为什么人们避而不谈那个 N 开头的词 Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor: Why it's so hard to talk about the N-word

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演员: Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor


台词
The minute she said it,
她一说出那个词,
the temperature in my classroom dropped.
整个教室的空气凝固了。
My students are usually laser-focused on me,
我的学生通常会把 注意力全都集中在我身上,
but they shifted in their seats and looked away.
但这一刻,他们转移视线, 看向了别处。
I'm a black woman
我是一名黑人女性,
who teaches the histories of race and US slavery.
在学校教授种族和美国奴隶制历史。
I'm aware that my social identity is always on display.
我知道我的身份一直备受关注。
And my students are vulnerable too,
我的学生们也很敏感,
so I'm careful.
所以,我很谨慎。
I try to anticipate what part of my lesson might go wrong.
我尽量预估课程里 哪一部分可能出错。
But honestly,
但是,说实话,
I didn't even see this one coming.
我完全没料到刚发生的这件事。
None of my years of graduate school prepared me for what to do
我读研的那些年里从没学过,
when the N-word entered my classroom.
当“N 开头的词(黑鬼)”出现在 我的课堂上时,该怎么办。
I was in my first year of teaching
那是我当老师的第一年,
when the student said the N-word in my class.
学生在我的课上说出了这个词。
She was not calling anyone a name.
她并不是在骂谁。
She was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
她目光清澈,扎着蓬松马尾。
She came to class with her readings done,
她课前做好了预习,
she sat in the front row
坐在前排,
and she was always on my team.
而且她一直是我 最喜欢的学生之一。
When she said it,
她说出这个词时,
she was actually making a point about my lecture,
其实是在对我的课程内容 提出观点,
by quoting a line from a 1970s movie, a comedy,
她引用了 70 年代的一个 喜剧电影里面的台词,
that had two racist slurs.
其中有两个种族主义蔑称。
One for people of Chinese descent
一个是说中国人的,
and the other the N-word.
另一个就是“N 开头的词”。
As soon as she said it, I held up my hands, said, "Whoa, whoa."
她话一出口,我马上 举起双手说,“哇,等一下。”
But she assured me,
但她向我保证,
"It's a joke from 'Blazing Saddles,'"
“这是《燃烧的马鞍》里的一个笑话”,
and then she repeated it.
然后,她又说了一遍。
This all happened 10 years ago,
这是 10 年前的事,
and how I handled it haunted me for a long time.
我当时的处理方式, 困扰了我很长时间。
It wasn't the first time I thought about the word
那并不是我第一次
in an academic setting.
在学术环境里思考这个词。
I'm a professor of US history,
我是教美国历史的教授,
it's in a lot of the documents that I teach.
在我讲授的很多文献里都有这个词。
So I had to make a choice.
所以,我必须要做出选择。
After consulting with someone I trusted,
在咨询了一个我完全信任的人之后,
I decided to never say it.
我决定永远不要说出这个词。
Not even to quote it.
引用也不行,
But instead to use the euphemistic phrase, "the N-word."
必要时用委婉说法:“N 开头的词”。
Even this decision was complicated.
就连做出这个决定的过程也很复杂。
I didn't have tenure yet,
我当时还没转正,
and I worried that senior colleagues
担心资深的同事们会觉得,
would think that by using the phrase I wasn't a serious scholar.
用这个替代词,代表着 我不是个严肃的学者。
But saying the actual word still felt worse.
但说出原词, 还是更加不能接受。
The incident in my classroom forced me to publicly reckon with the word.
在我课堂上发生的这件事 迫使我公开面对这个词。
The history, the violence,
历史,暴力,
but also --
还有——
The history, the violence, but also any time it was hurled at me,
历史,暴力, 还有每当有人对我说出来,
spoken casually in front of me,
在我面前随口说说,
any time it rested on the tip of someone's tongue,
它出现在某人嘴边时,
it all came flooding up in that moment,
一切情绪都会在那一时刻泛滥起来,
right in front of my students.
而我当时正站在我的学生面前,
And I had no idea what to do.
完全不知道该怎么办。
So I've come to call stories like mine points of encounter.
后来,我把像我这样的 故事称为“遭遇点”。
A point of encounter describes the moment you came face-to-face with the N-word.
遭遇点就是你与“N 开头的词” 面对面的时刻。
If you've even been stumped or provoked by the word,
如果你曾因它而感到为难或恼怒,
whether as the result of an awkward social situation,
无论是因为社交尴尬,
an uncomfortable academic conversation,
还是令人不适的学术讨论,
something you heard in pop culture,
或在流行文化里听到,
or if you've been called the slur,
或有人用这个蔑称骂你,
or witnessed someone getting called the slur,
或见到别人用它骂人,
you have experienced a point of encounter.
你都在经历一个“遭遇点”。
And depending on who you are and how that moment goes down,
根据你的身份和当时的情形,
you might have a range of responses.
你会有各种不同的反应。
Could throw you off a little bit,
可能只是让你有点失望,
or it could be incredibly painful and humiliating.
也可能让你无比痛苦和羞辱。
I've had lots of these points of encounter in my life,
我自己就经历过无数个遭遇点,
but one thing is true.
但有一件事是肯定的。
There's not a lot of space to talk about them.
没有太多空间可以讨论这些遭遇点。
That day in my classroom was pretty much like all of those times
那天课堂上的事也一样,
I had an uninvited run-in with the N-word.
我毫无防备地遭遇了这个词。
I froze.
我愣住了。
Because the N-word is hard to talk about.
因为这个词让人很难启齿。
Part of the reason the N-word is so hard to talk about,
原因之一是,
it's usually only discussed in one way,
人们谈论它的方式只有一种,
as a figure of speech, we hear this all the time, right?
作为演讲人,我们常听到的是,
It's just a word.
它只是一个词。
The burning question that cycles through social media
社交媒体上反复讨论的热点话题是
is who can and cannot say it.
这个词谁能说,谁不能说。
Black intellectual Ta-Nehisi Coates does a groundbreaking job
黑人作家塔-尼西斯·科玆 (Ta-Nehisi Coates)做出了突破,
of defending the African American use of the word.
他捍卫非裔美国人使用 这个词的权利。
On the other hand, Wendy Kaminer,
另一方面,温迪·卡米纳 (Wendy Kaminer),
a white freedom of speech advocate,
一位倡导言论自由的白人,
argues that if we don't all just come and say it,
她认为,如果不能大家一起说,
we give the word power.
我们就赋予了这个词特权。
And a lot of people feel that way.
很多人都赞同。
The Pew Center recently entered the debate.
最近,皮尤研究中心也参与了进来。
In a survey called "Race in America 2019,"
在一份叫做“ 2019 美国种族”的 调查问卷中,
researchers asked US adults if they thought is was OK
研究人员询问美国成年人,
for a white person to say the N-word.
能否接受白人说这个词。
Seventy percent of all adults surveyed said "never."
接受调查的成年人里, 70% 的人说“永远不行”。
And these debates are important.
这些辩论很重要,
But they really obscure something else.
但也确实掩盖了其他东西,
They keep us from getting underneath to the real conversation.
阻止我们进一步深入地 进行真正的对话:
Which is that the N-word is not just a word.
这不仅仅是一个词。
It's not neatly contained in a racist past,
它不仅仅存在于种族主义的历史,
a relic of slavery.
不只是奴隶制的遗迹。
Fundamentally, the N-word is an idea disguised as a word:
从根本上说,这个词 是伪装成单词的一种想法:
that black people are intellectually,
黑人在智力上,
biologically
生物学上,
and immutably inferior to white people.
永远比白人低等。
And -- and I think this is the most important part --
我认为, 最重要的部分是——
that that inferiority means that the injustice we suffer
这种低等意味着, 我们遭遇的不公正
and inequality we endure
和承受的不平等,
is essentially our own fault.
本质上是我们自己的错。
So, yes, it is ...
所以,是的,它是...
Speaking of the word only as racist spew
只把这个词说成是种族主义言论,
or as an obscenity in hip hop music
或者是嘻哈音乐中的脏字,
makes it sounds as if it's a disease
使这个词听起来好像是一种疾病,
located in the American vocal cords
长在了美国人的声带中,
that can be snipped right out.
可以一刀切除。
It's not, and it can't.
不是的,也不可能。
And I learned this from talking to my students.
我是在与学生的对话中 了解到这一点的。
So next time class met,
所以,在之后的一节课上,
I apologized,
我道歉了,
and I made an announcement.
并做出声明。
I would have a new policy.
我要建立新规则。
Students would see the word in my PowerPoints,
学生会看到这个词出现在 我的教学材料里,
in film, in essays they read,
影片里,必读文章里,
but we would never ever say the word out loud in class.
但我们永远不能在课堂上 大声说这个词。
Nobody ever said it again.
再也不许任何人说。
But they didn't learn much either.
但他们并不怎么理解。
Afterwards, what bothered me most
在那之后,最困扰我的是,
was that I didn't even explain to students
我甚至没有向同学们解释,
why, of all the vile, problematic words in American English,
为什么,在美国英语的那么多 邪恶、有问题的词语中,
why this particular word had its own buffer,
只有这个词享有缓冲的
the surrogate phrase "the N-word."
替代表达:“N 开头的词”。
Most of my students,
我的大多数学生
many of them born in the late 1990s and afterwards,
出生在 90 年代末及之后,
didn't even know that the phrase "the N-word"
他们甚至不知道这个词
is a relatively new invention in American English.
是美国英语中比较新的发明。
When I was growing up, it didn't exist.
在我小时候,它并不存在。
But in the late 1980s,
但是在 20 世纪 80 年代末,
black college students, writers, intellectuals,
黑人大学生、作家、知识分子,
more and more started to talk about racist attacks against them.
越来越多的人开始谈论 他们受到的种族主义攻击。
But increasingly, when they told these stories,
但是当他们讲述这些故事时,
they stopped using the word.
他们越来越少使用这个词了,
Instead, they reduced it to the initial N
而是用首字母代替,
and called it "the N-word."
称之为“N 开头的词”。
They felt that every time the word was uttered
他们觉得,每次 这个词被说出来,
it opened up old wounds, so they refused to say it.
都会打开旧伤口, 所以他们拒绝说出来。
They knew their listeners would hear the actual word in their heads.
他们知道听众会在 脑海里听到原词。
That wasn't the point.
那不是重点。
The point was they didn't want to put the word in their own mouths
关键是他们不想 把这个词放进自己的嘴里
or into the air.
或者说出来。
By doing this,
通过这样做,
they made an entire nation start to second-guess themselves
他们让整个国家 开始怀疑自己
about saying it.
是否应该说这个词。
This was such a radical move
这一行动如此激进,
that people are still mad about it.
至今仍让大家感到气愤。
Critics accuse those of us who use the phrase "the N-word,"
批评家指责我们这些 使用“N 开头的词”的人,
or people who become outraged,
或者是那些听到别人说这个词,
you know, just because the word is said,
就会感到愤怒的人,
of being overprincipled,
说我们过于刻板,
politically correct
过于政治正确,
or, as I just read a couple of weeks ago in The New York Times,
或者,像我前些天 在《纽约时报》上看到的,
"insufferably woke."
“难以忍受的敏感。”
Right?
对吧?
So I bought into this a little bit too,
所以我也开始有些买账了,
which is why the next time I taught the course
因此,下一次教课时,
I proposed a freedom of speech debate.
我发起了言论自由的辩论。
The N-word in academic spaces, for or against?
在学术环境里使用这个词, 支持还是反对?
I was certain students would be eager
我本来很确信学生们 特别想辩论一下,
to debate who gets to say it and who doesn't.
谁可以说,谁不能说。
But they weren't.
可他们并不想。
Instead ...
相反,
my students started confessing.
我的学生们开始忏悔。
A white student from New Jersey talked about standing by
一个新泽西的白人学生说起了,
as a black kid at her school got bullied by this word.
她学校的黑人小孩被骂这个词, 自己却在旁观。
She did nothing and years later still carried the guilt.
她当时什么都没做, 很多年后仍然觉得愧疚。
Another from Connecticut
另一个来自康涅狄格州的学生
talked about the pain of severing
说起了不得不与一个
a very close relationship with a family member,
非常亲密的家人断绝关系的痛楚,
because that family member refused to stop saying the word.
原因是该人不听劝, 坚持说那个词。
One of the most memorable stories came from a very quiet black student
最难忘的故事之一, 来自一位安静的黑人学生,
from South Carolina.
她来自南卡罗莱纳州。
She didn't understand all the fuss.
她不明白为什么大家如此大惊小怪。
She said everyone at her school said the word.
她说她学校里每个人都用这个词。
She wasn't talking about kids calling each other names in the hall.
她说的不是小孩在走廊 打闹时互相喊外号。
She explained that at her school
她说,在她的学校,
when teachers and administrators
学校的教职工
became frustrated with an African American student,
因为非裔美国学生而生气时,
they called that student the actual N-word.
他们会用这个词骂这位同学。
She said it didn't bother her at all.
她说自己完全无所谓。
But then a couple of days later,
但过了两天,
she came to visit me in my office hours and wept.
她在课后辅导时间来找我,她哭了。
She thought she was immune.
她以为自己不在乎,
She realized that she wasn't.
然后意识到,她无法不在乎。
Over the last 10 years,
在过去的十年里,
I have literally heard hundreds of these stories
我听过几百个这样的故事,
from all kinds of people from all ages.
来自各种各样的人, 多大年龄都有。
People in their 50s remembering stories from the second grade
五十多岁的人还能记起 二年级的事,
and when they were six,
六岁时的事,
either calling people the word or being called the word,
用这个词骂人,或者是被骂,
but carrying that all these years around this word, you know.
关于这个词的事承受了这么多年。
And as I listened to people talk about their points of encounter,
我不断倾听人们 讲述自己的"遭遇点",
the pattern that emerged for me as a teacher that I found most upsetting
作为老师,让我最不安的是 其浮现出来的模式——
is the single most fraught site
所有这些“遭遇点”里,
for these points of encounter
这些事最常发生的地方
is the classroom.
是学校的教室。
Most US kids are going to meet the N-word in class.
多数美国孩子会在 课堂上遭遇这个词。
One of the most assigned books in US high schools
美国高中使用最多的教材之一,
is Mark Twain’s "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
是马克·吐温的 《哈克贝利·费恩历险记》,
in which the word appears over 200 times.
其中这个词出现了 200 次以上。
And this isn't an indictment of "Huck Finn."
我并不是在指责 《哈克贝利·费恩历险记》。
The word is in lots of US literature and history.
这个词在很多美国文学和 历史文献里都有用到。
It's all over African American literature.
非裔美国文学里随处可见。
Yet I hear from students
但我从学生那里听到,
that when the word is said during a lesson
如果在课上说出这个词,
without discussion and context,
而没有给出讨论和背景,
it poisons the entire classroom environment.
对整个教室环境都是有害的。
The trust between student and teacher is broken.
学生与老师之间的信任就会崩塌。
Even so, many teachers,
即使如此,很多老师,
often with the very best of intentions,
即使他们常常带着最美好的意愿,
still say the N-word in class.
仍在课堂上使用这个词。
They want to show and emphasize the horrors of US racism,
他们想展示和强调 美国种族主义的恐怖,
so they rely on it for shock value.
所以想要靠这个词来获得冲击效果。
Invoking it brings into stark relief
引用这个词使我们国家
the ugliness of our nation's past.
丑陋的历史面貌显露无遗。
But they forget
但他们忘了,
the ideas are alive and well in our cultural fabric.
这些想法仍然存在于 我们的文化结构中。
The six-letter word is like a capsule of accumulated hurt.
这个单词就像能积蓄伤害的胶囊。
Every time it is said, every time,
每说一次——每次——
it releases into the atmosphere the hateful notion
它都向空气中释放着憎恨的观点,
that black people are less.
即,黑人是低等人。
My black students tell me
我的黑人学生告诉我,
that when the word is quoted or spoken in class,
在课堂上引用或说出这个词时,
they feel like a giant spotlight is shining on them.
感觉有个巨型聚光灯照着他们。
One of my students told me
一个学生告诉我,
that his classmates were like bobbleheads,
他的同学们就像摇头娃娃,
turning to gauge his reaction.
都转过来看他的反应。
A white student told me that in the eighth grade,
一个白人学生告诉我, 在八年级,
when they were learning "To Kill a Mockingbird"
他们学《杀死一只知更鸟》时,
and reading it out loud in class,
要在班上大声朗读,
the student was stressed out
那个学生压力很大,
at the idea of having to read the word,
一想到要读出那个词,
which the teacher insisted all students do,
而且是老师坚持让每个学生都读,
that the student ended up spending most of the unit
那个学生最后只能逃课,
hiding out in the bathroom.
藏在厕所不出来。
This is serious.
这是很严重的事。
Students across the country
全国各地的学生
talk about switching majors and dropping classes
都在考虑换专业、退课,
because of poor teaching around the N-word.
因为在这个词的问题上教学方法太差。
The issue of faculty carelessly speaking the word
教员随意使用这个词的问题
has reached such a fevered pitch,
已经达到了狂热的程度,
it's led to protests at Princeton, Emory,
导致普林斯顿、埃默里大学 都举行了抗议,
The New School,
新的学校,
Smith College, where I teach,
我任教的史密斯学院,
and Williams College,
还有威廉姆斯学院,
where just recently students have boycotted the entire English Department
那里的学生为了这个问题 和一些其它问题,
over it and other issues.
在抵制整个英语系。
And these were just the cases that make the news.
这些只是新闻报出来的部分。
This is a crisis.
这是一场危机。
And while student reaction
虽然学生的反应
looks like an attack on freedom of speech,
像是在攻击言论自由,
I promise this is an issue of teaching.
但我保证,这是教学方法问题。
My students are not afraid of materials that have the N-word in it.
我的学生不担心带有这个词的文章。
They want to learn about James Baldwin
他们想要了解詹姆斯·鲍德温 (美国著名黑人作家、活动家),
and William Faulkner
威廉·福克纳(美国著名 小说家、诗人和剧作家),
and about the civil rights movement.
和民权运动。
In fact, their stories show
事实上,他们的故事表达了
that this word is a central feature of their lives as young people
这个词是美国年轻人生活里的
in the United States.
一个中心特征。
It's in the music they love.
他们喜爱的音乐里有。
And in the popular culture they emulate,
他们模仿的流行文化里,
the comedy they watch,
看的喜剧里,
it's in TV and movies
电视、电影里都有,
and memorialized in museums.
博物馆里也在纪念。
They hear it in locker rooms,
他们在更衣室能听到,
on Instagram,
微博上能看到,
in the hallways at school,
学校走廊里也有,
in the chat rooms of the video games they play.
还有他们玩游戏的聊天室里。
It is all over the world they navigate.
他们的世界里随处可见。
But they don't know how to think about it
但他们不知道该如何判断,
or even really what the word means.
甚至不知道这个词是什么意思。
I didn't even really understand what the word meant
我自己也不知道这个词的真正含义,
until I did some research.
直到真正做了些研究。
I was astonished to learn
我很惊讶地发现,
that black people first incorporated the N-word into the vocabulary
黑人首先引进了这个词,
as political protest,
用于政治抗议,
not in the 1970s or 1980s
不是在 1970 或 1980 年代,
but as far back as the 1770s.
而是早在 1770 年代。
And I wish I had more time to talk
我希望能有更多时间聊聊
about the long, subversive history of the black use of the N-word.
关于黑人使用这个词的 漫长、危险的历史。
But I will say this:
但我要说的是:
Many times, my students will come up to me and say,
很多次,我的学生跑来对我说,
"I understand the virulent roots of this word, it's slavery."
“我理解这个词的恶毒根源, 是奴隶制。”
They are only partially right.
他们只说对了一部分。
This word, which existed before it became a slur,
这个词早就存在,以前并不是蔑称,
but it becomes a slur at a very distinct moment in US history,
但它在美国历史上一个 特殊时刻发生了转变,
and that's as large numbers of black people begin to become free,
就在大量黑人 获得自由的那个时刻,
starting in the North in the 1820s.
从 1820 年代的北方开始。
In other words,
换句话说,
this word is fundamentally an assault on black freedom,
这个词从根本上说 是攻击黑人的自由,
black mobility,
黑人的流动性,
and black aspiration.
和黑人的梦想。
Even now,
即使现在,
nothing so swiftly unleashes an N-word tirade
最能迅速引起关于 这个词的激烈讨论的,
as a black person asserting their rights
是维护自己权力的黑人,
or going where they please or prospering.
自由迁徙的黑人,追求梦想的黑人。
Think of the attacks on Colin Kaepernick when he kneeled.
想想当科林·卡佩尼克下跪抗议时, 或巴拉克·奥巴马当选总统时,
Or Barack Obama when he became president.
那些对黑人的攻击。
My students want to know this history.
我的学生们想要知道这些历史。
But when they ask questions, they're shushed and shamed.
但他们提问时, 会无法启齿,感到羞耻。
By shying away from talking about the N-word,
逃避说出这个词的行为,
we have turned this word into the ultimate taboo,
让我们把它变成了终极禁忌,
crafting it into something so tantalizing,
塑造成如此引人好奇的东西,
that for all US kids,
让所有的美国孩子,
no matter their racial background,
无论种族,
part of their coming of age is figuring out
在他们的成长过程中, 需要一直探索
how to negotiate this word.
如何与这个词共处。
We treat conversations about it like sex before sex education.
我们把关于它的对话当成是 普及性教育之前的性。
We're squeamish, we silence them.
我们处处谨慎,闭口不谈。
So they learn about it from misinformed friends and in whispers.
孩子们就只能从不太懂的朋友, 和小道消息那里去了解。
I wish I could go back to the classroom that day
我真希望能回到那天的教室,
and push through my fear
克服自己的恐惧,
to talk about the fact that something actually happened.
说出已经发生的事实。
Not just to me or to my black students.
不只是为了自己,或黑人学生,
But to all of us.
而是为了我们所有人。
You know, I think
我认为,
we're all connected by our inability to talk about this word.
我们的共同之处是 都对这个词无能为力。
But what if we explored our points of encounter
但为什么不去寻找自己的“遭遇点”,
and did start to talk about it?
讲出这些故事呢?
Today, I try to create the conditions in my classroom
如今,我在课堂上努力创造条件,
to have open and honest conversations about it.
让大家能开诚布公地讨论这个词。
One of those conditions -- not saying the word.
其中一个条件是:不要说出原词。
We're able to talk about it
我们能讨论,
because it doesn't come into the classroom.
因为它没有进入教室。
Another important condition
另一个重要的条件是,
is I don't make my black students responsible
避免让我的黑人学生 感觉自己有责任
for teaching their classmates about this.
去教育其他同学这些事。
That is my job.
那是我自己的工作。
So I come prepared.
所以我充分备课。
I hold the conversation with a tight rein,
我严格控制对话内容,
and I'm armed with knowledge of the history.
我对历史如数家珍。
I always ask students the same question:
我总是问学生同样一个问题:
Why is talking about the N-word hard?
为什么人们避而不谈这个词?
Their answers are amazing.
他们的回答非常精彩,
They're amazing.
非常精彩。
More than anything though,
但最重要的是,
I have become deeply acquainted with my own points of encounter,
我已经充分熟悉了 自己的“遭遇点”,
my personal history around this word.
我个人与这个词有关的经历。
Because when the N-word comes to school,
因为当这个词出现在学校,
or really anywhere,
或任何地方,
it brings with it all of the complicated history of US racism.
随之而来的是美国 种族主义的复杂历史。
The nation's history
国家的历史,
and my own,
和我自己的经历,
right here, right now.
就在这里,就在当下。
There's no avoiding it.
我们避无可避。
(Applause)
(掌声)