“The N-Word: How One Word Shaped the Culture and Identity of the Modern African-America” is an essay that explores the possible connection between the socio-economic challenges affecting modern Blacks, and the adoption of the ‘n-word’ as a means of individual and collective identification. Daunting, at first glance, this project was an opportunity for me to explore the relationship between language, and the evolution of socio-cultural norms. Human communication is typically viewed through the lens of Western Rhetoric, which views speech as a means for exchanging ideas, information, and engendering change through persuasive dialogue. However, this focus tends to ignore the psychological component – that language is an intimate component to the development of an individual and collective concept of self. This understanding has changed my perception of rhetoric, especially after examining African/African-American Rhetoric for this project. Prior to this, I was only aware of Greek Rhetoric, which is the dominant model, and unaware that there were alternative models. By examining the methods of communication used by other cultures and societies, I am not only better able to understand my own, but more effectively dialogue with others because of a newfound ability to consider their perspective.
Ryan Knight is graduating with a BA in Liberal Studies. She hopes to pursue a Masters degree to further her research into African-American rhetoric.