The ‘N’ Word: Critical Response to “The Name Negro” by W.E.B. Dubois

When I started reading “The Name Negro,” I agreed completely with Roland and how outraged he was by the term “Negro” and anything that had to do with it. However, later into the reading, I decided to steer my judgment in a different direction. That is until I kept reading, noticing DuBois trying to desensitize the word in a sense, and became torn between the two.

For the majority of my childhood, I attended schools and lived in neighborhoods that didn’t address issues pertaining to my race, so I didn’t understand the outrage of any words relating to the color of my skin. I now attend a school where diversity is something that is greatly appreciated in a way that I never received. In fact, in my first English class (no I’m not saying this for extra credit), was the first time that I learned that no, Negro is not “just a word.”

“Names are only conventional signs for identifying things. Things are the reality that counts. If a thing is despised, either because of ignorance or because it is despicable, you will not alter matters by changing its name.”

This is definitely something that I can agree on DuBois with. Whether someone says the term “Negro” or any ignorant connotation for the term, it is only offensive because of the history behind it.When someone sees the “N” word, they say it just as such–the “n” word rather than just saying the word. Why is that? If a word is just a word why do we censor a word that’s in the dictionary? It’s because of the years and years of hatred, animosity, and misery behind it.

Let’s think of other terms for other races. There are words that other races do not like to be called, and often times they are not called by that term. It holds the same offensive meaning as Negro and the “N” word, so it’s a little mind-boggling to me how America tries to remove the inner meaning from this word. Other derogatory terms we’re taught to not call someone by that name because the term is “offensive”. Well my friend, have you ever called a black man the “N” word, “Negro”, or “Colored”? If not, I can assure you that man will be as offended as other minorities if you were to address them with such slander.

“Your real work as a Negro lies in two directions: First, to let the world know what there is fine and genuine about the Negro race. And secondly, to see that there is nothing about that race which is worth contempt; your contempt, my contempt; or the contempt of the wide, wide world.”

This part of his work was something that I found pleasant to read after reading with a bit of underlying stress. Each time that I read any term referring to my race, I became uncomfortable reading every word and confused as to why. I later noticed by this portion of his work that there is just the wrong meaning that is stuck to the word “Negro”. Instead, why can’t we just rejoice the wondrous things that were done by us “Negro” people rather than relying on the discriminatory definition.

DuBois, W.E.B. “Progressive Era.” Teaching American History. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.


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