When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

August 26, 2004

On Race, Part 2

Bravo Romeo Delta

In my previous post on race and the current state of discussion, David Weisman left this comment:

Just because I have a friend who would laugh and kid me back if I said to him, "You Idiot!", doesn't mean saying "You Idiot" to people is not by and large offensive.

Which by turns has me infuriated (for it is trite), exasperated (for it indicates that the larger point I was trying to allude to has been missed), and frustrated (because I really don't relish adding another deeply complex and seemingly intractable dilemma to the list of things I'm doing on vacation).

But, since being a blogger is virtually prima facie evidence of not knowing when to let something lie.

The first point to which I take specific objection is that there is a difference not in degree, but in kind, when one compares calling someone an idiot, and using the N-bomb [ed. not least of which you won't type out the n-bomb - no kidding].

For even using a word which happens to share similar letters without sharing the same root is sufficient to jeopardize a career. So we can probably agree that this level of societal immune reaction probably indicates that the sensitivity attached to this particular word is a wonderful proxy variable for exactly how much of the discussion of race in this county is the tip of a much more sinister iceberg. Moreover, the fact that some people are given free license to drop the N-bomb because they happen to be darker than I indicates that no, Virginia, this can't be swept under the rug by simply making some facile and witless analogy that summons all the intellectual and philosophical weight of "Sticks and stones ..."

As it happens, yes I've dated and lived with people of all stripes, shapes, and, yes, colors. I've no particular race-based bitch, and do think that folks get screwed from time to time, based simply on race (and a whole, entire host of other equally stupid issues). I personally despise true racism for philosophical, political, moral, and economic reasons. I have also seen, first-hand, the behaviors that allow racist stereotypes to live from one generation to the next.

What the hell does that above paragraph mean, you may ask. It shouldn't mean a goddamn thing. It should be, more or less, like saying "I know brunettes, redheads, and blondes." But the simple fact that one even feels that it is necessary to trot out some sort of experiential shibboleth before even speaking about race gives you a better idea of the scale of the rot underlying discussion on race.

I still encourage respondents to read this article. For the more significant problem is that race has turned into a societal Cold War. For all the same hideous and problems associated with peacekeeping have found their distant cousins in the language of political correctness and race-based this, that, and the other thing. All these efforts to be inclusive and diverse have simply stopped the melting pot from mixing and preserved segregation in new and inventive forms. These notions of creating a Potemkin reservation of ethnic identity in the US are, at worst, a recipe for Balkanization, and at best, Jim Crow segregation with new paint.

So, getting back to the original point, if we turned the tables and decided that if African-Americans can casually use the N-bomb, but it is prohibited by whites, then how about we go for one even a little bit less confrontation that using libelous slurs - how about whites can address each other by their first names (or blacks for that matter), but blacks are restricted to referring to whites by their proper titles.

Rankles a bit doesn't it? And yet, violation of the custom (of using proper titles) wouldn't be grounds for prosecution for a hate crime (the way dropping the N-bomb is), would it?

But, but, but...

Hush - I don't give a rat's ass about who can and cannot use which words - but in a world in which is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander, I don't want to hear people sliding past the fundamental ills of discussion on race in this country, with silly comments or foolish posts. And no, discussion on race doesn't mean that we all have the freedom to be nasty - it does imply that we judge others by the same standards we apply to ourselves (and vice versa). It does mean that honest commentary shouldn't die in a fusillade of indignity and wounded pride. It does mean that we have to hold accountable all of those poisonous fools who continue to thrive on hatred. And above and beyond all else, it means that everyone has to, at some point, get over it.

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at August 26, 2004 04:15 AM

Retaliatiory Launches

As a former English Language Arts professor, I have seen how language is used to either communicate or exert control over others.

I find that those who are solely interested in "political or linguistical correctness", do so in an attempt to limit use of language or to enforce "acceptable constructs" that are trying to both, limit discussion and deny freedom of expression.

Having succeeded, we now find that they have severed any opportunity for understanding, sharing and exploration of experiences, which can make us a more cohesive nation, are unilaterally denied.

As a result of denying "others" that opportunity all that is left is division, separation and experiential isolation.

BRD, thank you for such a thought provoking and insightful post.

Posted by: michele at August 26, 2004 08:00 PM


My response was too long for a comment too.

Posted by: David Weisman at August 27, 2004 02:15 AM

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