Friday, May 24, 2013

The folly of reclaiming slurs

I was a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance for the two years I attended my first college and at one meeting we had a very frank conversation about the word "fag."

It turns out there is a segment of the gay population that uses the word in the same manner a segment of the American black population uses the word "nigger."

A young man who in my memory looks exactly like Larry B. Scot's character in Revenge of the Nerds spoke up and said that means he could use either of them if he wanted to, but he found them both offensive and vile and refuses to do so.

I think of that young man every time I hear some overly-confident white progressive claim that the issue is settled and black people are free to use the racial slurs like the term "nigger" without criticism. It's usually summed up as being a word that black people took from racists and we're told it's "empowering" for black people to say it. It may even be a term of endearment.

That position reveals several things. The first is that the speaker is unable to distinguish their own personal value judgement from metaphysical truth. How someone could take such an obvious personal opinion and  confuse it with a provable fact is beyond me.

The second is that they believe some people are able to speak for entire groups, including groups that people do not choose to join and members of that group who haven't even been born yet. This is complete hogwash. Only individuals can reveal their own personal preferences.

Readers have no doubt noticed my decision not to write "The N-word" in place of the word "nigger." That's because I wish to have a straightforward adult conversation about a real topic.

Reginald Vaughn Finley, who's known online as the Infidel Guy, is one individual who doesn't approve of the word. In a 2007 video he said he'd like to use the real word to make his case against it, but was concerned he would be blocked from YouTube. He criticized the idea that it was really a term of endearment.

"Why is it the case that when you get mad at somebody who's black the N-word flies out of your mouth like it's an attack... that kind of proves that you know it's negative."

Here's the situation. We have an ugly, ugly word that has no place in normal conversation, but at the same time well-educated progressives want to give black people permission to use it, even though they know full well some black people find it deeply offensive when anyone says it.

When I hear them make this case I picture that young man, forever frozen in 2001, being lectured at by a white liberal that he his opinion doesn't count and he needs to endure racial slurs because some other black people think it's fun to say.

No comments:

Post a Comment