Recommendation Against Saying or Displaying the N-Word and Other Slurs in the Classroom
UNC Chapel Hill Department of History’s commitment to diversity, equity and justice includes a scholarly mission to talk about race and how it relates to personal, intergenerational, and systemic historical memory—and how we’re accountable to ourselves and to each other. History department classroom content and curriculum critically deals with the formation, impact, and legacies of racial discrimination in the United States and across the world. Given this context, there may be occasions where professors and students examine and analyze historical texts that include the N-word other racial slurs and other inappropriate racial depictions from literature, law, the media, other historical documents. As instructors and students, we must be aware that saying or publicly displaying the N-word in the classroom—even when directly citing historical texts—can be triggering, offensive, and injurious to students and instructors.
Out of respect for African American members of our campus community, and in recognition of the deep, troubling history of anti-Black racism throughout U.S. history and into the present, we urge non-Black members of our departmental community to refrain from reading out loud or otherwise displaying the N-word in any of its unmitigated forms or variations in the classroom. We recognize that Black instructors, whose communities have been historically and currently subjected to the N-word as a weapon of racial oppression, may wish to consider whether, how, or in what context to use the term with students.
The UNC-CH History department is committed to educating our diverse community of scholars about the history, impact, and harm associated with the N-word in and out of the classroom. To that end, we commit to including training on the harmful effects of using the N-word in the classroom during our yearly TA orientation training and other instructional and pedagogical seminars and trainings for all instructors.
While the N-word comes out of a specific historical, cultural, and racial context within the United States, it is by no means the only slur whose utterance in the classroom may produce harm. History instructors should therefore exercise the same caution before displaying or citing out loud gendered, racial, or other slurs in the classroom.
Miguel La Serna
Director of DEI
 This recommendation follows the language suggested by Ruth A. Starkman. See Starkman, “Dropping the N-Word in College Classrooms,” Inside Higher Ed, 24 July 2020. See below for link to full article.
Here are some useful resources on the history and harmful effects of using the N-word in the classroom.