Friday, September 3, 2010

Watch your language!

Yes, I am deviating from the work blogs again...but you know how it goes...

This blog comes with a warning. There will be much offensive language in it. I will not be using euphemisms or shorthand, so if you are easily offended by language then I would stop reading here. And to be clear, I am not talking about swear words so much as I am racial and sexual slurs. Got it? Easily offended? Moderately offended? Stop here. Not kidding. Turn back.

There are a few things that have triggered this blog for me. First off it's one I have thought about writing for awhile. It comes and it goes usually brought on by something in the news. Next Dr. Laura and Sarah Palin triggered it, then Blazing Saddles, then an old 80s song I was listening to while cleaning house. That's a lot of stuff banging about in my head at once so blog it is!

As most of you know Dr. Laura has decided to leave her radio show because she wants to be able to practice her right to free speech again. Seems she repeatedly used the word nigger in a call on her show. Sarah Palin counseled her (in a tweet) to not retreat but to reload. First off (and this is a side rant and we will rejoin the regularly scheduled blog in a moment) Dr. Laura is confused about what free speech means. She is allowed to say what she wants but it doesn't mean we don't get to be offended when she says it. And to Ms. Palin, if it's okay for Dr. Laura to say what she did then it's okay for Rahm Emanuel to say what he did (he called some liberal activists fucking retarded, which caused Ms. Palin to call for, nay demand his job). And to those that are griping about Dr. Laura's First Amendment rights being violated let me put it in terms you might understand...just because you can doesn't mean you should. Isn't that the argument those against the Mosque in New York keep using as an excuse to shut down another group's First Amendment rights? Hmmm...

So on to the next piece that made me thinking about writing this blog. The other night Brent and I watched the first few minutes of Blazing Saddles. I turned to him and said, "This movie could NEVER be made today." Seriously. In the first little section there were so many uses of nigger and faggot that I lost count. Funny, funny movie. It is one of my favorites really. But can you imagine someone writing and releasing it today? And should we judge it by today's standards? And can we still find it funny without feeling guilty?

And then the last thing that triggered the blog. Listening to my "Move Your Ass" play-list this morning while cleaning house one of my 80s gems came on. As I was singing loudly and dancing while I cleaned I thought...again...not a song that could be released today. When the chorus and the title of the song are "Johnny are you Queer?" you know it's not going to hit the top of the pops! This one was actually controversial when I was a teenager. And we loved it even more because it was! But the controversy wasn't in the use of the words queer, or gayboy but in the fact that it even acknowledged that someone might possibly be gay! And that he might date a girl to hide the fact. Scandalous.

So on to the real meat of the blog. There was a time in my life where I probably used the word nigger if not daily than at least more days than not. Shocked? Those that know me now would be. Those that knew me as a teenager might for a minute and then they would remember. My best friend from the time I was 12 until most of the way through high school was black (she still is, we just aren't best friends anymore). And yes, I said black, we didn't use African American at the time and I still don't always use it. I am not sure I am comfortable with it, how do I know they are from America? And how do I know they identify as being African? That's a lot to presume about somebody just based on the color of their skin. ANYWAY...Chrystal and I thought we were very edgy and cool. I called her Nigger and she called me Honky. We tried Cracker for awhile but that just seemed odd and Whitey seemed like a character from Our Gang so we went back to Honky.

Neither she nor I had ever really experience true racism (me being white and her being gorgeous)and so we really felt like these were just outdated words from a time that had passed and so we were going to be so cool by using them and taking away their power. And so for years we did. And then high school came and we both got our first glancing blows of racism in action. Chrystal's came from the Black Student Union of all places. She didn't join and she didn't stand on the BSU staircase during passing periods. Yes, HHS was praised for it's diversity, but most everyone stuck to separate groups. We might have had the best mix of race, culture and religions in Albuquerque at the time, but it's doesn't mean we had a true blend. Anyway, a few of the girls in the BSU started picking on her and telling her she was "acting white". We debated this for a long time. What exactly was "acting white?" When I went to college in the late 80s I went to a school that was 75% black and my girlfriends and I there talked about it as well. Had they ever said someone was "acting white" and what did they mean by it? And why was it a bad thing?

My first brush was our junior year. I was dating a boy from the southern part of the state and he was in town for the weekend. Chrystal and I were doing our normal schtick and I called her Nigger. He was SHOCKED! But more than a little thrilled when she told him it was just a word and he could use it to. And so he did. A lot. And when he went back home and wrote me (we wrote letters to each other, it was the 80s, no email) he added a word that made me start to think. He added the word That. Now Chrystal and I used Nigger and Honky as pet names if you will. Just as the name..."Honky, bring me a coke when you come back." "Nigger, can I borrow your jacket tonight?" But he added the word That. And it changed things for me. Funny isn't it? How Nigger wasn't offensive to me but That nigger was. It just set it in a different light. And got me thinking. And I realized that I had been uncomfortable with the amount he used it when he had been up visiting. Like he was getting away with something. And like there was malice or spite behind it.

Then we moved to Florida and I got my first taste of black vs. white race issues. Things were uglier than in New Mexico. People used nigger and white trash with venom. It was not okay. And that for me is when it became...the n-word. Once I saw the hurt that was thrown behind the word, the pain that people were trying to inflict that ended my casual use. Chrystal and I were kids. Goof-offs. But these people were haters and I could FINALLY see what the big deal was behind a word. It was the intent with which it was used that made it an awful thing, not the word itself. But because me using without intent made people think it was okay to use it with intent, that made me not use it anymore.

My stance is still the same. I would like to see the African American community, especially the entertainers (rappers, actors, writers) stop using it as well. Every time you utter a "Nigger, please" in a movie, or a "My Niggers" in a rap song you are giving some racist somewhere the fuel to their fire. "I can use it, you did!" So how about just no?

Pick the words that offend you. What are they? Retarded, queer, gay, nigger, spick, mick, chink, jap, fag, towel head, bitch, cunt, dyke? Any? All? Think about why they offend you. Then don't use them. And then don't use the ones that don't offend you but might offend others around you. If you are offended by retard then it's not okay to use nigger. And vice versa. It's simple isn't it? So instead of whining about people being overly PC, and too sensitive these days, take your own advice and go back to the past when we didn't worry about being PC but we did listen to our mothers. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

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