Readers React

Obama and the "N-word': Language and society evolve

To the editor: The Op-Ed by Madison T. Shockley II ( “Obama said it, and why that's OK,” Opinion, June 28) on the “N-word” and who can use it reflects the continuing evolution of language. For example, as a World War II-era kid, I never saw the “F-word” in print, as it was mostly used to describe sex outside of marriage, which was considered immoral. Attitudes toward sex have changed, and the F-word is creeping into mainstream media and used in some ways just for emphasis.

The N-word may gradually find its way into similar general usage.

Of course this isn't something everybody should jump into. Bitter memories and harsh realities are still in the air. By and large, mutual respect will be needed to get there.

Ken Hense, El Segundo


To the editor: No reasonable person would argue that President Obama's use of the N-word was inappropriate in the context used; it was an illustration of a point and not a pejorative or attempt to demean or disparage.

It's a matter of intent.

Fredric Dunn, San Diego


To the editor: This succinct and good article reminded me that when I was young, a professor I knew from USC and his wife encouraged using the F-word in its blunt reality in everyday conversation and even in school papers.

This was at a time when my parents would have washed my mouth out with soap should I ever have said that word out loud.

Fast forward to today: I'm 74 years old, and saying that once-dreaded word is commonplace.

Is this progress? That's not the point; it is a reality that using a feared or blacklisted word in everyday language deflates the onus surrounding it and therefore it loses its power.By the way, my parents would have washed out my mouth with soap had I ever uttered the N-word too.

Louise Greene, Pacific Palisades


To the edtior: Shockley doesn't hesitate to open the door of the church to all questions, never shying away from the controversial. The reverend speaks truth about the N-word. The only way that its usage will go away forever is to spell it out, look at it, understand its morbidity and the consequences of its use.

Agnes G. Herman, San Marcos

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