Big news in sports this week. Evidently, the NFL is going to start flagging players for using racial slurs on the field, to the tune of a 15 yard penalty, as part of the rules against abusive language. This seems to have come as a result of publicity about bullying in the Miama Dolphins’ locker room. Here’s the thing, or things:
Language is Ever Changing
A while back, I had a post in which I argued that calling an oppressive system a “Patriarchy,” when it’s not one in any discernible way, creates an anti-male bias in one’s head, because it connect the idea of maleness (“Pater” is “Father” in Latin) with a nameless, faceless, oppressive enemy, who is the source of all one’s problems. This happens much in the same way the word “gay” being used to describe unpleasant things creates an anti-gay bias, and calling women as a whole “bitches” makes one subconsciously mistreat women.
That said, “gay” once meant only “happy.” “Bitch” only referred to female dogs, and calling a human one would be so contextually inconsistent as to be tantamount to gibberish. “Patriarchy” was once used to describe genuinely patriarchal governmental systems, as opposed to being a catch-term to distract people from being oppressed by an Oligarchy.
The same goes for racial slurs. Everyone knows the tired trope of “if black people can call each other ‘nigger’, why can’t everyone else use the word?” Right? It gets used all the time, and the response is often that black people use it to take the power from the word, and thereby make it less dehumanizing overall, giving the word less oppressive power over them. And, to be honest, that actually makes some form of sense to me. My first choice would be that anyone use whatever words they want, and my second choice would be that no one use “nigger” except to reference the term itself (more on that later), but as third choices go, I’m fine with the “black people can say it and white people can’t” argument.
But the fact is that the usage of that one word has changed dramatically over the last few decades, and will continue to do so. Eventually, it will carry none of the weight it did in the antebellum south, or during the 1960’s, or even today. Words change, and outlawing them will not change that. Frankly, if people can’t say one thing, they’ll find a way to say it without saying it anyway. Because…
Context is Everything
I don’t use racial slurs. I find them coarse and ignorant and I just have no use for them. Well, almost. You see, Louis CK has a point when he says that saying “N-Word” is the same as saying “Nigger.”
In both cases, the listener knows what word or idea you’re referring to, so they are effectively the same. They’re synonyms.
There’s really no difference between saying “Bob called Joe a nigger,” and “Bob called Joe the N-word.” If you’re offended by the usage in that context, you’re over-sensitive and you need a better understanding of how language works.
That said, it is always wise to avoid calling anyone by derogatory terms (unless involved in some kind of S&M degradation role-play, in which case, you should know where your lines are). But it should apply across the board.
What I’m getting at is that the context of when you use a word has a lot to do with whether or not it’s offensive. And more importantly, the things you say have meaning not because of the arrangement of consonant and vowel sounds, but because of the meaning heaped on them in the context of when the words are being said.
I mean, come on. It wasn’t called “sex in the daytime,” but who doesn’t know what “Afternoon Delight” was about? But the most important thing is this…
The NFL Has ABSOLUTELY ZERO Room to Even Talk About Racism
Until they force Daniel Snyder to change the name of the fucking Washington Redskins, I don’t want to hear anyone in the NFL front office say a God damned thing about players using racial slurs. Fuck you people. Take the beam out of your own eyes, douchebags, before giving anyone shit about the speck in their own. The hypocrisy here is pungent enough that the normal bullshit about supposedly supporting “player safety” is white lilac and fresh linen by comparison.
Sometimes, I just don’t fucking understand people…