Trinidad James
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Trinidad James’ song “All Gold Everything” was thrown back into the spotlight after Beauton Gilbow, the house mom of Oklahoma University’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter, said the n-word repeatedly in a Vine video. James appeared on CNN Monday night and debated the use of the word with Don Lemon, Marc Lamont Hill and Ben Ferguson.

Last week James had told CNN that he didn’t take issue with Gilbow’s use of the word but holds the fraternity accountable. “I'm not going to be that person,” James said. “It’s a rock and a hard place. I can’t be as upset at that lady. I'm upset at the fraternity because what they’re saying is a chant that’s just completely disrespectful to the black race. As far as that lady goes—man, that’s an old lady, man. Let that lady be.”

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But during last night’s CNN appearance, James took a firmer stance on the n-word. James clashed with the conservative Ferguson over why some black rappers and other black people use the word. In an attempt to explain the difference between the word ending in “-ga” and “-ger,” and how some blacks use it as a term of endearment, James was met with pushback from Ferguson.

“I’ll be honest with you,” Ferguson told James. “I think you know that we should probably get rid of the n-word, but in reality, I think many rappers are afraid they will lose out on money and sales and street cred if they … stop using the word.”

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In response, James said he’s not making money from using the word but from making music. “I’m making money off of doing music and being creative, sir,” James responded. “I’m not making money just because I use the n-word. Nobody goes to buy an album because it’s full of the n-word.”

Ferguson responded: “Trinidad, you wouldn’t be on this show tonight if it wasn’t for using the n-word in your rap music. Let’s be honest.”

And that’s when Hill jumped in to remind Ferguson that James was on the show because a white woman had used the n-word and also that white people have been using the word since before James was born.

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So here’s the thing, as a person who has never used the word ending in “-ga” or “-ger”: I’m not buying the fact that James thinks it’s OK for a white person to use it as a term of endearment. And Hill didn’t buy that, either. I wish the word would die, but I realize that’s not going to happen, and it’s not only because of rap music. If rappers stopped using the word tomorrow, racist white people would still use it. Then whom would they blame for it?

Racist white people have used the n-word from way before rap music came about, and I’m not willing to hand out n-word passes to them as James would, even if it’s being used as a greeting such as “Wassup, my n—ga?” For those white people who are always asking, “Why can’t I use it?” I always wonder why would you even want to use it? Why would anyone want to use it?

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Readers of The Root, the debate over the use of the n-word doesn’t ever seem to end, but what do you think about it?