Heck if I know. But I've learned that for many black people, it is ok for them to use the word nigger, but it means something else if a white person uses it. Prior to this week, I've rarely used the word in 50 years. It does not mean to me what some black people think it means when I say it or write it.
Words have different meanings to different people in different places. If you give someone a pop in Brooklyn that someone is going to get a black eye. Give someone a pop in Savannah and they will get a sweet and bubbly oral experience followed by a sugar rush.
Likewise, nigger has different meanings in different places, and has had different meanings at different times in human history. The same is true of the words cunt, fuck and dope.
Why is it offensive to say "nigger" but it is not offensive to say "n-word?"
Outrage over the use of certain words may change linguistic behavior, but it does nothing to foster better relations or racial harmony. On the contrary, listening to Whoopi and the fat chick (is it ok that I refer to someone as fat given that I am fat?) in The View video above, it seems to me that they are advocating a separate but equal culture. Whoopi insists we live in different worlds and that whites need to understand that. I understand that we have differences, but I don't understand how being in "different worlds" fosters better relations. Explain it to me. I want to understand.
I'm reminded of the time that I discovered that the word girl is an offensive term to some. As a young and stupid banker in the early 80's I made the mistake of referring to someone as a "smart girl." One of my female colleagues ripped me a new one and stormed out of the room. When she was a safe distance most of the rest of the group of young bankers, males and females, snickered. That made me feel better and helped me get over my embarrassment. I stopped using the word and stopped associating with that c-word.
In my experience inter-racial relationships are easy to establish. Like any relationship, giving respect before you get it and seeking common ground are key. Embracing each others differences is key. Humor helps too. One of my best business relationships is with a company that is 100% black. When I arrived for our first meeting at their location in a rough area of Newark there was an palpable tension present. I was buzzed in through a tight security system. One of the employees met me at the door and the owner of the company and several other employees were watching quietly and apparently nervously. The employee at the door said, "Mr. Gallagher?" I feigned surprise and said "How did you know it was me?" with a smile. Laughter replaced the nervousness, our business went very smoothly and has grown rapidly. The company refers me to others frequently.
We really aren't all that different. Being pissed off about what other people did in the past does not help us relate to each other now. I never give the indignities my Irish immigrant grandparents suffered a thought when relating to people today. I don't hold the indignity and enduring injuries a family member of mine experienced at the hands of a violent criminal who happened to be black against other black people. Why should I?
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