N-Word Stirs School Debate

The use of the N-word inside of Waterbury schools has become so much of an issue, district officials and community members decided to hold a forum on Wednesday night to combat the use the racial slur.

It was a packed house inside the cafeteria of the Waterbury Arts Magnet School.

Parents and students stood up to make their feelings known. Students told the panel assembled in the front of the room, that they hear the word used all the time.

“This makes me feel very uncomfortable,” said one female student. “It also makes me wonder why the teachers don’t feel the same way.”

“It’s used a lot,” said Renaissance Cruz, a junior at Kennedy High. “It’s a very common word. It’s not used the way they think it’s being used. It’s used more as a friend or slang.”

Cruz said the N-word is not being used in a derogatory way. Students tend to use the word more as slang, pronouncing the end of the word with an ‘a’ sound rather than ‘er.’ Still, parents believe it doesn’t matter how the word is used.

Whether it’s said ending in ‘G-A’ or ‘E-R,’ Irene Saunders added, “It’s the same word and we can’t pick and choose when we’re going to accept it and when we’re not.”

The N-word was brought to the forefront earlier this year when controversy swirled about the student production of ‘Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.’ The play uses the N-word in a historical context. However, some living in Waterbury were furious that students were allowed to perform it. The show ultimately went on and it was seen as a teachable moment.

School leaders said when it comes to using the N-word casually around the school, that’s something that needs to stop. Those at the forum agreed that it would take parents, students and the schools working together to help address the problem.

“We need to re-teach, we need to re-emphasize that’s it not okay anywhere to use this word,” said Maryann Marold, district liaison.

Organizers say they hope to hold another forum, this time with more students taking part.

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