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All Revved Up: Should The N-Word Be Trademarked?

The Supreme Court has made it legal to trademark racial slurs and symbols.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

In June, the Supreme Court ruled on a case that struck down the laws preventing people from trademarking derogatory and racial slurs and symbols. This decision has opened the floodgates for people around the country to apply for trademarks for a slew of hateful words and images including the n-word and swastikas.

Curtis Bordenave, a black man from Jackson, Miss., has applied for a trademark on the n-word ending in an "a." Bordenave told USA Today, "We plan on dictating the future of how we define this word."

USA Today further reported that Bordenave plans to use the trademark to create clothing, games, accessories, fragrances, charitable fundraising, humor and comedic performances, television show production, bumper stickers, campaign buttons and mobile apps.

Reverends Irene Monroe and Emmett Price joined Boston Public Radio Monday to talk about the implications a trademark on the n-word could have.

Monroe refuted Bordenave’s belief that he could dictate the future definition of the word. For Monroe, the word will always invoke hate.

“When a racial slur derives out of a white lexicon like the n-word, it never loses its sting,” Monroe said. “It perpetuates hate speech.”

Rather than criticize Bordenave, Price pointed out that he is merely taking advantage of our country’s laws and therefore not doing anything wrong.

“I think the fact is, that he is playing by what ever rules we have in existence,” Price said. “If the rules seem to be ludicrous then we need to change the rules. I think it is a crazy idea, but he is following the rules we have in the land.”

Rev. Irene Monroe is a syndicated columnist for The Huffington Post and Bay Windows, and Rev. Emmett Price is a Professor of Worship, Church & Culture and Founding Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. To hear All Revved Up in its entirety, click on the audio player above.

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