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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

The Relevance of the “N” word in the Context of Racist Bumper Stickers Attacking Obama

Nickie Phillips

Guest blog by Dr. Kimora As you know, very racist bumper stickers attacking President Obama with the “N” word have come and gone from the web. However, their impact lingers as we realize that community must be built on love for one another.

The appearance of this obnoxious bumper sticker allows me to reflect on research I did in 2007 at the Osborne Association in the Bronx, New York. As some of you recall, I decided that I had “had enough” when I heard the word “nigger” or “nigga” in the groups that I was teaching at the drug treatment program called “El Rio.” I embarked on a research study that incorporated a focus group, comprised of El Rio clients who, for the most part, knew nothing of the historical, sociological, and political contexts of the “N” word. However, a very amazing moment happened when one of the clients in the study stated, “I won’t ever use the word “nigger” or any word like it again. I get it. That word diminishes us as a group. Is that what you mean, Dr. Kimora?" I got chills.

We need to respect President Obama, even though we may not always agree with him. I am not asking you to vote for him. I am demanding that you and I realize, as you really know in your heart, that NO ONE is a nigger. No one is a nigga. No one is a lazy nigger. No one is that lowly person we choose to ignore.

During the Southern Rural Sociological Association Conference in Orlando, Florida, in February 2010, I stressed the point to my academic colleagues that the “N” word has a strong connotation of personal worthlessness. The “N” word implies racism.

We must strive as a world community to banish any word that belittles us as a nation, or as a world to be the BEST that we can be. We are a community; we are one family.

Kimora is a member of Crimcast's Board of Directors. She is a prison reformer and a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Kimora also works as Education Director for Prevention and Treatment Services in the El Rio program at the Osborne Association and earned her Ph.D. in Education from the University of Minnesota.

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