Growing up black in the state of Mississippi in the 1940s and '50s was not very enjoyable - to put it politely. The hatred from some white people was always on display, and that was especially obvious by how often the "N-word" was heard on the radio and printed in the newspaper. It became a standard reference among white people. The way it was used in public, you would have thought they were talking about the weather.
Oh, how I remember the "coloreds" water fountains and bathrooms, always reminding you blacks were second-class citizens. In those years, being called the N-word was part of the culture.
At the same time, blacks used the word in our neighborhood to each other, and we even used it as a word of endearment to one another. I used it and never felt bad about it.
Is the word ugly? To some it is; to others it is not. I find it offensive when whites tell blacks that the word is ugly and racial when they were the ones who gave us the name in such ugly ways. How dare you now decide the right way for us to talk? I can use the word around friends and have no problem with it. If I am going to offend someone with the word, I do not use it.
Now, as you read this, I can hear my friends at both ends of the political spectrum asking how I can support using the word. It has been stated that some blacks and some Latinos are able to use the word freely while others are not. The word is used in locker rooms in sports among blacks and whites. Does that make it right? Is it really hurtful, or is it a form of endearment to that person you are speaking with?
Are you automatically a racist if you use the word? My friend Dr. Walter Williams of George Mason University, a well-known columnist, states, "If that is the case, then blacks are racist because we use the word more than anyone." Rap singers, who are predominantly black, make millions of dollars using the word. Snoop Dogg, the rapper, used it during the presidential campaign in 2012 toward Mitt Romney and the president.
In fact, here are some notable celebs who have used the word in public: singer John Mayer, actor Mel Gibson, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Charlie Sheen, Quentin Tarantino, Gwyneth Paltrow - all white. How can we ever forget the grand dragon of the U.S. Senate from West Virginia, Sen. Robert Bird, who used the word twice on the Senate floor?
This is a First Amendment right; it's about freedom of speech. Who can forget Rev. Jesse Jackson using the word, unaware his microphone was on, in a tirade against President Obama? How can we forget President Lyndon B. Johnson supporting the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act while stating, "I will have those ni***rs voting Democratic for the next 200 years"? Did you also know that President Obama used the N-word to describe his grandfather in one of the passages in his book, "Dreams from my Father?"
Some would say all blacks are alike, and that is not true. We do not all think the same; we are different. We are free thinkers, just like members of any other race. True, 92 percent to 95 percent of blacks voted for this president, yet 5 percent to 8 percent of us did not. I agree with Hall of Fame basketball star Charles Barkley: Whites do not have the right to tell us how to talk. As that young boy living in Hattiesburg, Miss., I witnessed young whites driving into our neighborhood and shouting the N-word, and we would respond by calling them "crackers."
By the way, did you know there was a minor league baseball team in Atlanta called the Atlanta Crackers? That team became the Atlanta Braves in 1966. In the 1920s there was a Negro League team called the Atlanta Black Crackers.
Racial slurs, or mascots people were proud of? It all depends on your perspective.
Ed Jones is a former state senator, El Paso County commissioner and a longtime Republican activist in Colorado Springs. Ed's on KVOR-AM 740 radio in Colorado Springs. Learn more about him at www.theedjones.com