Addressing The Use of "The N Word" With Your Black Adoptee

Let's face it—if you have a black child, at some point they are either going to start asking questions about, or start using the n word. How do you address it as a white parent? This is a question I have seen come up surprisingly often and honestly, it's one I never thought about until recently. I didn't start using the word until my college years, so it never occurred to me that other black adoptees may start using it much younger. If you're anything like my family, you may have both white kids and black kids, and if your black child starts saying this word, how do you explain to your white kids that they can't? Is it your place to tell the black child they can't use it? There's a lot of questions and confusion around this topic, and honestly, I get it. Unfortunately, the answer is just as complicated.

First, let me just say that this is a debate even within the black community. I discussed the topic of black people using the n-word in a youtube video that I suggest you watch. The short version is that it is still a word with a lot of connotation attached to it. Many black people do not like saying or hearing the word, from anyone. Period, and I get it. Many older black folks, do not like the word, and who can blame them. They faced a lot of physical racism that we younger black people, have not had to experience. It's completely understandable that some people are not comfortable with that word. Other black people such as myself, have taken the approach to reclaim the word. Using it on our own terms and conditions to overcome it's oppressive nature. Both views can exist but we have to respect each other. If another black person asks me to not use the word around them, I won't. But when I am not around them, I will use it as a please. I will respect their wish, and they can respect mine. 

Secondly, no one who isn't black should be using this word. Ever. At all. I don't know how who decided that simply being a person of color, was a pass to use racial slurs that target black people, but they lied to y'all. In the same video, previously linked, I also discuss how reclaiming words works. One of the key points of reclaiming is that you are reclaiming something that is oppressive or effect YOU and YOUR culture. You can't reclaim something that has never effected you. Thus it is not reclaiming when nbpocs use the n-word, it's simply being anti-black. Additionally, if black people started using other slurs for other POCs, all hell would break lose. 

But back to the point. This isn't an easy topic to discuss nor is there a "correct" way to do so. It's a little harder for me to answer because I never had this problem in my family. As an adult, I say the word all the time, but none of my white family members have ever had a desire to say the word. Additionally, I don't say the word around my white family, it's something to use within my own community. So we never needed to have this talk. After a long brainstorming session and hearing some feedback from other WAPs and Black parents, this is best suggestion. 

Just ban the word from your house. At the end of the day, it is an inappropriate word. If your kids are younger, there is really no reason any of them need to be using it. Once your black adoptee is older and fully understands the word and history behind it, they can then decide for themselves if, and how they would like to use the word. But if your children are small, I really don't see the need to have the word allowed, at all. Now, I DO think if it comes up, you should have a conversation about it, however limited and appropriate for the age group (use your best judgement). You don't want to just freak out and say "NO DON'T SAY THAT!" without explaining why. Remember this is a word that we experience all the time. I remember hearing it and being called it before I was a teenager. So it's good to explain what this means. This conversation should also be with the WHOLE family, not just the black kid(s). As I say all the time, you are now a multicultural family. Everyone needs to be on the same page about this word Why it is inappropriate to be using, why you are not allowing it in the household. Many black families also do not allow the word in their household, so I don't think it's too far of a stretch to do the same in your house. Especially if there is mixed company. 

TL;DR Use your best judgement, if in doubt, just ban the word all together and you can have a deeper discussion about it when your TRA gets older. 

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