I SHOULD be working on lesson plans for tomorrow and Thursday. I SHOULD be working on papers and on grading student work. Instead, I’m fuming.

After writing about the wonderful coloquio del otro la’o where respect and diversity were the norm, I go into a classroom today where the word “nigger” is used as a joke. And people laugh.

And I’m the only one who stops it all and says

“Dude, that’s NOT funny!”

A few other people looked uncomfortable and/or shocked.

Many laughed.

What on earth is wrong with people??

I am not a major defender of Political Correctness. I don’t think everything is solved by calling it “the N word” and I think in some contexts it has its uses. When I am quoting song lyrics I do not excise it. When it is in a work of literature I don’t avoid it. I pay attention to its presence and the political and ideological messages attached but I’m not completely allergic to a word, which some argue has been reclaimed by some expressions of Black culture. That’s a whole other debate which I don’t even want to get into.

But damned if I am letting a Puerto Rican man–who should know about prejudice, who should know, even if only second-hand, how words can wound, can transform, can deny, can minimize, can belittle, can mislead–use the word as a joke “this word sounds like N—!” As a joke nonetheless.

What the hell is funny about the history of the word “Nigger”?

As usual, I fail to see the humor. Just like I see no humor in jokes about dominicans, or ‘maricones’ or ‘spics.’ Where is the humor in the humiliation, death, abuse, systematic mistreatment, and dehumanization of entire groups of people?

I have a wonderful sense of humor. I laugh often and I laugh loud. But some things are just NOT funny.

“If you want peace work for justice” the saying goes. That doesn’t just mean go dig wells with the peace corps in Central America. If you can, Fantastic! But, justice is in these everyday moments where we stop people from perpetuating hate, abuse, racism, homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia, transfobia, misogyny, ageism, and prejudice in all its forms.



  1. Apostrophe Said:

    I find it very disturbing that a teacher would lack the tact or the common sense not to joke about offensive shit like this. What I find even more disturbing is the fact that this happend in a classroom, a classroom full of teachers. Where is the professor who is teaching this class? What did he/she do?

  2. TheaLeticia Said:

    That’s what is most disturbing and sad to me: the Professor said/did nothing. I hate to think that in this day and age a room full of educators wouldn’t know any better.

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