Many of us recently saw a viral video of a white person (and a UNC field hockey commit) shamelessly using the N-word, with a disturbing amount of ease and comfort, on social media.
Without proper education on the topic it can be difficult, though inexcusable, for white people to understand just how deeply offensive the N-word is. That said, in 2018: the age of the internet and public education, ignorance of the word’s history looks a lot like selective ignorance.
There is no equivalent word that can be levied against a white person, and the N-word has been accepted as offensive for so long that many who are not harmed by its extremely derogatory power have chosen to neglect its history.
With its often overlooked background and prevalence in popular music produced by (ideally) Black artists, the N-word has become subject to the same appropriation which has marked the cultural assimilation of rap and hip-hop music into the mainstream.
To some non-Black defenders of the word, the N-word has become just another bad word, another way to break norms and be subversive, no different from the F-word, S-word or B-word. Out of context, the word may be appealing for a white person trying to appear edgy or fit in with a demographic outside of their own.