Yours truly is a mentor to several young people. I try to keep an atmosphere that is accepting and allows them to be who they are. For the most part they are respectful when around me. If they should slip up and say a bad word, I don't wash their mouth out with soap. I do say, "Language," and they get the message to keep it clean. But the other day I had to put one in check (in a nice way of course) about her word choice. Instead of cussing, she used the dreaded N-Word.
My mentee, who is white, was telling a story and said, "You know how kids black or white call each other n-word?" Soon as it left her lips my heart stopped. She didn't get to finish her point before I explained in detail why hearing that word offends me, regardless of whose lips it comes from white or black. I hate hearing that word. I know a lot of hip hop artists think it's OK to say (just like the b-word), but that has never been the case for me. I used to cringe as a child whenever my parents would say it. Anyone saying it around me usually gets a speech (with my best Malcolm X impersonation) about why it is not a positive word in any sense. Motivational speaker Jeff Johnson spoke at UF once and said, "If you think changing an ER to an A erases years of [pain, suffering and struggle] than you're just an ignorant nigger than can't spell."
Hopefully I made my mentee at least think before using that word again. I let her know that within my social group we don't use the n-word. Generally I'm don't use profanity, and I rank that word right up there with harsh language. I know people will never stop using the n-word, despite the NAACP's "burial" of it. But for every person who I come in contact with that chooses to say the word around me, I will make sure to give my most eloquent soliloquy on why it shouldn't be used. Each one reach one.