More than sticks and stones

We've reached that point with the N-word. People who oppose its use regardless of the color of the user are accused of being out of date and sounding like the parents of the baby boom generation, the parents who were bothered by rock 'n' roll music, long hair and other 1960s fads.

The N-word is a not a generational issue. The N-word was never a fad. It was a primary tool in the enslavement, disenfranchisement and cultural destruction of a race of people.

It's appropriate to laugh off our grandparents' overreaction to Afros, hippies, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. It's inappropriate to analogize their overreaction to rational people's repulsion at the aggressive mainstreaming of the N-word.

The debate surrounding the N-word isn't young people versus old people. It's intelligence versus ignorance, values versus no values, family versus dysfunction and responsible/restrained capitalism versus capitalism left unchecked.

Baby boomers, by and large, were raised in traditional two-parent households. They were educated in neighborhood schools by people who lived in those neighborhoods or ones just like them. Baby boomers strayed because they believed too authentically in the values their parents taught. They questioned authority because America's wars and domestic policies relating to race contradicted what America preached. Baby boomers rebelled against American hypocrisy.

The current generation of young people, the children and grandchildren of baby boomers, is not rebelling against anything. It is rebelling from neglect, a lack of attention and America's overdose on materialism. This generation doesn't reflect its parents' values because its parents were too busy chasing bigger homes and second cars to teach it any values, or its parents were simply absent for a multitude of reasons.

My point is that the young people, from Jay Z to the kids in the Dolphins locker room to Matt Barnes, who think the N-word is a term of endearment or a word now devoid of its negative impact because of its popularity, are misguided in a way no previous American generation has been misguided.

Can you misguide a generation that has never been guided?

The values and perspectives pervasive in youth culture are not rooted in family. They're rooted in neglect, dysfunction and irresponsibility. The new normal should be rejected. Hearing the N-word, bitch, ho and other pejoratives tossed around inside public gathering spots should be disconcerting. The N-word's ascension to black America's favorite word in the dictionary is alarming. How a person defines himself or herself determines how he or she will be treated by the world.

I still use the N-word privately. I'm not proud of this fact. I would never defend my use of the word. I use it far less than I did a decade ago. I've been battling for years to eliminate it from my vocabulary. I object when anyone, regardless of color, uses the word around me. The N-word is like fast food or cigarettes. It's unhealthy. It is the foundational fertilizer at the root of the maladies plaguing black America. The word is more negatively powerful today than it was at its invention. It's a sign of the depth of our self-hatred.

Its defenders cannot rationally explain its importance. They just know they can't live without it.

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