A refresher course on why the n-word should be off-limits to white people.

Some black people use the n-word, so why the uproar when a white person says it?

Discussion of the term has peaked again with Papa John's founder John Schnatter resigning after Forbes reported he used the n-word during a media training. "Colonel Sanders called blacks n-----s," Schnatter said, complaining that the KFC founder never received backlash for it. He later issued an apology, but the damage was done.

The pizza tycoon is not alone in haphazardly wielding the n-word. Paula Deen, Madonna, Charlie Sheen, and others have faced scrutiny for using the term, in each case prompting some white people to start questioning who should and shouldn't use it.


Here are some explanations from black folks for why the n-word needs to be off the table for nonblack people.

Ta-Nehisi Coates explained how words can be appropriate or not depending on our relationships.

In 2017, a high school student asked Coates about her white friends singing the n-word as hip-hop lyrics. Coates explained that who you are matters, pointing out that even though his wife calls him "honey," it wouldn't be acceptable for a strange woman on the street to call him that. "The understanding is that I have some sort of a relationship with my wife," he said. "Hopefully, I don't have a relationship with this strange woman."

He also gave several examples of how certain words are used within groups that aren't appropriate for people outside the group. Sometimes his wife's friends will use the word "bitch" in a funny, ironic way toward one another, but Coates doesn't join in. "And perhaps more importantly, I don't have a desire to," he said.  

"We understand that it's normal, actually, for groups to use derogatory terms in an ironic fashion," he continued. "Why is there so much hand-wringing when black people do it?"

Franchesca Ramsey broke down the origin of the word and explained why the history of it matters.

"The n-word comes from the Spanish and Portuguese word for black — 'negro,'" Ramsey explained in a YouTube video:

"How do you take a completely benign word — the word for 'black'— and make it into a slur? Well, you have to look at the word's historical context. The n-word was used to describe black people as they were being stolen from Africa, put into slavery, chained, lynched, beaten, spit upon — so the word was created as a tool of oppression. Its historical context cannot be erased."

Ramsey also touched on how relationships give context for certain behaviors. Football players regularly swat one another on the butt on the field as a form of encouragement, she said, but doing the same to a random person on the street is never OK.

We apply different standards to different groups of people all the time — without claiming that it's unfair.

Franchesca Ramsey. Photo via Bennett Raglin/Getty Images.

Michael Harriot used the analogy of someone making themselves a little too "at home" in your house.

In a hypothetical conversation between two black people, Michael Harriot of The Root explained why the n-word is taken differently when white folks use it:

"But if white people are racist when they use it, then why isn’t it racist when we use it? Take the woman who was onstage with Kendrick Lamar. How can you call her a racist if she uses the n-word in the same exact context Lamar did? It’s just a song, right?

OK. Suppose you came home one day and found someone naked, asleep in your bed. Would you be OK with that?

Of course not.

What if they gained entry because you inadvertently left the door unlocked?

I still wouldn’t be cool with it.

OK. Let’s say you invited someone to your house to watch the game. Instead of knocking, they waltzed in the unlocked door, got naked, took a shit in your bathroom, and crawled in your bed. That would be OK, right?

Absolutely not. People really shit in other people’s houses? That’s nasty and disrespectful.

Why? I bet you’ve done it a million times. How are they being disrespectful if they are only doing the same thing you do all the time?

Because it’s my house. Every idiot knows that.

Exactly."

















Bottom line: As a white person, I don't have the right to use that word — nor do I have the right to tell black folks how to use it.

The n-word is a verbal weapon that was created by white people specifically to harm black people as part of their systematic oppression. That's its origin. We can't change that.

If a black person feels empowered in owning or reclaiming that weapon, it's not my place to say they shouldn't. But seeing that weapon displayed in the home of a white person would have an entirely different feel. One is the historical oppressor and the other is the historically oppressed, and that changes what's appropriate for each.

Some feel that no one should use the n-word, and there is ongoing debate among the black community about the word. But that's not a discussion for white people to insert ourselves into. We don't need to weigh in on this. It's not our debate to have.

The idea that some things don't belong to us is a weird thing for many white people to wrap our brains around.

Whether consciously or subconsciously, white folks tend to assume that we get to make the rules for everyone. We've always held that power, and we're used to having the final say. That's part of the legacy of white supremacy.

The sentiment "If we can't say it, nobody should be able to" is also an extension of white supremacy, and we need to let it go. When a word represents centuries of pain inflicted upon an entire group of people, let's be humble enough to acknowledge that our feelings and opinions are far less important than those directly affected by it.

That seems only fair.  

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."