Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Don’t Believe In PC Speech

image Quite often when I am forced to warn a commenter because the language that they have used is either racist/homphobic/ablist or sexist, I am told that I am intolerant to opposing points of view.   Fists begin to shake at the thought that I am imposing so-called “politically correct speech” on another and therefore in violation of their right to free speech. You will notice that the onus is always on their right to foul my space and not on my right to defend it.  Before the conversation can even rise to a level of interaction, the speaker has already used a modernist binary mode of thought to construct active and passive bodies because this is the only way that they can conceive of discourse.

I have repeatedly said that I believe that there is a difference between free speech and hate speech.   Anytime that we resort to language that “others,” we are doing so from a place of privilege wherein; the purpose is to ensure that our hierarchy of bodies continues.  The reason people are resistant to considering how harmful such language is stems from a desire to maintain undeserved privilege. 

It is not just the language that  is hurtful; it is that the language implies that the person being referenced is a lesser than being.   Though we have naturalized the idea that some bodies are worth more than others, if we really stop and pause very few people lead a life in which they are not negotiating at least one area of stigmatization.  It is this oppression that causes us to seek out power to mitigate the degree to which we are hurt by the daily assaults.

Imagine a world in which we truly valued all people;  there would be no need to compensate by making another feel less than.  Even though the hurtful language is meant to demean another, it is also hurtful to the speaker.  If we spend a lifetime continually regurgitating negative thoughts and ideas, it certainly has an affect on how we view the world and ourselves.  (Don’t worry I am not going down the road of the secret)

Consider this little gem left in the comment section by proudfatty:

Retards are dumb. That's a fact. I don't hate them, but if they weren't dumb they wouldn't be retards. I have a cousin who is severely retarded, and I do everything I can to make her life as happy as possible, but at the same time I wouldn't want her running the country. Just as I would rather have an "able" person than a quadruplegic trying to pull me out of a burning building. Does that make me an "ableist" or just a sane human being?

When people use words like nigger, retard or faggot and then complain about being ostracized it is the fear of rejection that is at the root of their complaints.  It is the fear of being seen for the truly imperfect being that they are in a society that demands that we exist without flaws. 

This morning I awoke to the following e-mail from Traber.Schroeder (be thankful I am not publishing your e-mail address)

Aren’t you tired of being angry at everything all the time?  My god, you are so full of outrage and offense, I couldn't read more than five minutes of the tripe you call your thoughts without unquestionably knowing that you are fractally wrong.  Fractal, as in - wrong on every level of resolution.  Get off your high horse and stop being the ivory-tower liberal everyone hates.

It is my outrage that is unacceptable however, hir desire to oppress is clearly image coming from a place  of logic and tolerance.  Dominant groups have decided that the appropriate response for oppressed groups is to accept our marginalization without complaint.  To resist is to upset the “natural” order.   Hir hate is based in the fact that not only do I demand respect for myself, I demand it for others.

The final touch that I most adore is that I am an ivory-tower liberal.   S/he feels inferior because of the education that I have received and therefore hir response is not to attempt to mitigate the differences between us but to shame me for having the privilege of an education. This is a clear expression of an inferiority complex manifesting itself.  When I speak about using power coercively this is exactly what I mean.  Traber has power and yet instead of using it to construct positively, s/he sees no alternative but to oppress to counter what s/he views to be a personal failing.   ‘

When we see negative stereotypes and shaming proliferate throughout a society, it is not about the group that it is being aimed at, rather it is a direct reflection of the fear and inferiority of the oppressor.  Just as we are a product of the social world that we are born into, so are they.  While dealing with an “ism” does not give one license to demean another, it is important to understand the impetus behind the actions, rather than dismissing the speaker as irrelevant. 

We need to start having conversations about power and how and why it manifests itself, if we are to make any form of substantive change in our social structure.  There is far more power in resistance than in conformity and this is a lesson that we must actively teach each succeeding generation.   When we create, we have the ability to place ourselves in the center of the conversation rather than acting as dupes to those that seek to oppress, marginalize. and exploit for gain.  To those that have spent a lifetime in the shadows discovering that not only do they matter but that they are worthy of being the focal point in a conversation based in positive rather than the negative can truly change ones perspective on the value of social stratification.  Power must begin with self love for us to truly transcend that which ails us.


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