Students, faculty discuss “N” word

Saharra White

A large crowd of students showed up for a panel discussion on the “N” word and its use in academics on March 22 in Manzanita Hall room 130.

The event was organized after students voiced concerns about civil rights journalist Carl Fleming, author of “Son of the Rough South,” used the “N” word at a CTVA presentation during Black History Month. Fleming gave the audience a disclaimer that he would be using the “N” word.

The presentation was held in a CTVA classroom of John Schultheiss, chair of Cinema and Television Arts.

Some students wanted to protest, but instead they wrote letters to William Toutant, dean of the College of Arts, Media, and Communication, asking for an apology, said Aureal Wilson, a forum panelist and Cinema and Television Arts student who attended Fleming’s presentation. The students wanted an apology for all of CSUN’s black faculty, students and staff, she said.

Wilson was one of the students who had voiced concerns about Fleming’s use of the “N” word during his presentation.

The students believed that writing the letters was necessary, Wilson said.

Students accepted the offer to hold and participate in a forum about the use of the “N” word, Wilson said.

Students who attended the “N” word forum watched a clip of Fleming’s presentation that aired on Channel 36. Students stood in the room, since seats were full. Students also listened from the hall.

The “N” word forum addressed issues of free speech, academic freedom, and the use of controversial language in education. The Black Student Union, the Pan-African Studies Department, the College of Arts, Media, and Communication, and the University Student Union sponsored the event.

Wilson said she attended the presentation because she was excited to hear from Fleming, who is not black, and his experience during the time of the civil rights movement.

“I came in with an opened mind,” Wilson said.

After Fleming’s disclaimer about his use of the “N” word, which Wilson believed to be “insensitive,” she decided to stay for the entire program and listen to Fleming’s story and experiences during the civil rights movement. Wilson said even though Fleming was reading from his book, “it was still hurtful every time he said it.”

“I hate hearing that word coming out of anybody’s mouth,” she said.

Wilson said she talked to other students who attended the presentation who had similar concerns.

“It was important to challenge the usage of the word because it is something that we still deal with in 2006,” Wilson said. “I felt like it was important to challenge because of how I felt that night.”

Nate Thomas, CTVA Professor, said he was not offended by Fleming’s use of the “N” word because the word was used in proper context.

“What offends me is what we all should be challenging: the “N” word used on the radio when we leave here tonight, on Power and the Beat, and all the rappers that are using the “B” word, the “H” word, and the “N” word,” he said.

Thomas said he considered sitting next to Fleming on the panel as an honor, adding that Fleming is a hero.

“If there is anyone that is going to be offended, it is me,” he said. “I was not offended. I was just so honored to be part of that event.”

David Horne, Pan-African Studies professor, said “if you’re doing a play, you’re doing a film, you’re writing the history, you’re talking about the social content to use the “N” word … that is a so-called proper context … however when you’re making a presentation you, have to be willing to pay the cost for that because everybody will not like it.”

Horne said the “N” word should be used only in the proper academic context.

“There is a cost involved … If you’re not ready to pay the cost, you should shut up,” he said.

Kent Kirkton, panelist and chair of the Journalism Department, said some of the key issues and concerns effecting journalists are First Amendment issues, especially those dealing with freedom of speech.

Kirkton said Fleming could have talked about his situation without the using of the “N” word.

“I think if we learned anything from the civil rights movement, it taught us to get up, and if like something, we can do something about it,” he said.

Saharra White can be reached