We’ve all had a lesson in tolerance this last week, I wonder how many learned from it.
Apparently, there are two crimes which have no statute of limitations. Murder, and using a word which is later determined to be offensive. Consider that for a moment. A word, which in context is descriptive, is later decided to be a racial slur. You never use the word again, but because you used the word when it was popular, your career is destroyed.
Words change over time, sometimes people do too. You have a relative who still calls the refrigerator “the ice box”, you probably say “tin foil rather than “aluminum foil”, you’ve heard the phrase “crank the car” even though cranks disappeared in the 1930s. Some words have changed in meaning and acceptance. “Pansy” isn’t a very strong insult, but in the UK the word “Wanker” is the fourth most offensive word in the language (I think “Dentist” is in the top three). The acceptable term for a dark skinned person of African heritage living in America has gone through negro, black, colored, African American (which is really funny when a black person isn’t from Africa or America) and I really couldn’t tell you what the “correct” term is today. I kind of like first names, I don’t think anyone refers to me as “that white guy”.
There are a multitude of facets to this story, my biggest question is “Which “n” word?”. When a word becomes so vile that we can no longer stand to even say it, how do we know which words are “bad”? My grandmother, for instance, called black people “nigras”. This was a degradation of the word “negroes”, which is a descriptive word, not an insult. It was the polite word to use back in her day. Considering that, was my grandmother a racist? I wouldn’t think so, one of the first songs she taught me was “Jesus loves the little children”, You know it, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of he world, Red and Yellow Black and White they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Doesn’t sound like a racist to me.
Is it the word, or the intent? When I take the bus through South Philly, and I can’t hear myself think for all the “Nigger”, “Bitch”, “Motherfucker”, going back and forth at high volume, it’s obvious the word itself has no sting. So was Ms. Deen using the word in an aggressive manner? According to one story, she was talking about a wedding, and how sharp a black man in a white tie looks as a server. Somehow, whichever “n” word she used, I just can’t see anyone saying how classy it would look to “have a bunch of niggers serving the guests”. It seems far more likely that she used a descriptive word like negro or nigra. But then, she may have used another “n” word, perhaps “nightingale”. Who knows, or more precisely, who cares?
From what I can see, a bunch of uptight white folks care. In this age of Obama, where anyone can be a racist for any reason, I’m not hearing much from the black community about this. You see, the person bringing the complaint about racial slurs was white. The only black people I have heard talking about it were supporting Ms. Deen. The core of the issue is “white guilt”. We tend to act as if the United States, and only in the Southern United States, is the only place where slavery has ever been practiced. Perhaps we should ask the folks in Niger and Sudan, where slavery is practiced today, what they think about that. Perhaps we should consider the word “slavery”, and see how it compares to conditions throughout Asia.
Prejudice is not an American issue, or a Black/White issue. It happens everywhere people of different races or beliefs live near each other. Currently two factions of the Muslim religion are doing everything they can to remove each other from the planet, with slightly more vigor than they are trying to remove non Muslims from the planet. Different tribes throughout Africa are following suit. South America is doing little better. The various nationalities in Asia enslave and torture each other routinely. And yet, racism is an American problem. The pope was able to say pedophilia was an American problem for the same reason, we’re the only ones talking about it. Ms. Deen’s crime was being honest.
I’ve always believed that talking about an issue was the path to resolution, I think Paula Deen may disagree today.