Friday, October 11, 2013

What's in a Word?

This Tuesday we'll be meeting to discuss Jabari Asim's provocative , The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't and Why. More than a simple history of a word, Asim's book is a history of the development of American racist thought. In this video, Asim discusses his motivations for researching and writing about the history of "the word", and the incident that heightened his awareness of its perils.

Should "the word" be banned permanently, even from works of literature where it is historically appropriate? There's no universal agreement of course. In 2008, the board of the Wilmette Park District refused to stage a production of the play Ragtime in its outdoor theatre, because they feared unsuspecting passers-by would be exposed to "the word". This resulted in the highly unusual case of an African American, (director Ty Perry) defending use of "the word" to a white organization.

Perry explained his view in an interview, saying, "You take that word out of this story and you invalidate my history as an African-American male. Do I like the word? No. But to pretend nobody said it is wrong. I wouldn't even consider doing that. Context is everything, and it's not gratuitous, it's not for shock value.How can we learn about our present if we don't educate people about what happened in our past"

Join us in learning more about our past this coming Tuesday, 7:00 pm, Evanston Public Library.