October 17th, 2007

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07:32 am - on Not These Niggaz Again...

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on Not These Niggaz Again... - graffiti.maverick — LiveJournal

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[User Picture]From: yannaboo Date: October 17th, 2007 - 04:44 pm (Link)
But taking the word away doesn't remove the hurt or the hatred

I agree with this statement. But on the other side, promoting and engaging in increased use of a stigmatized word by the stigmatized group doesn't remove it, either. So why do it? Leave it for the haters if they're gonna hurt and hate anyways.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 17th, 2007 - 04:56 pm (Link)
sure it does. See: "queer" and "faggot"

As to why? I'd ask why allow the haters to control. If the word is powerful, then we allow them that power by shying away from it. If the haters have guns and we say "guns are wrong, we will not carry guns" then the haters win. Can't a word of power have just as much power in the hands of good as evil. Like the word or no, when you hear it, you pay attention to what is being said, right? Maybe I'm saying "Niggers are worthless" maybe I'm saying "Niggas demand equality." But I've gotten your attrention.

And if I haven't gotten your attention (as per Steph's argument of it becoming acceptable) then maybe the word isn't so much a problem after all.
[User Picture]From: sui66iy Date: October 17th, 2007 - 05:25 pm (Link)
'If the haters have guns and we say "guns are wrong, we will not carry guns" then the haters win.'

Well, Gandhi and MLK, Jr. might disagree. There's such a thing as taking the moral high ground. Now whether an analogy between guns and the word "nigga" makes any sense at all I leave to others.

To me, the interesting thing about the "nigga" debate is that I, as a male land-owning pale-face, am clearly not "allowed" to use that word, except under ironic or quotational circumstances. (Or if I'm "trying to be black.") But black people are "allowed" to use it. There are other, more muddled, instances of this. Isaiah Thomas recently expressed the interesting opinion that a white man cannot call a black woman a bitch [agreed], but a black man can [not so sure!] I think that is one of those instances where people are using the "but it's my culture!" line as a get-out-of-jail-free card. A more egregious instance was the defense of Michael Vick's dog-fighting as a cultural practice. See, it's okay to be cruel to animals, because it's part of the culture of the southern black man.

The problem with the cultural argument is that it's a moral slippery slope. If culture makes it okay for black people to say "nigga" (but not white people), it's not too far to making the Isaiah Thomas argument. And then it's not too far to making the Michael Vick argument. And then people wind up defending sharia law and burkahs, because it's a cultural thing.

In the end, you wind up with moral permission being dictated by skin color, or birth nation, or religion. Maybe that's okay in an isolated homogenous country, but in a diverse global society, it's a recipe for disaster.

Now, if it's okay for *everyone* to say "nigga," that's a different thing. That's just devaluing a profanity, which happens all the time. As you point out, new profanities will take its place. (Like it or not, people need a way to express hateful things, and they will make up words to do it. If "nigga" stops being hateful, a new word will take its place.)

To me, there's no real functional difference between it being okay for *everyone* to say "nigga" (in which case it will be replaced by, e.g., "porchmonkey") and it not being okay for *anyone* to say "nigga" (in which case it retains its definition as a hateful word). But the fact is, it's okay for some people and not okay for others, and that's the slippery slope.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 17th, 2007 - 06:08 pm (Link)
i understand the moral high ground argument. But the difference I guess I am trying to state is between people CHOOSING to not carry guns and not being ALLOWED to carry guns. Saying "the word nigger is offensive and I will not use it." is one thing. Saying "the word nigger is offensive and therefore YOU can't use it" is another. I haven't stopped you from being offensive. I've just made you become creative about it. I don't see how that helps.

And for the record, I don't think its right that I'm allowed to say the word and you and your pale faced brethren aren't. But then I'm an idealist.
[User Picture]From: sui66iy Date: October 17th, 2007 - 06:52 pm (Link)
Well, the thing about an "offensive" word is that, by definition, people aren't allowed to use it. If they were allowed to use it, it wouldn't be offensive.

So I think you're saying that you feel "nigga" has outlived its offensive phase, and everyone can use it. Which seems perfectly consistent, and certainly would lead to the rise of new offensive words (presuming people are still assholes, which they are). I think the problem is that while "nigga" may have moved on for you, for many people it hasn't. So there's a tension between people who think "nigga" is offensive, people who think it isn't, and people who think it sometimes is (based on who says it and when).

I suspect those latter people are actually the majority at the moment, and the most confused. You're not confused, and your diametric opposites (Mr. Cosby, et al), aren't confused either. So, a question: do you believe that some words are offensive (just not "nigga"), or do you believe that there's really no such thing as an offensive word, and people are just thin-skinned and should get over it?
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 17th, 2007 - 07:02 pm (Link)
Oh, its not so much that I think "nigga" has outlived its offensive phase. I think its trying to, though. To be blunt, I'd argue that among other problems, Mr. Cosby, et al, are clinging to the offensiveness and keeping it alive. Obviously the word offends him. The basis of his argument (at least as I see it) is that if the word doesn't offend you, it should. I think there is too much hardship in the world to go out of our way to perpetuate old pain. It's a turn the other cheek thing. If you kill my sister, I will be bitter at him, and probably your whole family. Probably I will raise my children with a certain bitterness towards the Higgins clan as well. But 100 years from now, should Chris Maverick IV teach Chris Maverick V to hate Mike Higgins V as well?

I think by essence no word is offensive. Its the meanings that offend. There was a story in the paper the other day about a teacher getting in trouble for passing out a history test that had the question on it "what is a racially offensive term for a black person" and the answer being nigger. If its inappropriate to even have that conversation then how can the healing begin?

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