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Alright im in high school and im known as like the feminist of the class and the one who if u start to talk about lazy immigrants will kick your ass (just astablishing my liberal street cred). Anyway i go to a fairly segregated school that is dominantly white, but alot of my friends are black. The only thing is i was telling this story and in the context of non-racist, quoting someone else, pointing out the absurdity of it, story i said the n-word. NONE of my black friends are talking to me, and i've tried writing to them, letting them cool off, apologizing again and again but nothing works. Please help me or give me some advice, i don't want to lose these friendships becuase these ppl mean alot to me and have been friends for the longest time. Any Sugestions??? How do i let them know that i realize what i did was wrong and that im sorry?? Nothing is working
also sorry for the excess of exclamation points.
maybe write them letters or emails? i remember having feuds with people in school, and slipping a note into their locker almost always worked when i was getting the silent treatment or otherwise not able to explain myself.

that said, i would NOT try to explain yourself or justify your actions. i would just apologize and admit that your use of that word was inappropriate. even if you think otherwise. sometimes friendships are more important that being right. especially when the issue is so complicated. some people don't believe it's EVER okay for a white person to use that word. and as a white person, you're probably not going to be able to change their minds.

also, keep in mind that they have a right to feel that way. not because you were necessarily wrong evil cracker-girl, but because everybody has the right to their own feelings and to feel offended about things that bother them. i would imagine that they're angry with you in earnest, not because they're trying to prove a point or something. you have to recognize that, whether you meant harm or not, they have a right to be upset. you might even say that to them.

also, while i'm not calling you a bigot, it is DEFINITELY possible to be a feminist and pro-immigrant and also racist. there are piles of racist liberals and leftists. additionally, there are quite a few social scientists who have theorized that all white people carry the baggage of racism, and several who postulate that all people (whether white or not) are racist in some sense. so trying to argue that you're 'not racist' (ESPECIALLY on the grounds of being otherwise liberal) can be a little problematic. which is something to keep in mind as you try to mend fences with your friends, and also as a learning experience and consciousness raiser for yourself.
I guess you have to just accept that it's in their hands and it's up to them to forgive you. It sounds like you've already said all you can say, and you have let them know that you realise what you did was wrong and that you're sorry. Knowing this doesn't mean they automatically have to just forget about their feelings and act like nothing happened.
venetia said everything i wanted to say much more succinctly than i did. you should totally listen to her and don't bother to wade through my ten million paragraphs down there.
Gigikinks: There's nothing you can do for now, except let them have the time they need to process and cool off. It is jarring for me when I hear my white friends use the N-word esp since I barely, rarely use it myself. I think that this is a classic example of the white privilege thing. It's like a lot of white people lack cultural sensitivity, to realize that, for example, some black folks are totally cool with their white friends using the N word, while others are not. I think it's best to ask. But it's also up to your friends to say, hey please don't use that word because it bothers me.

Time to digress: I like this thread. Ha! I'm black, if you hadn't guessed. So, this is something that doesn't bother me now that I have dread locks, but before it used to really bug me. Now I just think that it's funny and an example of that white privilege thang rearing it's ugly head.

White people, always always always assume that, just because they think your hair is interesting, they can touch it. Ack! Ack! Ack! What a bother. I am telling you my white sistahs, I have never never never had an Asian woman or man or a South American or Mexican woman or man just reach out and touch the hair. Ethnic folks, we just don't do it. What are your thoughts?
hm. when i worked on a hindi-language film with a majority south asian crew, people touched my (white girl) hair a lot. they thought my short, straight, fine hair was really interesting and didn't censor themselves in touching it, playing with it, styling it, etc.

that said, film crews tend to get pretty physically intimate -- it's not unheard of to trade back rubs or hugs when the going gets rough -- and the hair touching seemed to have more to do with different concepts of personal space and their desire to show me that i was accepted rather than some random strangers putting their grubby hands in my hair. these were people i spent upwards of 20 hours a day with for several months.

they were also pretty fascinated with the dreads of some of the black crew members and liked to touch their hair too.
Perhaps the personal space/no touching is more predominant in American culture? I would never, ever want someone to just reach out and touch my hair, and would probably say no even if they asked.

I just brought your question up to a couple of my friends, and one (black American) girl said if anyone made like they were going to touch her hair they'd lose a finger! My other friend (Japanese) said they'd lose more than a finger....although, when she goes home to visit her parents in Japan, all the "older" ladies constantly tell her she is too American.

Both said they hadn't really encountered many people to touch their hair, and I've never really wanted to touch anyone else's hair. Maybe we are just too bitchy to approach !
i've never had any particular urge to touch anyone's hair either. not counting lovers and such.

and certainly, from the perspective of being a minority in a south-asian crew, i think personal space and touching issues are a cultural thing. the indians thought i was NUTS because at first i didn't want to be touched. i was also branded a 'typical greedy american' for not wanting people to come along and snatch food off my plate. it was a very strange experience, but also an educational one.
Re: the n-word issue - I feel like I'm missing something. If she was using it in the context of a story and she clarified that she was quoting someone else and not using/endorsing the sentiment herself, is that necessarily insensitive? Just saying the word is bad even if you're using it in a way that illustrates that you don't agree with it?

ETA: I'm not discounting or belittling their right to be offended at all. I'm just wondering if you always have to ask first even when it's clear that your intentions are not to use the word yourself but to show it being used in a different context. Is it just that hearing the offensive word is so jarring that it can be a trigger? I can understand that, but it seems that they think her using that language at all means that she agrees with it.
i never ever ever ever use that word.

i can't think of a time i've ever 'needed' to say it in the context of something. and if it's ever happened, i'm positive that i said something like 'n-word', 'n', etc.

i don't think it's ever acceptable for any white person to presume that they can say it. i know of far too many situations when someone i know used that word 'innocently' and really upset people.

as to the reasoning behind its offensiveness, i've always figured that it had to do with ownership. white people who move in diverse circles often feel like we don't have to 'prove' we're not racist. thus we feel entitled to use The Word. the word is a sort of boundary, a boundary that all non-black people are subject to. black people get to own that word, get to say who can use it and who can't. it's linguistic real estate, in a sense.

just like i might call myself a dyke or refer to other queer women as dykes. but if a straight person used the word 'dyke' in my presence without some sort of acknowledgement, i would probably be upset and offended. even if they were a friend. even if i knew they meant nothing by it. the point is it's not your word. you're not entitled to just go around saying and doing whatever you want just because you're of the dominant sexuality, and the word 'dyke' is a symbol of that.
I'm not saying I use the n-word myself. I can relate in that, as a Jew, if I know you, you're allowed to use certain terms around me that someone who doesn't know me may not always. At the same time, however, if you were quoting someone else, I wouldn't ask you to not to use certain words just b/c they are offensive; I know that you personally are not endorsing them, you're merely illustrating them in a particular context.

What if I were reading a story aloud in public and a character - one who is obviously being portrayed negatively as a racist - used the n-word - would I be required to censor it? That's the sense I got from the original post - maybe she wasn't reading from a book, but she was telling a story and in that story someone used that word - not her. So is she personally claiming ownership just by quoting someone else? She made a point of addressing the term and saying that she didn't agree with it - it wasn't just "Here it is - don't shoot the messenger!" She used it in a way that stated her position on it, which was that it isn't an acceptable term.
I'm white. And I live in a semi-lily-white city in a pretty darned white trade. I have a question for you women of color? Regarding whether a word is offensive or not? *I* consider the word to be offensive and would never use the word but many of my *white* friends insist that it isn't; that even Oprah uses the term.

The word is: *wigger*. Now, me, speaking as a white person, since the word refers to a white person, would a person of color find the term offensive? My instincts say *YES*; my (white) friends say *NO*.

I would NEVER feel okay with reaching out and touching somebody else's hair who wasn't my significant other/lover!!! But I have complimented some black women's hair (and fingernails too)... :-) Some of the styles are sooo gorgeous and elaborate. :-)
The hair issue: It's definately cultural, American's value their space. So, now that I think about it, it's usually white women, but one time I went on a date with this surfer and he touched my hair, which really iritated me since we weren't that intimate yet. The white women that have reached out and touched my hair are usually middle aged. So, they are my mom's age, you know, and they are usually not STRANGERS, they are usually like my dentist or a friends mom or an acquaintance, but sometimes they are around my age and again they know me in some way but NOT at all enough to touch the locks.

The N word is offensive to me when anybody uses it. Now, black folks have taken the word back and use it to mean all kinds of different things that are sometimes endearing, but when it's used by black folks in a derogatory way, it offends me. I live in Cali and we got teens using it all the time to eachother, usually endearing, but they are not just black, they are Latino and Asian and whenever I see or hear this, it is like Wow, Wow, Wow!! What's going on!!!

The N word is a controversial word. Know this before you use it. Be ready to offend someone if you use it. I personally hate it when a non black friend or associate uses that word in a story or song when I am around. Hate it! It's like even though I wasn't alive when full blown racism existed, it brings back some terrible terrible memories.

bklyn, this was oh so funny, "i was also branded a 'typical greedy american' for not wanting people to come along and snatch food off my plate.

Snaf - for me, it's more like you can talk about that word without replicating it or perpetuating it. Kind of like, I get really angry with how in order to deal with an idea like rape, a tv show (eg CSI) will often show the woman being raped, it's so unnecessary and so often re-inscribes a sexual component. Similarly, repeating racial slurs in order to talk about them seems to me like something I don't need to do, especially because as I'm a pakeha it re-inscribes a privilege/power dynamic.

Touching is so... complicated. In this part of the pasifik you shouldn't touch people on the head at all without asking. Not that no one does it, though, but I can't even imagine doing it.

It is definately cultural. Some people from some cultures just want to come near you and touch you a whole lot, share with you, etc. I quite like it (though I get disturbed if someone goes for my head/hair).

I remember this time when I was going to enroll for my Masters degree and I had to see the professor who was in charge of advising - I'd never really spoken with her before and as she talked to me, she would reach out and touch me, briefly hold my hand, etc. I was a bit surprised, even though I knew Indians/Sth Asians touch more.

What do you all think about tanning? Anyone else find it ironic that mainstream white society spends so much time distancing itself from its black counterpart and then spends all summer attempting to reach a mulatto hue?
When I was a kid, a couple of black girls liked touching my hair and feeling it. It didn't bother me too much, but I wouldn't let strangers touch my hair now.

The only time I'd say the n-word is if I was mentioning a joke I heard, like Paul Mooney saying, "How about a movie called The Last Nigger on Earth, starring Tom Hanks?"
anna_k, i still don't think you get it, but it's cool.

Lil' black girls are raised in a culture that emphasizes the beauty of straighter hair. We tend to be fascinated by mixed and non-black folks hair. We want to comb it and so on. So, we grow up with a kind of internalized racism i.e. hair oppression. Hair is such a hot topic of political debate for black women. "Good hair vs. Bad hair". In the end it boils down to internalized oppression. Black women spend billions every year not on beauty products but on hair products, trying to get it to look like something else.

And by the way anna_k, Paul Mooney wouldn't say Nigger, he'd say Nigga. There's a difference.
Black folks don't say or write "Nigger" because this is the word that was used by white folks to denigrate black folks. We say "Nigga". We write "Nigga". The difference is huge.
do you know where the word mulatto comes from?
a horse and a donkey can produce offspring but that offspring is sterile and can't produce offspring of it's own. the name of this creature? a mule.
mulatto is one of my least favourite words in the universe since i learned that. ugh, what a repulsive history eh?

i love the look of a puffy 'fro. neatly clipped close to the head or picked right out to there, i think it's one of the coolest hairstyles there is. my hair is just a bit too loosely curled to even have a wee 'fro, it's such a shame 'cause i would so 70's out my head if i could. and i wouldn't mind if people touched my hair so long as they weren't messing it up in the process (i hate that!) but i'm a pretty touchy feely kinda person.
i would never, ever use the n word, not in any context. regardless of the intention behind it there is just a world of hurt associated with it. and if someone calls me a wigger or says that word around me they had BETTER be talking about an actual wig. sheesh. that's just rude.
i've discovered a situation in which i would be sorta ok with saying 'n'.

if i were reading Huckleberry Finn aloud. or, you know, any Literature that uses the word.

and even then, i'd probably squirm a bit. and it would only be for the sake of authenticity. and probably only for a public, performative reading (in the way that people will do readings from banned books, commemorate an author by having a night of readings from their work, etc.). if i was reading it aloud to my child i would probably say 'n-word' or somesuch after a short prefatory explanation that we DO NOT EVER SAY N_____!

i have wanted either dreads or a fro my entire life. if i could have anyone's hair in the whole world, it would be Angela Davis' (either now or back in the day). unfortunately, just as most black women's hair won't do straight, my white woman's hair won't do anything approaching locks. i could never decide whether me using ick chemicals to acheive Black hair would be consciousness raising or just extremely stupid. but i've always wanted to go into a walgreen's and move the skin bleach to the suntanning aisle.
hummingbird, I do understand about different textures of hair and the "good hair" type. At the time I was too young and I didn't care.

You're right, it's more "Nigga" than Nigger with the PM joke.
anna_k: i meant that you didn't get the use of the N-word.
It's like here we all are talking about this, and your post made it clear that you don't get it.
So, even if you were to tell a joke that you heard PM say, it wouldn't come off the same because you prolly would word it as N--er instead of N---a, which is the way you wrote it too. I would say it's best to not even say it because you don't know how to say it.
So, here's the thing. It's all in the way in annunciated. Saying Nigga a lot is a ghetto thing. People in the ghetto use the term a lot. Now, black folks in general say it as well. But, if you are from the ghetto and we're not black, the chances are you could get away with saying it because you know how to say it to make it sound endearing or friendly or cool. People from the burbs, black or white, cannot say that word and make it sound cool. Namean?
hummingbird, both of your posts towards anna_k sounded really patronising. She was exzpressing an opinion, like everyone else in this thread, about whether she would or would not use the word and in what context.

bklynhermit, I'm of the same opinion as you, in no context whatsoever would I use it. However, snafooey asking about reading aloud made me question "would I use it then?" I thought of the same example as you, Huckleberry Finn, and I realised that I still wouldn't use it. If I was a teacher reading aloud to a class, I wouldn't use it; or a mother to a child or an adult at an adult book group. I would say "the n-word" in that context or in recounting any story/joke (although I don't think I would consider the "joke" funny, if it used it. I don't think it's acceptable in any circumstance and would flinch if someone else used it but would discuss my discomfort with them.

hummingword made a really good and concise definition of the two different n-words (see? I can't even write it!) which makes complete sense; it explains why I don't bristle when hearing Chris Rock, for example, using the second one ... it's a different word.

eta: has anyone ever read Toni Morrison's short-story "Recitatif"? It's her only short-story and it's about two friends, one white and the other black, but she never says which is which. It's a very interesting read and is illuminating in the judgements the reader and society make about race; you read it looking for clues to what race the characters are -perpetrating stereotypes- before realising that it doesn't matter and that the whole point of the story is that race is consciously elided.
i still flinch when chris rock says it. it's an ugly, ugly word to me never mind that it's been "reclaimed", i still dislike it and would never say it. ugh.
i'm all for the reclaiming of the c word to, but i would never use it either, unless i was using it to swear. i understand it's origin, etc, but it's still and ugly word (to me). it really is.
I feel the same about the "c-word" and only use it in extreme moments of anger!

I still find the "n-word" ugly and would never say it and object to it being used in my company but I have no problem with it being reclaimed and changed into another word/meaning but I think it can only be said by someone if they are black; anyone else and it takes the word back in time and infuses it with hate, memory and hurt.
Are you sure mulatto comes from mule? You're right, it is repulsive if that's the root, but I'd never heard that, and I'm usually pretty good with words.

At any rate, based on some of my friends' experiences, it's at least not true. ;)
This from the Miriam Webster website:

Main Entry: mu·lat·to
Pronunciation: m&-'la-(")tO, mu-, myu-, -'lä-
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -toes or -tos
Etymology: Spanish mulato, from mulo mule, from Latin mulus
1 : the first-generation offspring of a black person and a white person
2 : a person of mixed white and black ancestry

My face, it appears, has egg upon it.

I would like to weigh in as being unhappy with the n-word. It is never okay for a non-black person to use it, and somewhat sketchy for black people. At the very least, it declasses the user. It's a vile word, and it serves well to remind us that we have a long way to go as a society toward real understanding between people.
By the c word do you peeps mean cunt?? Now to me, that word just doesn't have the same history or associations.
(I grew up around 70s feminists, though, so I can't seem to use it for the same reasons that I don't say "making love" "foxy lady" "stick man" or "your aura has a positive energy".)

I have to admit I do use it as a handy guide insofar as men who reserve it for their most vicious insult usually turn out to be guys who are not what I'd call feminist-friendly.
i haven't been able to reclaim cunt as well as i have dyke, queer, and even to an extent fag. though i have to say i've never found a word other than the oh so clinical 'vulva' that i like for that whole area. and i think part of it is that i don't hear other people reclaiming it much yet, and i feel like if i were in a situation in which it might be appropriate to talk about my cunt, people might take it the wrong way. like in a doctor's office, "well, everything's fine, but i've noticed this strange odor emitting from my cunt." or in sexual situations i feel like if i'm with a guy, he might misunderstand and think it's ok for him to say in a derogatory way, and if i'm with a girl, she might be offended. i feel like cunt isn't quite ready for prime time, i guess. different from 'n' which i feel just isn't mine.

and ven, totally off topic but you're so right about terms like 'making love', 'right on', 'what's your sign', etc. they've been completely tainted by the 70's... stick man, though, i've never heard. like 'stick it to the man'?
yes, what is with "stick man" anyhow?
some of those 70's terms i just love. "right on" is one of them, and i adore "blind pig", that's just the best thing ever. "keep on trucking" i can live without though.

there's a strange odour emenating from my cunt. hee!
Last year I would never had said cunt out loud. I read the book though, and kept telling people about it and the more I said it the more comfortable I became with it. A few months ago a guy I know got in a fight with my best friend and called her a cunt. She got really upset because her dad would call her that sometimes. I was really angry at the guy and I think I kind of took it upon myself to reclaim it, at least for myself. The more I say it, the more comfortable I am with it.
I like cunt and I feel better for having reclaimed it. It's taken all the power out of people who try to use it against me. But like ven said, it doesn't have the same history or associations as the n word. I just don't feel I have any claim to that. If I was in the situation mentioned below, doing a public reading of a historical text, I still don't feel like I could do it just for authenticity's sake. I guess it would depend on the context. I'd probably consult with some black students I know who are active in the anti-racist group on campus (because I know that the group would want to be consulted if it was a university event). The bottom line is, the people who it's been used against are the people who get to determine its usage. They're the ones who can reclaim it, or not.
i keep having thoughts on this topic, and then try to write and i ramble, and then i get scared that i don't get to have an opinion because i'm a european mutt whose family came over on the boat after the mayflower and i could probably count the people of african descent in my town on my fingers and toes. so, i'm scared of stepping on toes when i shouldn't have been dancing to begin with, if that makes sense.

i guess what it boils down to with me is that i think we shouldn't censor history. to kill a mockingbird, for example. if anyone ever decided to re-publish the book with racial slurs edited out, i would find that more offensive than the original material, because it would be an attempt to edit history and art, two things which i think should be left as they are as a reflection of the world at that time. i realize that nigger is an offensive word, and that i will never know what it feels like to be called such a thing, but at the same time i think that it's an important, if ugly, part of history and it shouldn't be feared, or hidden, or erased, because that just gives it more power.

now i'm going to back away slowly and hope i've made sense enough to get my point across without rambling or being offensive
kisses for tyger. beautifully said, and i whole-heartedly agree. imagine trying to imagine how ugly things have been in the past without any evidence to prove it. it's not about erasing the past to me, to me it's about erasing the past in the Present.
i definitely agree with that, tyger. but i think there's a difference between preserving something in a document and keeping it alive in our culture. i've spent the past several weeks reading old newspapers about the Son of Sam killings for work. I'm glad those old newspapers exist, and i'm glad we can use those documents in order to make a film about it. BUT i'm also glad that those events are now firmly in the past and only still around in documentary form.

i think the reason people would be loathe to say it in reading aloud is that spoken words somehow feel like they have more power than printed ones. when i see the word, it's just printed matter. when i say the word, even just to reference it as a cultural artifact, even when i'm using someone else's words, it in a way becomes mine. which i think brings us back around to the original argument, and why the girl's friends were upset with her. because even if you're relating someone else's story, the words become yours a little bit when you say them.
Good point, tyger. I'm not for editing or censoring books or other historical documents. That doesn't do anyone any favours. My own personal line would still be drawn at reading it out loud though.
Sorry - haven't forgotten about this thread.

Venetia, I see what you're saying (and that's why I can't stand those crime shows), but I guess I'm just not sure if using the offensive term is always about exploitation. I guess you can apply the same debate to both issues - is portraying brutal crimes on film, for example, always exploitation or is it sometimes necessary?

I'm not sure - based on the little information given - whether or not it was necessary in the original story. It was more that - again, based on the context that I was given - I was surprised that the general attitude here seemed to be "Well, you apologized, but if they don't want to accept that, you have to accept that what you did was automatically wrong and now you have to suffer the consequences." Obviously I don't deny anyone's right to be offended (or to act on it), but I still can't help but wonder if there were other factors at play.

Btw, does anyone remember the song from the musical Hair in which an African-American cast member essentially lists every racist name/stereotype he can think of in his process of reclamation? Obviously he has to sing the song and not any other member of the cast, but what about, say, a little white girl who grew up with that soundtrack and tended to sing along at home? I knew what it meant (it was my parents' broadway soundtrack album, but I'd watched the movie adaptation with them on television and I knew about the Sixties and the Civil Rights movement), but did that make it acceptable? And while I never sang it separately from the listening experience (as in, if I was listening to the entire soundtrack, I might sing along, but I knew well enough not to go singing it in the schoolyard), was it even appropriate listening material in the first place? Not b/c I was too young (I was old enough) but because it's simply not appropriate subject matter for a musical?

Warning: Potentially Highly Offensive Lyrics

ETA: It should also be noted that unless there were uncredited cast contributions, that song was written by a white man. While there's something ineherently problematic about a mainstream musical celebrating the counter-culture ("you know it's over when. . ."), is this song merely exploitative or does it make a point about stereotypes. As a preteen, what I took away from it was, "You can call me whatever the fuck you want, you can think whatever you want, you can try and hold me down, but I know what I am." As an adult, it smacks of let's-pat-ourselves on the-back liberalism, but I don't think it's exploitative so much as genuinely trying to make an audience uncomfortable.
snafooey, from my perspective (as someone who said '...but if they don't want to accept that... automatically wrong...'), it's like this.

the point isn't whether it was OK or not for her to say that word (though many of us are of the opinion that it wasn't). the point is that her friends are within their rights to be upset by it. because, well, we are all within our rights to feel the emotions that come naturally to us. if her friends had been offended because she used the word 'lamp-post', she would still have to understand that her friends had a right to be upset about it.

one thing that gets me a lot in these dialogues between different groups (whether it's races, sexes, whatever) is that often the dominant group feels that if their intention was benign, that the dominated group has no right to take offense. which is patently ridiculous, not to mention in this case racist.

i mean, consider this hypothetical situation. you and i are equal in all respects (american white middle class thirty year old women, let's say). we are friends having a casual friendly conversation. and you inadvertantly say something really insulting to me, really put your foot in your mouth. even if you didn't mean to hurt my feelings, i would still take offense. because whether you meant to or not, what you said really upset me.

would it not be rational that i would have a right to those feelings, even though you didn't mean to hurt me? then why is it that when the two friends are of different groups, suddenly the member of the non-dominant group who is inadvertantly insulted DOESN'T have a right to their feelings?
I think that words can only do as much damage as you let them.

Reader's Digest, etc.

So, it's obviously up to the individual to decide which words they will allow to be said to them as well as which words they decide to use themselves.

For instance, I almost never call things "gay," but I don't usually say anything when other people do... because who really has time to stop a conversation to correct something so arbitrary?

On the other hand, threatening language is not so much the words used, but has to do with the setting and who the hell is saying it and why and with what motive.

I think I've said this all before, but it's still how I feel. For instance, I think television and movie actors have a greater responsibility to uphold the values that they have said they hold in their hearts, because they have agreed to be in that sought after public eye, whereas a bum on the street can say pretty much whatever he/she wants, because no one is going to remember, anyway. In that way, I think celebrities often like to think of themselves as victimized. I disagree, because how the hell could you consider living in the lap of luxury to be anything close to the state of a true victim of poverty?

I got a little bit off track there, but whatever.
"For instance, I almost never call things "gay," but I don't usually say anything when other people do... because who really has time to stop a conversation to correct something so arbitrary?"

i have the time to stop a conversation for that. because i'm queer, because my uncle is a gay man who went through hell coming out as a teenager 25 years ago. because it's unacceptable to let other people use a word to describe homosexuality as a synonym for stupid or dumb or gross. but then, i'm of the mind that if you're complacent you're part of the problem, and not everyone sees things that way.

i guess i'm sort of a fence-sitter in regards to saying words like 'nigger' when quoting/reading from a book. on one hand, would i be keeping the integrity of whatever i was reading by changing it? or would i just be offending my audience by keeping it in? i think it's a line i'd have to look at in each individual situation. like, discussing random etymology with my friends (lord knows how that happens amongst compsci and math majors), if we got onto insults/derogatory words, i'd say 'nigger' in that situation. and i'd feel hella uncomfortable saying it (i feel uncomfortabel typing it), but it's a word with an etymilogical background that would be being discussed. if my friends were black? maybe not, at least not without having talked about it beforehand. because while i think that talking about a world and actually using a word are so different that the former is okay because it's not being directed at anything, it's just a word with a history in that situation, not everyone feels that way.
Yeah, I never ever use "gay" as a pejorative and I will always stop other people if they do (though admittedly it hasn't happened in a long time; when I officially became cognizant that it was wrong at around age twelve or so, it was a much more common occurrence amongst my peers).

I think there's a big difference between using a negative term in context and taking what should be a neutral term and using it as a negative.

Bklynhermit, I'm not denying them the right to their emotions - feelings are feelings. I was just wondering - based on the little information we got from the original poster - if their reaction was solely based on that one incident.

As for the lamp post thing - and I say this as someone who has gotten flak for being "oversensitive" my entire life - if someone got offended by my usage of that expression, I'd say, "Okay, you're within your rights to be upset about whatever you want. . .but please explain to me why."

Now in the n-word case, it's obviously a lot more clear why it wouldn't be appropriate, but in apologizing, she's making it clear that she knows she was insensitive and that she wants to open a dialogue. I see what you're saying - she's not being "the bigger person" by doing what any sensible, thoughtful person would do in the first place and if they don't want to talk to her, they don't to talk to her; it's not up to her whether she should be forgiven or not. But, while I would never consider using the n-word benign (even if you're quoting someone else, you're probably doing it to make a point), that doesn't mean that her intentions were malicious or inflammatory either - acting like "you got what's coming to you" doesn't seem entirely fair. Again, I'm not saying that the originally offended party doesn't a have right to their feelings, it was more like I had an issue with the "Well, what did you expect?" response.
Sorry for the double post, but I guess what I mean is, was she shunned more for being racist or for sticking her foot in her mouth? Do her peers believe that her behaviour was inherently racist or are they ex-communicating her b/c she's claiming privilege by using it regardless of intention?

I know it sounds like I'm playing devil's advocate for the party that did the wronging - that's not my intention. It's more that I'm comparing it to experiences from my own life (I've heard the n-word used in context more than once in academic environments (and, as I mentioned earlier, broadway plays), and I'm wondering why it's okay to quote it in context if it's from an "official" source but not if a person is telling a story in person) and trying to make sense of it.

ETA: And I'm talking in circles at this point, so I'll just shut up now. :-)
This should maybe be crossposted in the perilous position of choice thread...but it's also relevant here.

I have to give credit to celaeno (I hope that's right) for finding this and posting it at livejournal.

If you look at this website of people looking to adopt children, you can click on profiles here.

Click on any region, any random couple...eventually in these "chr*stian" couples you'll see a trend. Very, very few of them are willing to adopt black or black mixed race children. WTF????

So it's supposed to be easy to give your child up for adoption rather than abortion? Maybe if you're caucasian. If you're black, seems as if nobody wants it.

How pathetic. Especially when you see that many of these caucasian couples ARE willing to adopt hispanic or asian kids...just not black ones. Geesh!!!! You'd almost think they'd add a category.. . "anything but black". Sheeit.
Snaf, I didn't interpret anyone's response as "well what did you expect". Was mine one of those? Because to me, it was more like, well, now that it's happened, your forgiveness isn't in your hands. If lamp-post were some historical insult word against, say, the descendants of people who were indentured into service as candle bearers, then you can ask "please explain to me why" but it would be a matter of privilege if you demanded that they explain why they felt hurt inside that you said that, even if you were being completely unmalicious, or cluelessly talking about Narnia. It's not our unalienable right to "open up a dialogue" with someone who for whatever reason is wary of it or tired of such dialogues.

ETA: It's also not our amazing right to be accepted just for being well-meaning. Numbn*ts is probably well-meaning but this doesn't mean I have to befriend him or expend energy in explaining things to him.
snaf, regarding "that doesn't mean that her intentions were malicious or inflammatory either - acting like "you got what's coming to you" doesn't seem entirely fair", if this is what you took from my post earlier, then i think you misunderstood.

i understood from the get-go that she didn't MEAN to hurt their feelings. my point is that her intentions are irrelevant. and the fact that white people (in this particular dialogue) get all hung up on intentions really bothers me. as you said yourself, it's not up to her whether she's forgiven or not.

sorry if i was unclear down there in all my hypothetical this and that...

eta: treehugger, that is so fucked up. though i have to say it doesn't surprise me much. i've heard of adoptive parents CALLING IT OFF after being told the birth father was white only to be handed a clearly biracial child. though i have to say that raising a child of a different race could be a challenge for reasons other than parental racism. it's definitely something i've thought about, as most men i've dated aren't white, and the whole rest of my family lives in the rural south. i once made a comment about my likely future biracial children to my mom and she kind of freaked out a little.
It's interesting the battles we pick and choose. For instance, I always will stop a conversation when someone uses the word "gay" as a pejorative, and politely ask for clarification on what, exactly, was homosexual about the described noun. (And yes, I sound that uppity when I do it lol). As a result, most people I am in contact with at work, etc. no longer use "gay" to mean anything other than glittery fabulousness. I recognize that most do not do it to be intentionally hurtful.

BUT, being the only queer in an office full of straight folk can be, well, trying. And this is where it comes back to venetia's point of "It's not our unalienable right to "open up a dialogue" with someone who for whatever reason is wary of it or tired of such dialogues".

Sometimes I will answer questions about "gay culture" and whatnot, but honestly, sometimes I don't feel like being the rep for all things gay. Get the newsletter like the rest of us. I sincerely believe most people are well-meaning, but they still do not own or have any right to my knowledge or experiences simply because they do not have same. I felt like that was the attitude of the oiginal poster, that she seemed to expect her friends to at least explain why they were upset, if not forgive her because "she wasn't saying it like that...."

Anyway, my tuppence.
Speaking of reclaiming the C-word.

Venetia, Bklynhermit - yeah, I'm fully willing to admit that I'm not entirely sure where I was going with that one since I don't think the offended parties have any obligation to educate the person who did the offending, nor do I think that having good intentions necessarily excuses the act. I was more interested in our general response as a community than theirs, if that makes sense, and it's possible I misinterpreted the reaction here. Obviously, something rubbed me the wrong way, but I can honestly say I'm way to exhausted to try and figure out/articulate exactly what it is right now - if I try, I'll probably just dig myself into an even deeper hole. :-)
bunnyb, my posts were meant to sound patronizing, i guess, because i was irritated with anna_k for actually writing the N-word. When it seemed that everyone else was going out of their way to not write it. And then I felt that she didn't know how to write it in context with how Paul Mooney would have used it. So, I was irritated. My bad.

Fighting words to a white woman: the word Cunt.

Fighting words to a black woman: the word Bitch.

Go figure. Some black women don't even know what the word cunt means.

I personally, being black, have no problem with the word cunt. I would NEVER use the word cunt in a derogatory way towards a woman. I read the book. Loved it! The word feels raw and edgy in my mouth. But the word was used to subjugate white women, so I don't really use it. And it's easy to NOT use it, since it wasn't really used around me growing up.
hummingbird, thanks for the explanation. No problems as far as I'm concerned, I can't speak for anna_k. I find your opinions refreshing and interesting, it's good to have an all-encompassing discussion with BUSTies of all races/backgrounds/walks of life as we each bring different opinions and experiences to the table.
hmmmm. i didn't know that using cunt in a derogatory way wasn't universal regardless of race. i always assumed it was used as a verbal weapon against all women (and some men, too).

and hummingbird, i'm sorry if i've offended you by not censoring myself. i dunno, i guess a big part of it is that saying 'n-word' always strikes me like calling voldemort 'he who must not be named'. to me making it taboo just gives it more power. like cunt. if i, in conversation, said something about 'my c-word' it's like admitting that word still has power and i'm not trying to take it away. saying 'my cunt' is like a big fat fuck you to people who would try and insult me with it (i realize that these two words are worlds apart and it's not really the same, but i was just trying to think of a way to explain my views in terms of something else, if that made sense)
tyger, no offense taken. =)

Cunt doesn't get used in the black community as much. What is the modern definition of 'Cunt'? It means vagina, right? So, I don't understand what's so wrong with that. I like mine.

If you ask me, its a "white thang".
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