I have opinions. A LOT of opinions. The other day at work I was voicing one when a good pal walked by and said I was like a broken record, or a juke box, “who put a quarter in you?” He said. Good question. As much as I would like to, I do not run on quarters. That’s right, anyone who wants to (or doesn’t) can hear any of my opinions free of charge. And why shouldn’t they? I have something to say. As do many people, but it is my humble opinion, that many of them have learned through years of careful conditioning to not say exactly what is on their mind. It’s not very lady like, mild-mannered or polite, and it’s a perfectly good way to get yourself in a screaming match. In which event you will most certainly be ganged up on, especially if this opinion is peculiar or not commonly held. But if you are lucky, your opponent will be reasonable and level headed and though you may disagree, at the end you will stand as equals on the battlefield.
I hate arguing, I really do. But what else is life all about? The only way to sharpen your own understanding of the world is to hear and examine all sides of an issue. Being that this is a blog, where I have the ability to go on and on about whatever, it doesn’t really serve that purpose. But it serves my own selfish purposes, so whatever.
Anyhow, here’s something that really pisses me off:
I hate them. I especially hate them when they are used by influential people, in public. I hate slurs against any marginalized group. I hate the N word, the F word (no, not “fuck”, I am actually fond of that word), the R word, and many others that aren’t of particular popularity at this time. I hear them every day. Every damn day. And it just really makes me sad. The use of these words is particularly prevalent at the schools I worked at. The use of the N word was so prevalent that I was confused on those days where it was absent. Of course, it wasn’t the white kids yelling it at the black kids–most of the time. “We” tend to believe that racism doesn’t exist anymore because “we” don’t see it. How could a white person who hangs out with a bunch of white people see that racism is still alive and well?
Whenever I spoke to my students of color about racism, each one of them cited at least one recent event when someone used one of these terrible words against them. One student, Eric, an extremely kind, intelligent, and athletic young man (who is black), told me that at a basketball game a few weeks ago, a white student on the opposing team pulled out the “big guns” and used the N word on the court. Eric played it cool, of course, and simply kept scoring points on him (he’s a sophomore starter for the Varsity basketball team, he scores ~20 points a game). Eric said he felt sorry for him.
And Eric is right to feel sorry for him. People (adolescents) who use slurs should be pitied for their ignorance. After all, they are a product of their environment. On the other hand, adults have a responsibility to rise above such things. On another occasion, at the middle school, I heard the F word. I immediately responded by saying that I don’t appreciate or allow that type of language in my groups, and if I hear it again I will ask you to leave. I was able to use this as a teaching moment . The discussion turned to why the word is so hurtful when one young lady interrupted, “Well, my mom says it all the time at home.” Really? Come on. How could you blame her for saying inappropriate things? After our discussion, though, I think she got the point.
And now for the R word. A slur we often forget about. This one is particularly hurtful, because this is a group who cannot stand up for themselves, who happen to also be the sweetest, kindest, most innocent group of people on the planet. The use of this word is completely unnecessary, and it cuts like a knife. The amount of pain this word causes to people with intellectual disabilities, to those who know them, and especially those who have spent their lives caring for them, is indescribable. Really, who has the disability, someone who would simply do anything to make you happy and shows an unbelievable amount of unconditional love? Or someone who derives self satisfaction and displays a serious lack of creativity and humanity by insulting the most innocent members of society?
So why is this such a big deal? Whenever someone brings these things up, people (white people, straight people, cruel people), cry at the “dangers” and annoyances of political correctness. This is a reflection of privilege. These people have the PRIVILEGE of not being offended by slurs, the privilege of not being the target of these words. The privilege of being “normal.” And now they are upset that they have to think about other people, and how these words might make them feel. What a travesty? Get over it! You are not the only type of human on the planet.
As one of my most influential professors once said in response to the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”: words justify the throwing of sticks and stones. Words are used to dehumanize, because it’s a lot easier to throw stones at a “retard”, or a “nigger”, or a “faggot” than a human being. This is why a $100,000 for Kobe saying the F word on the court is not enough. I want a full on, Michael Vick type punishment, I want game suspensions, I want community service, I want REAL consequences when someone slings a slur on the court. I want suspensions–expulsions(!!!) in the school, and I want negative social sanctions when I hear the words used socially.
Don’t be a jackass! Be a responsible and productive member of society, and think before you speak.