The irony of the events the events of this past week has stunned me. After writing my post on Kathy Griffin, Dan sent me a link to a Bill Maher rant that echoed my sentiments on the Griffin issue. The rant specifically dealt with the propensity to apologize for things that were never meant to do harm in the first place. And while I do recognize that each individual has the right to their own honest feelings, there is a part of me that is very focused on 'intent'. I can easily forgive almost anything if I can be convinced by sincere word or action that the offence was not intended.
That said, I feel compelled to point out the GLARING PROBLEMS surrounding the use of the dreaded "N-word". Words can be powerful weapons. The history of the N-word is ugly, violent, and persistent. If there ever was a single word worthy of banishment from the American lexicon, it would be this one. However, that is not what has happened. It is being used..........openly............a lot, and ironically by African Americans. (see link) The linked article gives a long history of the word and discusses how its use 'fits' (or doesn't) within Black Culture today.
The problem I have with this as a fairly unprejudiced 'White Male' is it calls into question whether it is the word itself or the intent of its usage that determines whether or not is is offensive. If it is the word itself that is unacceptable, then it should not be used......PERIOD. By ANYONE. Not in a song, video, movie, comedy routine, public conversation...........NOWHERE. And I'm OK with that! But, if it is not the word itself, then what exactly IS the source of offence? What makes using it so bad?
If the argument is one of intent, then accepting, "hey, I love you, man. You're my n-word," makes sense, and saying, "you worthless n-word, get out of here," remains offensive. But that would mean anyone saying these things would be either innocent or guilty......regardless of skin color, depending on which thing they said. But, as we have seen, that is not the case.
But if the criteria is NOT intent, but the color of the skin of the person saying it, do we not have an example of more racial prejudice in action? If Caucasians insisted that 'cracker' could not be uttered in any place at any time by anyone of color, but that whites could use it themselves......................what would be the reaction? Would that not be called RACISM? By that logic, one could argue that any African American who insists that the n-word can't be used by Whites at any time for any reason, but that Black people can, is a racist. Ironic, huh? I hate to say this, but the cure for racial prejudice is not more racial prejudice in reverse.
But it's not just the n-word. I had an uncomfortable moment at a party a couple of years ago with some of my friends who are homosexual, when we were joking about cigar smoking and I made a self-deprecating remark that I tended to only smoke "fag cigars". Now having spent a lot of time around homosexuals, I can vouch that term gets tossed about like nothing when describing something overly effeminate. And in trying to point out how my use of small, sweet cigars wrapped in flavored tobacco does not make me look as macho as the guy puffing the huge, stinky Cuban, I used the word 'fag' much as they do. I certainly did not say, "what are you fucking fags doing in my house? Get out now and take your abhorrent ways with you!" But it didn't matter. Somehow my remark got me a few disapproving looks......though no one made a big deal over it, mainly because I think they realized they'd have a pretty shaky and even laughable case in accusing me of being a homophobe. But the uncomfortable memory has stuck with me.
On the opposite end, there are women and the word "cunt". To their credit, women seem determined to rid the word from acceptable lexicon, BUT have not adopted using it among themselves (as far as I have been able to tell). For ME, that makes it much easier to accept that the word itself is the issue and that it just flat-out needs to be avoided.
So this is my question to all those who unilaterally condemn a word, not for everyone, but for everyone but themselves: how am I supposed to take you seriously?