Today in “Race and Ethnicity,” we watched a very powerful movie, “The N Word.”
As class was ending, my teacher turned off the movie, walked in front of the class and asked, “So watcha ya’ll thinking?”
The class was silent. I couldn’t put into words exactly what I was thinking. The movie offered so many perspectives to this word’s appropriate use, connotation, availability and place in our culture.
A few people gave answers: “It makes me sick,” “It’s OK. I used it when I lived at home with my friends,” and “It seems odd when white people say it.”
My teacher then addressed the class saying that no matter what our opinions were, one thing she hoped we walked away with was an opinion that we could articulate in a conversation when asked, “What do you think?”
Well, I am a fan of strong words and words with meaning. Boutique, animated, fluorescent, craft, illustrator, fluffy – all of these words are ones I like because of the images, emotions and meanings they conjure. But strong words, such as n*gger, f*got, cunt and bitch, have no place in our society.
They are cop-outs. Can we really not think of any better adjectives or nouns to use to describe people or a person in our society? There is nothing positive in these words. They have painful histories filled with hate, discrimination, ignorance and intolerance. We do not need to take any of these words and make them “positive” because there is no point. Our past makes our present, so it’s a pointless venture to “take it back” when a word can no more lose its past than we can.
As a society, we need to articulate and not let one word show ignorance about someone or excitement to see someone.
Martin Amis declared war against clichés when he said, “All writing is a campaign against cliché. Not just clichés of the pen but clichés of the mind and of the heart.”
I will take it one step further and say that all good communication is a war against clichés.
And that’s what words like n*gger and cunt are. They are clichés. They’ve been used; they are unoriginal, tired and lackluster.
We need to use our minds and our vocabularies to fight this war against useless words and terms and create new, strong terms that are filled with positive, beautiful, intelligent meanings that show we are a society that is able to think critically and constructively.
I will take up arms in this fight. I hope others will join. With a large enough army, we might just be able win the war and lay rest to these words that have worn out their welcome.