Sunday, February 22, 2009

Family Business

Family business is a term commonly used by the black community to denote a conversation that relates solely to blacks.  I use this term as a title for this post because I feel that it accurately describes the discussion that needs to occur around epithets .

There is certain language that is used to construct a person as other that is simply unacceptable.  If a white person calls a black person nigger it can never be a term of camaraderie because it will always be endowed with the historical imbalance between whites and blacks.   In an effort to reclaim this word many blacks have taken to referring to each other as nigger.  I certainly do not agree with the usage of the word in this way however, I do understand it.  If this word has to still be used, it should only ever come from the mouth of a black person.  We consider this family business.  Only a black person can legitimately decide if the word nigger is appropriate.  I realize that this was a departure on a previous stance that I have taken about this subject, but after much thought I have determined that it is not for me to police the language of another in this way.

Family business applies to so much more than the black community.  There are cisgendered women who insist on using the word trannie despite being told how offensive it is.  No cisgendered woman, no matter how many friends they may have who are trans gendered, exist with the right to use this word.  If a trans gender person feels it is necessary to use that word, it is their business, but it certainly does not grant you the right to believe that this freedom of speech applies to you.  This is a case of family business and if you do not belong is the stigmatized group, usage of what is certainly considered an epithet can never be removed from the cycle of power.

Another hate word that commonly get thrown around is faggot.  It should not even have to be said in 2009 that this word is offensive.  If you are not British don’t even pretend you meant a smoke.  It is hurtful and can only be used to reify constructed difference between gays and lesbians and straights.  You cannot use the term faggot in a friendly way, just as you cannot use trannie or nigger in camaraderie.

So, to  reiterate for those who refuse to get the point, if you don’t belong to the marginalized group in question lay the hell off the demeaning language.  It only serves as a perpetuation of undeserved privilege and makes you look like an ass.  If someone tells you that your language is hurtful, rather than getting your back up about intent, apologize politely and stop using the word.  It only further demeans another to have to listen to your bullshit excuses about how you didn’t mean it like that, or that you felt that you were close enough to use such language.  Unless you live in the body of an oppressed individual, you will never be close enough to use language that creates them as other without puking out your privilege for all to see.


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