a symbolic burial for the word almost a decade ago.
To have two writers, neither of whom are African American, give their respective opinions on a topic as broad and multi-faceted as this without providing proper context for it oversimplifies this debate. Furthermore, to exclude the voices of students of color, who are most directly and profoundly impacted by the use of the n-word is, at best, short-sighted; and, at worst, irresponsible.
While the Common Sense has made efforts to address important issues about race and its impact on student learning, in this instance, what might have seemed to the editorial staff like a step forward was actually a misstep. In order to transform hurt and misunderstanding, what needs to happen next is for the advisor, editors and staff of Common Sense, as well as the entire Wootton community to commit to engage in real dialogue and self-reflection.

-Dominique Parker
English Teacher
-Amani Elkassabany
Staff Development Teacher

Improper representation

Wootton’s “student run” newspaper published an opinion article discussing whether or not the n-word has become acceptable for casual use in today’s culture. Unsurprisingly, many of our initial reactions were shock.
We had many questions, and promptly discussed the article with Mrs. Starr. We found that many of our initial emotions could be undermined by her explanation, it is after all an opinion article protected by the first amendment in a newspaper. But it is so much more than just an article: the emotions, culture, and experiences that are alluded to when using the n-word, no matter what form, are powerful.
This, combined with the fact that the article is hinting to the idea that it is okay in our community to undermine an entire sub-culture, is blasphemous. Upon further analysis, it became prevalent that no minorities were asked to have their vital perspective to be used in the article.
How can you write an article on a viewpoint in which you have never experienced yourself? We asked newspaper students on every detail they remember in the creation of this article. They explained how Mrs. Starr introduced it but nobody, even the one black student, did not want to cover the topic but were essentially coerced into discussing the topic.
Why did Mrs. Starr push for the article but not oversee that it at least was cited properly or had minority input? To conclude, answer this question: If a derogatory term in the Jewish culture, or Asian culture (as that is the majority of our school makeup) had an article discussing whether or not it was acceptable in our culture to say it, would there be more controversy?
-Minority Scholars Program