Dear Mr. Gardner,


Courtesy Creative Commons

This letter is in response to Mr. Gardner's enforcement of the "n-word" policy.

Spartan Students for Spartan Unity, Guest Commentary

Dear Mr. Gardner,


On April 24th, 2019, classes halted under the barge of the intercom, greeted with a message intended to induce a call to action eliminating the usage of the word “nigger” here at Doherty High School. Classes fell silent. Minds raced. Yet, upon the completion of your tirade, mockery ensued. Not but five minutes after the end of the announcement did a plethora of memes, purposeful throwing of the term “nigga”, and a swarm of rumors over the warrant for the newly passed policy resounded across the school community. These reactions indicate a flaw in the message; however, the flaw arose not from the intention to eradicate hatred, but rather, the delivery of the message. The call for abolishing “nigga” from the halls of Doherty required more than a stern directive for our community to halt the word’s usage; instead, the method of delivery needed resolute educating of the horrendous history of the term and inclusion of other hate terminology, all delivered with a tone of positivity and empowerment. Therefore, this response to you, Mr. Gardner, operates as a tutorial to understanding your audience and speaking to them in a manner of productivity and unity. I ask you consider what follows as a model for approaching such a sensitive topic. So, here is what your students would have wanted to hear:

The term, “nigger”, originated in the eighteenth century, used to marginalize African slaves and instill the belief they lacked intellectual equality to European, white colonizers of the African continent. “Nigger” derives from the Spanish word, “negro”, but the use of the word escalated to hatred with the rise of slavery, genocide, and colonizers self-proclaimed assertion of superiority. The transfer of the word to America roots in racist ideology and degradation of African descent; the belief whites are intellectually greater to blacks, which white, American slaveowners utilized as a rhetorical strategy to instill into the minds of African slaves a defeatist mentality of submission. From its origin, “nigger” implies a power dynamic, and this power translates to today. When a black student says the term, “nigga”, to another black student, the power dynamic is neutral, a common bond of fair ground; however, when the term is used by a white student, the history emerges and the power is imbalanced, because, in many ways, the mentality of white superiority resonates as reality in our current society, beyond the walls of Doherty, beyond the city of Colorado Springs, beyond the state of Colorado, but globally. This mentality resides in the culture of American society, systematically, emotionally, and implicitly. “Nigger”, in contrast to “Nigga”, serves as a symbol for white power, which holds no place in Doherty, our community, or anywhere in the world, but this small gesture of banning the term proves microscopic in contrast to the stark reality most students of color and historically marginalized peoples experience and will continue to experience past graduation; however, we, as a Doherty community, reject and stand on the side of minimizing the impact of racist ideology and terminology as a small stance against a long history of demean.

Additionally, we extend our inclusion of all walks of life to acknowledge other groups experiencing the same power imbalance culturally rooted in hate. We stand with our Hispanic brothers and sisters, who under current political rule, fear a wall and false representation as criminals, rapists, drug dealers, and job stealers. We stand with our LGBT brothers and sisters as they navigate a world where phrases, like, “that’s gay” equates to, “that’s stupid”, perpetuating the idea queerness means something negative, and we cast-off the word, “faggot” for its equally horrific history and hateful intent. We stand with those with special needs, that one day, they will live without the word, “Retard”. We stand with any and all voices silenced from living their truth without the worry of judgement and attack. We, as Spartans, are people. First and foremost, a united people living for love and uplift. So, I ask each and every one of you to consider your words. Consider your intention. Consider the way you speak. Choose to lead with love. Though we may not hold the ability to eliminate the cultural prominence of racism and bigotry beyond our school. We can eliminate it within the walls of our Spartan arena, where every student deserves safety, the chance to learn, and the right to live their authentic truth.


Thank you, Mr. Gardner, for your time and consideration.