Last month, journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates sat on a panel discussion with students at Evanston Township High School in Illinois to discuss history, race and white supremacy.
During the Q&A segment of the event, a student asked the best-selling author why white people aren't allowed to use the n-word while rapping along to songs and, suffice it to say, the writer gave the most perfect and concise response.
In his reply, Coates - who is currently on tour for his newest book We Were Eight Years In Power - explained: 'Words don't have a meaning without context.'
He went onto use the example that in the same way it's okay for him and his wife to refer to each other as 'honey', it doesn't make sense if, for example, a stranger on the street called him by the same nickname, much to the audience's laughter.
On a more serious note, Coates added: 'My wife with her girlfriends will use the word "b*tch", I do not join in. I don't do that ― and perhaps more importantly, I don't have a desire to do it.'
Words don't have a meaning without context
Coates said that just because some individuals use derogatory words ironically, it doesn't mean everyone else can join in.
'The question one must ask is why so many White people have difficulty extending things that are basic laws of how human beings interact to Black people,' Coates explained. 'And I think I know why.'
'When you're white in this country, you're taught that everything belongs to you. You think you have the right to everything. You're conditioned this way.'
He argued that, in the context of the 'n-word', a lot of white people have convinced themselves that they invented the word, and therefore believe it's up for grabs for everyone to use.
When you're white in this country, you're taught that everything belongs to you
'For White people, I think the experience of being a hip-hop fan and not being able to use the word "n—word" will be very insightful. This will give you just a little peek into the world of what it means to be Black. Because to be Black is to walk through the world and watch people doing things that you cannot do.'
'There's a lot to be learned from refraining.'