During winter break, I spent some time with my family, during which I did my very best not to get in any fist-fights. This is difficult, as I am, as readers of this blog know, an atheist and a socialist, and many of my relatives are fairly far to the right, not to mention fucking Christians -- or, even, those who aren't fucking a Christian, Christians themselves. It's a dread neighborhood.
But I drank a certain amount of rum and bit hard on my tongue and behaved. No, really, I did.
It was only this one incident....one conversation...where I was informed that certain relatives of mine using the n-word, that was no different that me and my friends using the f-word. Just a difference in fashion, see? It was the fashion in my circle to say fuck, and it was the fashion in that other circle to call people n*gg*rs and what was the difference? Nothing, and I was an idiot if I thought otherwise.
I recollect a time when my kid was a toddler, when one of my brothers said fuck around her. "Oops," he said. "I guess I shouldn't say the f-word around your kid."
"Say fuck all you like around her," I said. "Just don't say the n-word around her."
Because there is a difference, frankly, between these two words, and it has nothing to do with fashion, though yes, it does have to do with the ethics and the mores of the two social circles. I don't deny that.
One circle -- that would be mine -- has stopped fretting about using words that are marked as vulgar due to class. These would be words like shit and fuck. They also don't worry about words that are marked as obscene for religious reasons.
The other circle would never use low-class words like fuck, though I imagine they might say shit if pressed. Probably they don't take Jesus's name in vain. Laws no. But racist words are dandy. God, you see, outranks them. Brown people are below them. It's all status to this lot, I suppose.
This is why I believe they're wrong: they're creating harm in the world with their racist epithets. When they use those terms, they teach their children, and each other, that (brown) people have less value than other people: that it's all right to denigrate them. Each time they use these terms, they devalue the common humanity of their fellow humans a bit more -- I know probably they don't actually believe black and brown people are human; not they way they are human and their children are human; but this is why they don't believe it: because they talk this way, and were raised and encouraged to talk this way. That is what is wrong with that sort of speech.
Anyway. I didn't launch into this diatribe at the time, as much as I wanted to, because, well, what would have been the point? And I didn't want a fight. But I've been sulled up about it since, so.
So y'all had to listen to it, like you need to hear it, I know.