The "N" Word
I'm reading through some of Flannery O'Connor's short stories.
I understand that she, like many early and mid-20th century writers, wrote in the vernacular of the day. The way she wrote is the way her characters would speak were they flesh and blood in that time and space. I understand that the south in the early 20th century had a vocabulary that today would shiver the timbers of many a stout soul.
Well, it does mine anyhow.
No matter how much I prepare my mind to soak in the era being cracked open to me, I still feel slapped in the face every time I see a title like "The Artificial Nigger."
Just typing it gives me the willies.
Truthfully, I wouldn't want it any other way. The word harkens back to a day when blacks in this country were, even among the enlightened Yanks, a little less than totally human. Being 36 years old, I was among the first generation that was actively and institutionally taught that the word was the most putrid of curses, and the sayer a pariah even amongst his pale peers. I learned that it was only a word of hatred and division, nothing more. It was not an identifier, not a descriptive term, not a shortcut to "person from Africa or other parts with dark skin." Hate word.
Well, I hate the word. Apologies to Flannery O'Connor, Samuel Clemens, and Joseph Conrad, but I simply cannot help how it affects me.