This letter is in response to the article written by Tomoko Kawamura (“Busta Fires Up H St.,” April 29) in which Kawamura states that, “the more than 1,500 students gathered on H Street Saturday afternoon for Spring Fling were all ‘niggas,’ according to performer Busta Rhymes.”
I did not attend the concert, and I can only assume that Busta Rhymes engaged in a speech that somehow brought this word into the context of Kawamura’s opening paragraph, and that Kawamura was essentially quoting the spoken words of Busta Rhymes. Nevertheless, this does not rectify the larger problems at hand.
The driving principle of journalism is clarity. In considering the extremely vague qualities of this word, its incendiary history and clear link to bigotry, I find it inexcusable and reprehensible that Kawamura (and especially the editors of the Hatchet) deemed it suitable to not only use, but to appropriate in the article.
It is the job of an editor to not only promote clarity, but to also promote a sense of journalistic responsibility. Not for the events that transpire, but for the presentation, content and manner in which the events are reported.
Regardless of Kawamura’s intentions, the article literally interjects and propels an inappropriate, casual use of a highly volatile word. The assumption that it is somehow justifiable for reporters to use this word in expressing the communalism of a concert is careless. This is an issue that must be addressed on the part of the Hatchet staff to avoid these types of situations in the future.
This letter is not a call for a censure of discussion, and I feel strongly that the complexities and ambiguities of such words need to be talked about and examined. However, this word as it was used is not for the purpose of intellectual or editorial debate. Instead, it reiterates an assumed meaning that simply does not account for its history or for the emotional impact that the word creates.