I know someone who still says, “nigger”. That word that is so offensive that I hesitate to even type it, let alone say it. But he does, my Grandpa Knobby. He says it when he feels like saying it. He says it because he thinks it’s funny, he says it because he’s from Texas. He’s also literally close to 100 years old. He says it because he likes getting a rise out of people. He says it because he doesn’t think there is anything so bad about the word – it comes from ‘negro’ and isn’t that what African Americans were called up until a few decades ago? What’s so wrong about the word ‘negro’? It just means ‘black’, after all.
White people stopped calling black people ‘negro’ and ‘nigger’ because black people said they didn’t like it. It was a long battle, but for the most part, it was won. Nowadays, most people will just say “the n-word”, because actually saying anything else makes everyone gasp, it’s just *that* taboo.
How alike “nigger” is to “retard”.
Both ugly words with ugly meanings, ugly histories. Just ugly. People with developmental disabilities say “don’t use that word, please – it’s offensive to us”. And everyone scoffs, saying this is a over-reaction. “Jeez, we’re not even talking about you!” “Whatever.” “I just meant ‘dumb’. Isn’t that what ‘retard’ means? Means ‘slow’? “, “Am I supposed to take it out of the dictionary?” “When does this PC-stuff end? Time to get off, already“, ” It’s so retarded.”
Yeah. And 30 years ago, wasn’t that what was said about “nigger”?. “God, these blacks… what’s it with them? Why do they have to make such a fuss about everything?“, “Uppity, is what they are”, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a word.”
“Nigger”. “Retard”. Just words.
As Nathaniel Hawthorne says, “Words- so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them!”
For me, using or not using words transcends power and boils down to being a matter of basic courtesy. If a person that is a part of a group that is being called a word – nice or not – asks those that are not in the group to NOT use that word in conjunction with their own person or group of people, why then, the word shouldn’t be used.
It’s really pretty simple.
Tomorrow is March 6th, which is the day to Spread the Word to End the Word.
Let’s take that pledge together, you and I. Let’s honour those members of Moxie’s tribe that have told us that it hurts them to hear it. Let’s make it as obsolete, irrelevant, outdated and offensive as the n-word is now.
People who have said it better:
The best post I’ve ever read about the r-word: It’s Just a Word
Resources, videos and more: r-word.org
Word Gone Wrong: awesome NYT article