Language

 

If I, as a white man, came up to you and said ‘nigger’ context free what would your initial thought be? In fairness to you, maybe something along the lines of ‘how the hell do I respond to that’ but the point of the question is less to do with some fat guy shouting nonsense and more to do with the idea that, regardless of context, a white person saying ‘nigger’ is inherently racist.

Which phrase is more racist? “I don’t think he should make as much money as me, he’s black,” or, “I hate niggers.” Most people would say the second one. You might be right about that, but does that have to do with the word ‘nigger’ or ‘hate?’ the first phrase has no actual hatred involved. At most you could say the speaker looks down on black people, which isn’t the same as hatred for them. On the other hand, some would automatically say the second is worse because the speaker said nigger.

Why do we put so much value in singular words? I heard about a teacher in Canada who got fired from their job for saying nigger in context of their history class. They were using a book titled Nigger and were fired for saying the title of the book. Is this story true? I’m not entirely sure. I heard about it on the internet so it’s definitely true. A story I know IS true is one where my sister nearly got expelled for saying nigga. She went up to a fellow white classmate and said ‘What’s up nigga?’ The school nearly expelled her from her $15,000 school for a word spoken with no racist intent or negative context.

Do you know why nigger is viewed as such a terrible word? “JaMeS… SlAvErY!!!” Well, actually it’s because of the power we give it. There is no singular word that holds inherent power. If I were to shout ‘hate’ at my mother every day for a year, she would tell me to shut up out of irritation. If I were to say ‘I hate you’ every day for a year she would start to believe that I hated her and she would be incredibly hurt.

Context is everything. Having ‘swear words’ that we should avoid in our language is ridiculous. Why do we give these select words power when on their own they really just mean simple things. Fuck is sex, shit is poop, ass is butt, bitch is dog, cunt is vagina, dick is penis. These are all things we know, yet those variations of those words are seen as these horrible things we shouldn’t say. Instead if stigmatizing these simple words, why aren’t we as concerned with how words are used? It seems that some people are more upset about someone who deceive and hurt people with words alone than me saying nigger. The reason we aren’t bothered by people saying whatever they want is because we have this list of simple things not to say and beyond that is free game.

The word nigger, to me, is meaningless. Is that because I’m some colossal dickhead who likes benefitting from the perks of being white? No, it’s because me and mine say it so often all of its initial punch is gone. Same with fuck. Once I started saying fuck it lost meaning in about a month and is now just part of my daily language that I say almost involuntarily to the point that I don’t even notice I say it a fair amount of the time. I try to censor myself for my dad’s sake, but when I’m with my buds its basically free game. I would rather you ‘cuss me out’ than be nice to my face, pretend to be my friend, and months go by before I finally find out your true character and what you think of me.

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