Dear BBC, whatever made you think saying the n-word on air was acceptable?

There are few words more painful or so deeply ingrained in the racism that Black people have suffered for centuries than the n-word. 

It’s filthy, disgusting and, if there ever were a rulebook on what racist comments not to say, the n-word would probably be number one. 

Surely, even most children know it’s a word you just don’t say. 

So how on Earth did a white adult at BBC News – one of the largest news corporations on the planet – think it was acceptable to use this dirty, derogatory word in the middle of a Wednesday morning in 2020? 

In a segment, presenter Fiona Lamdin discussed a racially-motivated attack on a Black man. ‘Just to warn you, you’re about to hear highly offensive language,’ she said in a voiceover.

‘Because as the men ran away, they hurled racial abuse, calling him a “n*****”.’

Hearing the n-word used on national TV gave me chills. It made me think, if this is what people feel comfortable saying to millions of viewers, what are they saying behind closed doors? It’s a scary thought to have but an even scarier society to live in. 

You would have thought, given the recent attention on the Black Lives Matter movement, sparked by the death of George Floyd, that lessons would have been learnt.

But apparently not.

Last year, I visited a former slave plantation in New Orleans and it was a harrowing experience I’ll never forget. 

While sitting in the little white church built by the enslaved, reading their stories of brutal beatings and rape and feeling the scorching Louisiana heat they were forced to work in for hours, I recognised my privilege. 

Privilege to never have experienced what the enslaved Black ancestors had to all those years ago. As a free Black woman, I was able to visit and simply hear about the horrific treatment those who were enslaved were subjected to. 

They were made to feel inhuman and called the n-word as a derogatory pet name. 

But when slavery was abolished, the n-word sadly wasn’t. 

Instead, it carried on through the generations as a horrible reminder of the suffering Black people endured, seeped in painful history. 

Therefore to hear it used on one of the world’s most respected news platforms? Inexcusable. 

What’s perhaps most shocking about a BBC News reporter using the n-word is that the pre-recorded clip no doubt went through various editors before making it to air. 

The manner in which she used the word was nonsensical in itself. 

The purpose of issuing a warning is so that the viewer knows an uncomfortable audio or visual is coming, so Lamdin herself uttering the very word she warned about surely negates the warning? 



She could have simply referred to it as the ‘n-word’ or, the better option, said nothing at all. 

The irony and stupidity of it all goes beyond words. 

It’s inexcusable that an educated journalist would perpetuate such a notoriously racist term. 

Have we learned nothing from the Black Lives Matter protests right here in the UK and across the world? Surely, Lamdin herself would have covered or, at least, witnessed them along with the rest of the country.

If a white journalist can’t even understand the basic do’s and don’ts of racism, what hope do we have of changing the understanding of the Black experience in the UK? 

The race revolution we are experiencing has presented some positive outcomes but also exposed areas that just might never change. 

It has made friends, colleagues and maybe even family members realise that yes, racism does still exist in society. Most have used their platforms to publicly become our allies and outwardly sympathise with us, which is all well and good. 

But at the same time, if you’re a white person who has never experienced racism and is a product of systemic racism passed down through generations, it might be that you’ll never truly grasp just how hurtful hearing certain language can be. 

Thinking it’s acceptable to use the n-word just because you might not have ill-intentions could be an example of that. 

It would be interesting to know just how many non-Black people are continuing to educate themselves on systemic racism now that the initial Black Lives Matter buzz has slowed. 

Because that’s what it all comes down to. 

We, as a society, have to continue to be educated because there’s no other way to affect change. 

Right now, the BBC needs the biggest lesson of all. It’s at least the second time this year they’ve upset the Black community – when NBA legend Kobe Bryant died in January, they aired a news clip of LeBron James, another black player, instead. 

They apologised and blamed it on ‘human error’. 

Coincidentally on the same day the n-word clip aired, The Guardian mistakenly published a photo of Kano in a story about fellow rapper Wiley – both black men.

For the BBC, we need to ask how many humans made the error to allow the n-word to slip into their pre-recorded segment this time? Surely one person in that editing suite thought twice.

There’s absolutely no excuse for it and they need to be accountable. 

The n-word is a harmful and dangerous derogatory that we need to stamp out.

So once again – and it’s that simple – just don’t use it. 

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