In a recent CalCoastNews opinion piece, T. Keith Gurnee asserted that “we” needed to stop using what he believes to be the new N-word, the acronym NIMBY, which stands for “not in my backyard.”
Gurnee has since apologized for using this language, and rightfully so. However, as a local group dedicated to transforming our community by providing anti-racist education that centers the lived experience of people of color, we wanted to express our outrage that a mayoral candidate — or anyone in our community, for that matter — would find this language acceptable. There is no context in which this is ever OK.
There is nothing new about “the N-word.” Gurnee’s casual use of the expression for a word with an incredible cultural weight attached to it is deeply troubling. That word is associated with trauma still affecting millions of people of color. The word is more than an insult. For people of color, it is a stinging verbal assault that inflicts personal and collective pain. It is a word rooted in the darkest parts of our nation’s past, and sadly, persists to this present day.
The “N-word” cannot be casually dismissed as “just a word.” To do so ignores the pain that so many have felt and continue to feel at its mention. When we make ourselves immune to the suffering of our neighbors, we deny ourselves humanity. Language is never neutral. The words we use matter. Gurnee mentions the importance of “retaining our community character” in his opinion piece.
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The character of San Luis Obispo County should reflect values that honor all residents.
R.A.C.E. Matters Steering Committee: Leola Dublin Macmillan; Julie Lynem; Courtney Haile; Stephanie Allen; Gina Whitaker; Ken Hill; Julie Fallon; Olivia Lopes