How should we use the "n" word?
In a new collection inspired by Stephen Lawrence, the poet Dean Atta calls on his artistic peers to stop using the "n" word. Some terms should never be reclaimed, he says.
Rappers, when you use the word 'nigger', remember
That's one of the last words Stephen Lawrence heard
So don't tell me it's a reclaimed word
I am nobody's nigger
So please, let my ancestors rest in peace..."
Thus begins a poem so resonant and rousing that when it was posted on the internet by the young performance poet, Dean Atta, it drew a firestorm of responses from people around the world. The point of debate: whether the "n" word can ever be reclaimed, or if it is simply too heavily mired in a history of violence – from 17th-century plantation slavery in the Americas to Stephen Lawrence's racist murder in south London in 1993 – to be rehabilitated in popular Western culture.
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