Why is it that white people want to say the “n-word” so badly? What is so alluring about the “n-word?” These are questions I ask myself when dealing with someone as ignorant as Jasmine Barkley. In Barkley’s open letter, she essentially blamed hip-hop for her ignorance and unwarranted actions. While hip-hop can be known for extremely vulgar and offensive language, hip-hop is not your safety net to justify why you say the “n-word.” It’s a word non-blacks should be cautious of using in any setting because the consequences can vary considering the “n-word” ignites something different in each black person you speak to. Now of course Jasmine couldn’t be more wrong in her actions, but I want to take time to break down three areas where she went wrong and could’ve went right.
First, let’s address the question that Barkley posed initially, which was basically “When or is it ever appropriate for white people to use the n-word?” This is absolutely a valid question. In fact, these types of questions help push for a dialogue on race relations that ultimately could bring together communities of different races. Barkley wasn’t wrong in asking the question, it was the way she asked it and the particular video she decided to post when she asked that was problematic. Barkley asked the question by saying the “n-word” repeatedly while her friend yelled the “n-word” in the background.
The proper way to have asked that question would have been with a straight face and probably a more serious tone versus a condescending tone and a smirk. When getting ready to say the “n-word” as a white person, you should just say “n-word” so the question might be something like, “Is it ever appropriate for me as a white woman to say the n-word?” Barkley’s missteps led to major backlash she couldn’t anticipate, which ultimately led to her horrendous statement.
Barkley’s statement is ultimately what got the attention of Charlamagne The God, a prominent radio personality who gave her “Donkey of the Day,” a segment on his morning radio show that highlights an individual or organization that has made an egregious misstep.
The only objective of making a public statement in the midst of the controversy surrounding the “n-word” as a non-white should be to be very careful with the language used in order not to make this worse than it already is. Barkley could have cared less about any of it. What she did instead was add insult to injury with her statement by stating how “deeply sorry” she was and how she believed in “equality and respect for all,” when the initial video that surfaced showed differently. Barkley should have taken a more defensive stance in her statement, appearing remorseful and proactive in how she was going to move forward on making it right. She took a more offensive stance and appeared ignorant and insensitive to something that effects an extremely large group of people. She came up with excuse after excuse and seemed to be putting her energy into deflecting blame versus being accountable for her actions.
My advice is if you’re sorry, then be sorry, but if you’re not, then you shouldn’t insult the intelligence of the audience you’re addressing by trying to appear a way that you aren’t. We’re a naturally forgiving people, and if you’re honest with yourself and your peers, you’ll be okay. Unfortunately for Barkley, her true character shined bright in her statement and caused a major uproar. It ultimately pushed her into a half-hearted apology video.