SCT 2021 Faculty, George Yancy, aims to engage philosophy within more expansive public contexts. In his newest article at Truthout, he interviews Historian Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, the author of an award-winning article, “The Etymology of [N-Word]: Resistance, Language and the Politics of Freedom in the Antebellum North,” and a 2016 monograph entitled Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship before the Civil War. Pryor's 2020 TED talk on the n-word has more than 2 million views. "Her work on the n-word," writes Yancy, "is indispensable as the U.S. deals with its history of white supremacy and its extant unabashed re-emergence."
When asked to speak to the word’s violence, Pryor responds: "At the core of the n-word is violence. It has long been a weapon of white supremacy." Historically, the n-word is "meant to signify that Black servility is immutable and that Black folks are incapable of embodying freedom. So, more than anything, the n-word is an assault against Black freedom and a rallying cry of anti-Blackness for exactly that reason. When a Black cop, despite their membership among the boys of blue, defies white aggression, they are deemed nothing more than n-words, particularly because they stand up. The same is true when African Americans, such as Obama, are prosperous. According to this thinking, any kind of Black mobility (social, political, economic) is a direct threat to white supremacy, and the person enacting that mobility [is] an n-word."
Read the full Interview on Truthout here.
George Yancy, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Philosophy at Emory University and a Montgomery Fellow at Darthmouth College, works primarily in the areas of critical philosophy of race, critical whiteness studies, critical phenomenology (especially, on racial embodiment), and philosophy of the Black experience. A preview lecture of Yancy's 6-week seminar scheduled for the summer of 2021 can be found here.