Social Question

Facade's avatar

"He only said something [borderline] racist. He didn't actually do anything racist"?

Asked by Facade (22889points) February 12th, 2010

My boyfriend came across this article on John Mayer yesterday and was discussing it with himself. The article shows many distasteful and offensive remarks made by John Mayer. To the remark about Mayer having a “hood pass” (read the interview to see what was said) my boyfriend says that since he didn’t actually do something “obviously racist,” he only said something that may be racist to some people, it’s ok paraphrasing “ok”. I didn’t respond to him that’s why I said he was discussing it with himself, but what is your opinion?

Are racist words less “bad” than racist actions?

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76 Answers

jfos's avatar

I would love to read this, but my work blocks that website.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I would say that what matters is the motivation, not the words or the actions themselves.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

They’re only ‘less bad’ in amount of direct harm done but are not any less bad, in general.

LunaChick's avatar

I read his comments on a blog and I found them very distasteful. I never did like his music very much. He just seems like a jerk. He’s been apologizing, since the article came out, but I think it’s too late for that.

@jfos – try this site – the last few John Mayer related articles were about the playboy interview.

Facade's avatar

@LunaChick Apologies are nothing without changed behavior. I hate when people apologize for things and then keep doing them.

marinelife's avatar

I think that what Mayer said was definitely racist. He used the N word, and he referred to his privates as “white supremacist” saying he didn’t date black women.

Facade's avatar

His loss

@marinelife But should we disregard his words because he hasn’t actually done anything racist? I don’t even know what it means to do something racist, but I’m using my boyfriend’s words.

jfos's avatar

@LunaChick Didn’t work.

Also, John Mayer was on Chappelle’s Show. That would make me second guess his racism. Then again, I haven’t read the interview.

deni's avatar

Oh god I tried to read that, but I find every aspect of John Mayer to be so unbelievably dull I couldn’t get through the first few answers

marinelife's avatar

@Facade Saying something racist is doing something racist.

Facade's avatar

@jfos His appearance on the Chappelle show was used as proof of his “hood pass”...
@marinelife Excellent point!

LunaChick's avatar

@jfos – dang, your work must have really good site blocking software installed. The site I posted to usually gets past that stuff. When you get home, you can read his lovely words of wisdom…the guy really is an idiot.

Snarp's avatar

@Facade OK, I suppose I could have looked at the bottom of my screen to see where the link would lead, but you might want to leave the URL or mention that the link maybe NSFW. Fortunately my work did block it so no one saw me looking at Playboy in my cubicle, and also fortunately I don’t think they’re recording my web activity and will come looking for me.

dalepetrie's avatar

If you look at the “hood” comment in context, I don’t think it’s racist…what he’s saying there as I read it is, let’s call it what it is. He’s saying people use this euphamism “hood pass”, when we really know that what they mean is “nigger pass”. As in we know that it’s OK for a black person to say nigger, but it’s not OK for a white person to say it, unless you have a pass. That’s what I get out of it, it’s just a call to not cloak what you mean in so much double speak, and I can get behind that sentiment.

However, the rest of the interview was god awful. The whole “my dick is a white supremacist” or referring to himself as having a “Benneton heart and a David Duke dick” is going a bit beyond the pale. He could have said something along the lines of “I believe all people are equal regardless of race, but for reasons beyond my understanding I’ve never found myself to be sexually attracted to black women.” I mean, if that’s the truth, then that’s the truth, don’t know what it says about a guy but we really don’t have a lot of control over what turns us on. I think his choice of words there belies a bit of a racist attitude.

But what really disturbs me in this article is the overall level of narcissism…this guy is so self-absorbed, so self-important, yet just boring and predictable as hell, I had a hard time reading this tripe. He’s positively self-deluded about who he is and what he wants, and I think it goes beyond disrespecting other races, or even homosexuals, I found his quips about Perez Hilton to be terribly homophobic and immature, I simply think he holds himself in high regard and views the rest of the world as less important than his own self distraction.

In short, he’s proved that he is indeed a douche bag, now we should move on.

Facade's avatar

@Snarp My apologies. I have not actually read the article or been to the site.

wundayatta's avatar

John Mayer is a fucking jerk. He’s got all kinds of problems. He sees the world in terms of black and white, and I don’t mean skin color. He’s so full of himself and he thinks he’s the shit, but he has no clue. He is hung up on status, and being allowed to get away with whatever he wants, whether it’s treating women like fuck objects, or being allowed to walk through the hood and everyone will “what up” him.

It’s sad. He seems to have a sex addiction. He probably has incredibly low self-esteem. He is looking for outside approval to show him he’s all right, and it’s not working and he doesn’t understand that it’s not working. He thinks he’s just achieved everything he set out to achieve.

I don’t know if it was racist. It’s clear he thinks he’s so cool he is black, and he can talk like the way a black person talks to another black person using the N word. Is that racist? He admires himself for being a man of the people, especially black people.

But come on. He’s sexist as shit. He doesn’t really have much feeling for anyone else. Call him racist too—because he likes being cool; being black? I don’t know. I just hope he gets help for his problems, or he’ll never be really happy.

By the way, this is the first Playboy interview I’ve read since I was 21 (yes, I actually did read the magazine, too), and is it my imagination, or has the quality of the interviews really gone down hill? Or maybe when I was 21 I couldn’t discern that.

Facade's avatar

@wundayatta Black is the new cool But yea, I agree, he is a fucking jerk.

evil2's avatar

isn’t “bordline racist” like being kinda pregnant?

CMaz's avatar

I do not see anything wrong with the article.
He is just being honest and real.

Amazing, it was if I was being interviewed. ;-)

John Mayer is ahead of the curve. It is so uncanny to see him get it. Where so many get hung up on it.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I think women are angry at him because they are taking what he said personally. What he said has nothing to do with any of us; it’s all on him and his mindset. Whether or not his aversion to black women is his loss also has nothing to do with me. I’m still going about my day. And as long as Mayer has no power to round me up and have me shot or deprive me of my personal freedom because of my skin colour, then I don’t care who he wants to sleep with or not, nor why he wants to sleep with someone or not.

He’s free to think, say and behave as he wishes as long as he’s not depriving anyone of their rights – and – as long as he faces the consequences of his words and behaviour. That’s the bottom line. He didn’t deprive anyone of their rights by saying what he said.

I think it’s time for black women to stop feeling bad when ignorant people say these sorts of things about us. I can’t create the anger inside me every. single. time. someone says something about how “unfeminine” or how “unattractive” black women are. Those aren’t the men I’d want, anyway. And if I look closely, I’d see that in my personal life, very few people think that way about me. I see so much bitterness and anticipation of rejection by many black women I know, and I think it causes a self-fulfilling prophecy for some of them who project so much bitterness. It’s so sad and it has to stop. WE love ourselves first, that’s the goal. We have to build ourselves up and not look to anyone outside us, black, white or whatever.

The entire world of men who are attracted to women don’t see us as these sassy, angry, ugly people. It’s just not true. We would be better served by honestly celebrating ourselves and not giving over to emotional defeat whenever some man who doesn’t appreciate us lets his opinion fly in a public forum.

Shae's avatar

This is the best thing I have ever seen on discussing Racism.

Facade's avatar

@aprilsimnel Just for clarification purposes, I couldn’t care less about who isn’t attracted to me because of my luscious skin color. But you are right, some people are just going to be ignorant, and we shouldn’t let it ruin our day :)

aprilsimnel's avatar

@Facade, oh, the women on Jezebel have been having a field day. I didn’t mean you at all. :)

Facade's avatar

@aprilsimnel I should have known :) Wanna PM me the Jezebel link?

syzygy2600's avatar

Yeah, he’s an idiot no question, but I’d like to point out that if his race was anything but white, no one would have anything to say about this.

Judi's avatar

I am so dense sometimes that I don’t recognize racist words. I haven’t read the article yet but in your question you used the phrase “hood check.” I wouldn’t have a clue what that is revering to.
I have used phrases I grew up with, only to be appauled to find out later that they had rasist roots. I was shamed and humiliated to learn what I had been doing. If anything I am one of those people who suffer from “white guilt.”
I do recognize racist actions.
I’m not saying either is ok, but words can be misunderstood a lot easier than actions can.

Facade's avatar

@Judi A “hood pass” refers to him being cool with Black people whatever that means. He was saying that if he was actually cool with Black people, he could call it a “N***er pass.”

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@syzygy2600 I would – as a person that studies race politics and knows others that do this, we have gone beyond the usual questioning of white privilege and into the hazy areas of minority tensions, internalized racism, etc.

Facade's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir GA Internalized racism is often written off as taking the power out of certain words. Bullshit.

dalepetrie's avatar

I’d also like to address the last question on its own merits without any reference to Mayer. In other words, “Are racist words less “bad” than racist actions?”

For me words are words, they are tools to communicate meaning. It is not the word itself, but the meaning or intent behind it that holds meaning. I’m a white guy, I’ll type the word “nigger”, but in doing so I’m referencing the word, the word does exist. I’m not however using it in reference to any particular person, I am not saying it out of a sense of hatred or assumed superiority towards someone else. I simply don’t believe in judging people by race or appearance, I believe in judging people by their actions and the content of their character. If you say something that means “I’m better than you because of your race,” or “you’re not worthy of my attentions because of your race”, then that’s racist, even if you don’t use the N word in saying it.

Bottom line, I’m not a fan of demonizing words. I believe the problem is that words are used to describe things which make people uncomfortable, so the qualities of the thing that is being described by a particular word begin to rub off on that word itself, then our culture in an attempt to be more politically correct, will come up with a “less offensive” way of saying something that is stripped of the negative connotations. But as we are still describing the same attribute, over time those words develop the same negative associations and we change them again.

When you look at the word “nigger”, the dictionary meaning really is a “lazy” person, but its roots were in Latin languages. You’ll see variations of it in many other languages. Did you know that Schwartzenegger means “black plow man”, the negger part being the part that means black? Or that the word black in Spanish is “negro”? These words were not borne out of a sense of racism, the Latin root basically just meant black, but when we entered a very racist time in our history, when whites were forcing blacks into servitude and they began to use the word “nigger”, which they got from that root word meaning black, to denote that a particular black slave was lazy, this negative connotation was associated with this already existing word. But as our society became more “enlightened”, people tried to take it back by saying “negro”, but that became associated with the same hateful thoughts. So “colored” came into fashion, but anyone who called someone “colored” in this day and age would be thought racist. So now it’s “African-American”. Some people take umbrage to that and now use “mixed-race”.

Same thing happens with the word retard or retarded. The word retard means to restrict growth, basically retarded is stunted. It was used as a psychological term, in fact, if you look at the concept of IQ, you have terms like moron and retarded and such, so a person with a certain IQ could properly be termed a “retard”, but it would seem to be offensive…not because of the word itself, but because of the negative connotations. People are a little wary of those who are “retarded” and it became a negative thing, people co-opted the word as an insult. But all it ever meant was that this person’s brain development was slowed or stunted. So we came up with “mentally challenged”. For a time that worked, but people felt that saying someone was “challenged” was too insensitive to their plight, so now we don’t have retards or cripples for that matter anymore, we have people who are “differently abled”.

I believe you should say what you mean, mean what you say, use words properly and have good intentions. It is racist to think you are better than another person because of your race. It is not automatically racist to use a word that is commonly associated with that type of mindset…if that’s not your meaning, then you can’t really be “racist” just by saying something.

I’ll give you a good example from my own life of how skewed our perception can be. To my way of thinking a “nigger” is a person (of any race) who plays the victim, blames others for their own shortcomings, never takes personal responsibility for everything and hides behind their race as a crutch. That’s what I think of when I think of he word nigger, and to me, I’ve met niggers of every race. Well, one time when I took my young son to a Chuck E. Cheese, he came up to me, very upset that some girls (and he didn’t say “black girls”, basically we’ve made sure in our house to only use identifiers if it’s germane to the story) had bullied him and one had pushed him. I asked him to take me to the girl, and there were two young girls who happened to be black or African American or whatever, and he wasn’t sure which one of the two had pushed him, because the two girls were both taunting him, teasing him, and one of them pushed him from behind, he hadn’t seen which one. So, I asked the girls where their parents were and went up to two also black women and explained what my son had told me. He was much younger than these girls and my concern was that I understand kids will be kids, but these women who were paying exactly zero attention to their children, should at least make sure that their kids weren’t bullying kids half their age.

But when one of them asked my son, who isn’t even familiar with the idea of racism or of different races being any different from each other in any way, couldn’t say which one, the woman’s response was, “yeah, I know, cuz we all look alike, don’t we?” The thing I thought right then (but knew better than to say out loud) was “if you don’t want to be treated like a nigger, you shouldn’t act like one.” I did say that to the people I was with later on. And I meant it. I meant that if you don’t want to be treated like a lazy person who takes zero responsibility for your own actions and hides behind your race to make yourself the victim and everyone else the bad guy even when you’re 100% in the wrong, then you shouldn’t behave as such, and maybe people won’t treat you as if you possess those character flaws.”

But to the outside world, what seems more racist? A black woman telling off a white man for thinking all blacks look the same (even though he’s never once thought that to be true), or a white man telling a black woman she’s acting like a nigger (even though she is)? I’m 100% satisfied that I am not in any way shape or form racist and that she was an incredibly racist individual, but would it come off that way if I had actually called her a “nigger”? I think if I had said what I was thinking, anyone in earshot would have thought she was the victim and I was the racist, when I believe the reality was 180 degrees the other direction.

This is the danger of saying that racist “words” are in and of themselves bad.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@dalepetrie you can think there are niggers of every race, but only one of the races will be hurt more by the word when you use it – they do not know your definition of it and I still don’t get why if you’re just trying to say lazy, you can’t say lazy.

Facade's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I don’t get that either. It’s an excuse to use hurtful words. Putting your own definition on words does not change their origin.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – I understand the connotation to one particular race and I’m not insensitive to that. But I am not saying “lazy”, my definition is and again I’ll say it very specifically, “a person who behaves in a manner consistent with the stereotypes associated with the word nigger, but who shirks the responsibilities for his or her own actions by hiding behind his or her own race in order to convey the impression that it is the perception of one’s own shortcomings and not the shortcomings themselves which are perceived as racist.” In short, what I thought was not “if you don’t want to be treated like you’re lazy, then don’t be lazy,” what I thought was, “if you don’t want people to perceive you as having the negative traits associated with the word nigger, namely lacking a sense of personal responsibility for your own action or lack thereof, and hiding behind your racial appearance to deflect the negative connotations of your own shortcomings and shield it behind a perceived veil of racism directed at you by the actual victimized party, then you should not so hide behind your race and refer to me as a racist because I’m telling you that you are shirking your responsibility as a parent.” Or I could say, “I’m not treating you like you are turning your own lack of responsibility around on me because you’re black, I’m treating you like you’re turning your own lack of responsibility around on me because yoou are turning your own lack of responsibility on me.”

So your point is, why would I need to say it, and basically I did not say it for exactly the reason you stated it, because it would be hurtful to another person who would be less likely because of the existing connotations of the word to understand my actual meaning. Ergo, I did not say this to her face, but my thinking it does not in my definition make me a racist. My thoughts were that what this person was doing was playing into the “nigger” stereotype by pre-emptively accusing me of having racist thoughts while shirking her own responsibility by hiding behind her race. But society, and this person would not understand that if I put it in simple terms, which is what my thought process was.

I’m not looking for an excuse to use hurtful words, and I think you should be very in tune to the feelings of others when you speak, because even though words are tools that are meant to convey specific meaning, we do not all share the same definition of some words, often because of legacy and past associations which are more poignant to one group than to another.

How I actually addressed this was to ignore this woman’s overtly racist jab at me, and to simply state that my concern is that I have a 4 year old who was pushed by either an 8 or 10 year old, and I’m simply asking that if your children are capable of pushing a person who is half or less of their age, then it is you as a parent who bears the responsibility for making sure your child does not behave in this manner. I did not say, “if you don’t want to be treated like a nigger, you shouldn’t act like one” to her, I thought it, and I stated that to my friends when I was recounting the story, but my point is this.

If I HAD said this, I would not have meant it in a racist manner, I would have meant it as a reflection of one’s behaving in a stereotypical manner and then decrying being treated like the stereotype. But to anyone within earshot, even though her saying to me, a person she’d never met before, a person who had said nothing even remotely racist or even acknowledging the difference in our races, a person who approached her as one parent to another, her accusing me of assuming that my son was pushed by one of those girls because those girls were black, that was a foul, offensive, mean spirited racist thing for her to say to me, and I was highly offended, because she meant it, she WAS racist, she did see me as a white devil, and she was hiding behind her own race to deflect her own poor parenting. Yet if I’d responded by simply stating something very true, in effect, that perhaps if you feel that white people treat you like a nigger, it may not have anything to do with your skin color and everything to do with you’re behaving in a manner consistent with the stereotype of a nigger’s behavior, then society (and both you @Simone_De_Beauvoir and @Facade have proven my point) would have regarded me as a racist, looking for an excuse to use hurtful words. Fact is, seeing her color did not bring to mind that word, seeing her behavior did. And that’s why I think it’s VERY important that we understand someone’s motivations before we label them as a racist.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@dalepetrie you said ”“a person who behaves in a manner consistent with the stereotypes associated with the word nigger, but who shirks the responsibilities for his or her own actions by hiding behind his or her own race in order to convey the impression that it is the perception of one’s own shortcomings and not the shortcomings themselves which are perceived as racist”

that, my dear, is a racist statement because if, to you, the word really was free of its negativity, you wouldn’t assume that there is such a thing as ‘nigger behaviour’.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – I completely disagree. You can give it any term you want, but I’m acknowledging that the word “nigger” does exist, I did not create the word. I’m also acknowledging that this word has come to denote certain behaviors. People who are racist in my opinion assume that it is your color that denotes whether or not you display those characteristics. I on the other hand believe it is your behavior and the content of your character that denotes whether you have those characteristics. Ergo, I do not associate the word “nigger” with black skin, I associate the word “nigger” with the stereotypical behaviors that some people (of all races) associate with the word. The lack of personal responsibility for one’s own action or inaction. The desire to blame others for your own shortcomings or to play the victim when you yourself are the victimizer. That is my definition of “nigger behavior” whether you are white, black or purple. When I do not associate that term with anything having to do with race, it strikes me as an ignorant argument to accuse me of being racist. Racism would be ascribing characteristics to people because of their race. I ascribe characteristics to people because of their behavior. Using a word in my own thoughts to convey that meaning when I do not associate anything to do with that word as being even remotely related to race does not make me racist. Using that word to convey my meaning to others who would know what I meant, or to illustrate it by explaining what I meant does also not make me a racist. I would be a racist if I thought of this woman, “how did I expect her to react, she’s black.” If I made an association between her actions and her worth as a person that was in any way related to her outward appearance, to me that would be racist. To think of a term in a particular manner that has nothing to do with race to me, but because it does have a racial connotation to others is using a subjective and not objective standard to evaluate my worth as a human being. Indeed, as I see it, it is far worse for you to apply your standard of what the word “nigger” means to you to demonize me as racist than it is for me to use the word in my own head to denote characteristics which have nothing to do in my mind with race.

Arisztid's avatar

@syzygy2600 I would say something about it, no matter what ethnicity they were. I am not white and will call people of my ethnicity out on racism just as fast as I will anyone else, including whites.


I think the guy is an ignorant, racist prick. Yes, if he was of some other ethnicity than white, I would say the exact same thing. If he said an equivalent about whites, my statement would still be the same.

That being said, that is about as much of a give a damned he merits from me. If he did something worse than use words, I would care more.

Oh, the first time I saw an article on this he was wearing a Borat hammock. That gives lie to his egotistic claims of endowment. It was just an eye roll moment since he is so boastful.

Supacase's avatar

Oddly enough, I think the N word part of his interview was the least racist. He said he had a “hood pass” meaning black people accepted him as being part of the group. Then he commented that he really didn’t fully have a “hood pass” because if he did he would be able to say the N word like other black people do and that is not the case for him since he is white. Had he said “the N word” it wouldn’t be an issue, but he is the type to just say it.

As for the rest, it was horrible. The stuff about his penis? He’s a racist moron and he seriously needs to get over himself. He has nothing to back up that attitude he’s got.

Facade's avatar

@dalepetrie When the word “nigger” came about in the US, it was referring to all Black people. They assumed all Black people held the characteristics you mentioned. You cannot separate the two. The word still refers to all Black people no matter how you use it.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Facade – which is why I would never call a black person a “nigger” even if they were behaving in a manner consistent with the definition in my head, because it is a word which conveys a completely different meaning than the one I hold to people who are black, because of the legacy of how it has been historically used. But I understand the etymology of the word, and I personally reject the notion that the word itself is bad, it is the connotation, the stigma which has been attached to the word that is bad. And what is that connotation? What is that stigma? To me, that is the appropriate definition of the word. You should NOT use that word unless you are trying to convey the meaning associated with the negative connotations which the word has. So, I can separate the two, it’s a matter of intent, I do not see black people as niggers, I see people of all races who act in the manner associated with the negative connotation of the word nigger as niggers. So, when I have a thought, when a person’s behavior is best described by that word, that is the word I think. But I do not think of that word when I see a person’s skin color. Ergo, I do not believe I am racist by thinking this, by expressing the thought in those words to people who share my definition, or by explaining to a mixed group of whom some participants associate that word with black skin what I thought and what I meant by thinking it. My problem is, it is because people can not separate the two that the word, which in and of itself is just a combination of letters, is in and of itself demonized. But as they say, a rose by any other name…my point is that you could come up with another word to mean the same thing as “the bad traits associated with the word nigger, but not the color” and you could throw that word around at all races, but eventually it would grow its own stigma and we’d need a new word. I personally refuse to have myself defined by what people used to assume about all members of a particular race.

So, if I see a black person on the street, that word will not occur to me, it just won’t. If that person behaves in a way consistent with my definition of the word nigger, that word WILL occur to me. And if I see a white person on the street, that word will not occur to me, it just won’t. IF THAT person behaves in a way consistent with my definition of the word nigger, that word WILL occur to me. Substitute yellow, red, blue, green, purple or pink for black or white above. I won’t say it however, because I know that the word is commonly accepted as denoting a person’s color. I reject that definition, because I don’t believe a person’s appearance is related to his character.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@dalepetrie The word no longer needs to exist (never needed to)- you don’t have to use it. Acknowledging its existence or noting what its connotations are earns you no brownie points – that’s easy any informed person can do this. The problem and I am sorry that you don’t see it is that the ‘characteristics’ you’re talking about do not exist – that’s why the word is racist, it implies (not describe) that a person indicated by the word ‘nigger’ is and does x, y, z. Racism attaches negative traits to a person based on their race. You are saying people of all races have negative traits. That doesn’t mean you can use a word (used to denote a falsehood for one race) to describe something it never actually described. I get some of what you’re saying. I’m not racist, never have been. Yet, when I see the behavior you’re discussing in people, I don’t think ‘oh what a nigger’. Then again (and maybe you guys can get together) I don’t get this one flutherer’s idea that the term ‘faggot’ is okay to use because it just means (these days and according to South Park) something negative regardless of sexuality (we just had this ‘debate’ a couple of days ago). Language is a rich, transient thing – make up new words, for crying out loud, don’t use derogatory terms and reclaim them as insults to mean something else when some haven’t yet stopped hearing them in a derogatory fashion.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – I would not expect you to not hear the phrase in a derogatory fashion, but I would expect you to be intelligent enough to discern the difference between diction and intent.

I fail to understand how you do not believe that the characteristics of lacking a sense of personal responsibility and blaming others for your own shortcomings do not exist in some human beings. Those characteristics do exist, I know people who possess those characteristics.

In my mind if all that any white person ever meant when they referred to a black person as a nigger was that this person had black skin, the word nigger would not be taboo. But these people who WERE racist, did not just mean “black”, they meant “lazy, irresponsible, prone to blame others for their own shortcomings.” That is why the word nigger is hurtful, if I call you a nigger, your feelings aren’t hurt because I’m saying you’re black, your feelings are hurt because I’m saying you’re lazy, irresponsible and prone to blame others for your shortcomings. In short, that’s why the word is hurtful. That word does possess those connotations, it does convey that the person using it holds the opinion that you possess those characteristics. So, my feeling is that if you use that word to convey the meaning that you believe a person possesses the characteristics associated with that word, you are using the word properly. But I also feel that when the word does hold that other meaning, and makes one’s intention prone to being misunderstood, then one should be reserved about the usage of the word. But to me, when I see someone possessing the characteristics that I associate with that word, that is the word that conveys that meaning to me. I do agree we shouldn’t go around hurling it out every time we think it, I don’t call every woman who acts bitchy to me a bitch…same reasons, there’s other connotations that the person can take from it. But I might think it, and I think to confuse your outward definition of the word with my inward definition to label me a racist is horribly misguided and shows a lack of critical reasoning.

In other words, you know what I mean, don’t you? If that woman had been white and had blamed me for her own daughter’s actions, I would have thought of that term, because that’s what it means TO ME. Acknowledging that some people have certain characteristics, and by acknowledging the existence of a word which has come to connote those characteristics is just realism, not racism.

Facade's avatar

@dalepetrie Why not just call them lazy or irresponsible? Why call them niggers?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

double post – removed by me

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@dalepetrie you’re not reading my response carefully – i never told you those characteristics don’t exist in people, in general – they do, obviously…there is just no reason (no good reason, anyway) to label them a word that was originally (and for many people, presently) used to mark a specific race as scum by those that enslaved them (do I need to remind you that these are serious offenses against humanity?)...secondly, if you call me a nigger and you’re not one of my friends from across the street (where that kind of thing is common, it’s Brooklyn), I wouldn’t understand what you’re saying because I’m white and that term isn’t supposed to offend me nor (from my past experiences) is it supposed to imply that I’m lazy and skirting responsibility because of my race…you wouldn’t ‘be using the word properly’ because it means ‘having those characteristics because you’re black’

TexasDude's avatar

I like how he said a small part of himself was racist whilst referring to his penis.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard yeah, well given that that part of him has clearly more brains than any other, I’m sorry to say he’s all racist

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

The remarks are clearly racist. Good rule of thumb for those that can’t tell for some reason… If you even have to think about it, then it’s probably racist. It’s racist enough that I’ll remove what little music of his I have from my collection, not in protest, but because I don’t want to listen to anything from someone that thinks like that.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre sooo…in protest, basically? :)

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Wouldn’t that require making like a Facebook group “I bet I can get 1,000,000 people to delete their John Mayer music because he’s a RACIST!” ? ;)

Arisztid's avatar

I do not even think of people with words like nigger.

I am more descriptive. If I see someone with the traits people ascribe to “nigger,” I use such things as ignorant, impudent dolt, base cretin, moronic, classless, etc.

I describe the behaviour itself. The behaviour is not unique to any ethnicity.

As has been observed, putting a new meaning on a word does not change its past. It is that way with all ethnic slurs, including nigger.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre oh sure, to undo that whole movement to get 1000000 people who don’t believe in evolution together…shudder

beancrisp's avatar

People who claim his comments are racist do not know the definition of racism.

dalepetrie's avatar

This is the last thing I’m going to say to defend myself, clearly what’s important is that I didn’t “say” that word to that person, for exactly the same reasons @Simone_De_Beauvoir and @Facade think I should not, because it is offensive and because you can make your point in other ways.

My point is that a certain definition is what the word means to me. The ‘value’ or potency of the word has everything to do with the negative connotations and nothing to do with the racial connotations. I do not think of people in “black and white” terms and I do not associate certain character flaws with certain races. I understand that what is offensive to people about that word has more to do with racial connotations than it has to do with definitional connotations. But I am not able to scrub my mind of words that I do not like, they exist, and there are no thought police. What I am saying is that I am intellectually capable of saying that word x denotes the following characteristics…of these characteristics, x are truly unpleasant/insulting, and y are not in and of themselves unpleasant or insulting. I believe that intent is the most important thing.

I’ll give you another example of a story I heard on the radio. There is a guy named Phillip Wise who used to be a pro football player and he currently performs on a morning talk show where I live. He recounted a story how in the 1970s, somewhere I think in South Dakota or Nebraska, he and two other African American football players were riding in a van which broke down in a residential neighborhood where there were few no black faces to be seen. As they walked down the sidewalk, making their way to a gas station, they encountered a girl probably 2 or 3 years old playing in her yard with her mother sitting on the porch. The child was clearly too young to be ‘racist’ no matter how racist the parents were, she may have well been on her way to being indoctrinated though. She saw the 3 hulking black men, something which to her was probably akin to a fairy tale, something hypothetical that she’d never seen in real life. And she had only been given one word to describe it. So she shouts excitedly, with no fear, no shame, no sense of self awareness, “Hi niggers!” She had been told that “nigger” = “black”. But she did not yet have the intellectual capacity to believe that this also meant “inferior”, “lazy”, “lacking in responsibility” or “playing the victim”. She just knew that 3 “niggers” were walking down her street, that was the term she was familiar with. Now, that said a HELL of a lot more about the parents than it did about the child in my opinion, and Mr. Wise reached the same conclusion.

So, that hearkens back to my point that it is not the WORD which is destructive or racist, it is the meaning and the intention with which it is used. If all nigger means to you is black, well basically that is the root of the word, if to you it doesn’t carry negative connotations and you use it, you may be ignorant of the feelings of others, but you are not racist. If conversely nigger does not convey “black” to you, but does convey the bad human characteristics which people use to stereotype a group, and you behave in a manner consistent with that stereotype, it is utterly appropriate to assign that word to that action as it is exactly descriptive in meaning. It is however not appropriate to speak such thoughts because it is not what you “mean” that is important when you speak, it is what people “think” you mean.

And that is the point that I was making. That our perception as a society places more value on assumed meaning than it does on intent. And this is how I, a white man who regards all of humanity as my equal unless an individual gives me a reason not to respect him equally, could be accused of being racist to my face in public, and yet were I to point out the irony that exists in that scenario, I would be labeled the racist by society, and the racist person would be labeled the victim, not because of MY intentions or MY actions, but because of a word I used which harbors a legacy of ill intention via misuse by past generations.

And this is what seems wrong to me. When a person who has no ill intentions, a person who believes in the equality of races, a person who does not think of people in terms of their skin color, who never assumes anything about the character of another human being based on their appearance can be labeled as a racist by using a word, while a person who is truly a racist, who makes assumptions about others based on their appearance can make it seem to society that they are not a racist, but a victim of racism at the hands of a non racist, then there is a real problem here. This is the danger of just using a different word or hiding or making a new politically correct term. I believe we should instead refine the definitions, mean what we say, and realize that at times, there is no way to “say” a particular word without someone else reading unintended meaning into it. The goal of communication should be to make your intentions clear, to make yourself understood, and words like this lead to confusion because of their hateful history. But I think it is up to those of us who possess the capacity to think beyond the very surface of how things appear to try to reduce the tensions created by the use of certain words, but understanding what is really meant by them.

I will use cartoonist Aaron McGruder as an example of what I see to be a huge double standard here, as he is a black man who frequently uses the word nigger in the same way that I do in his Boondocks comic strips and television show. He has created terms like “nigger moment” to describe that time when an otherwise rational adult will behave in ways that one thinks of when one thinks of the nigger stereotype. Or he created the term “nigger technology” to describe texting, describing it as a simple distraction for lazy people to actually spend more time typing something that isn’t even worth being said with one’s thumbs rather than picking up the phone and saying it in a few more economical words. He is not regarded as a racist, he is regarded as a realist, a revolutionary, because he makes a valid point. Namely that the whole of white culture is not going to accept the whole of black culture as being equal as long as there are numerous members of black culture behaving in ways which makes people look down upon your behavior. Black culture and black individuals have contributed immeasurably to modern society, but when racist whites see blacks going around calling each other nigga, the rappers getting into beefs with each other over silly things and shooting each other, or throwing chairs at the NAACP Image Awards, or when Old Dirty Bastard went on MTV to describe how he was drawing welfare checks despite being a highly paid celebrity…these kind of images in our society of black people engaging in what non blacks think of as “nigger behavior.” Now ultimately I use this example because I know well that engaging in “nigger behavior” is not something that only blacks do, nor is it something that is done “mostly” by blacks. But I also know that whites who have the propensity to be racist as this is symptomatic of the culture in which they were raised (much like the little girl in Mr. Wise’ story), but who possess the capacity to see that it is not blackness, but character flaws within people that make them behave this way, I know that these whites have the negative stereotypes reinforced when they see blacks behaving in this way, and that is much of what Mr. McGrudder, a proud black man who says what he says and does what he does because he wants to END racism, rails against in his art.

Now I see this from the perspective that when we allow this type of behavior to be written off as a symptom of one’s race, and not a symptom of one’s personality, that reinforces racist stereotypes. And therefore it seems to me that in my specific incident, what happens is because society has placed an embargo on this taboo word, my ability to point out to this woman that her type of behavior is the ROOT CAUSE of why many whites who are on the fence…struggling between what they were taught and what they know intuitively to be right…end up reinforcing those negative stereotypes. My argument is that I felt it was an extremely descriptive, dead on observation that maybe the reason whites treat her like a “nigger” is because she acts like what a white’s stereotypical definition of a “nigger” is. If a person could make that point, it might be a lightbulb moment for them, the same way Mr. McGrudder points this out to black society…if you don’t want people to think you’re a nigger, then don’t act like one….if some of the black role models would take this message to heart, the inherent racism within many whites which is a legacy of a different time, a different culture would stop being reinforced and would begin to be seen as silly and irrelevant. So, I posit the argument that by society looking down more on the usage of a word and not understanding the connotation behind it that it does on a clearly racist comment made by someone who is traditionally seen as the “victim” of racism, we are doing a disservice.

I don’t expect you to agree with me, but I do want to make sure that you know a few things bottom line here.

I do not judge people based on their race, I judge them based on their actions.

I am familiar with the word nigger, and with what it means to me as well as what it means to others. Therefore, I can not stop myself from thinking of the word when I view what I perceive to be the very definition of it, but I can and DO stop myself from saying it to someone for whom the word would hold a different connotation. That is common courtesy.

I do believe there is a double standard in that white people have to watch what they say even when they mean no harm by it, when black people can say things that are harmful and be given a pass because they are black. I believe that the danger of this mindset in our society is to reinforce the negative stereotypes which could be broken if we were more honest in the application of our language.

I hope that makes sense, but I think even if it doesn’t, I’ve had my say, call me a racist if you want, I know what I am and I know what I feel, and like Horton, I meant what I said and I said what I meant. You want to pass judgment on me based on what others might mean if they said what I said, it’s a free country, just realize that I don’t believe you’re being fair or reasonable in your application, and I think you have a confused sense of what racism is.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@dalepetrie too much to read, will try to address this later – the word has a disgusting history and I don’t know why you are not doing anything to eradicate it (whatever the meaning, because it is the meaning that’s problematic, not the word)...this is not at ALL the same as when some people in a discriminated against community reclaim a word used previously to hurt them and use it in a POSITIVE manner…this is your ‘reclaming’ a word using the same meaning but now applying and spreading the insult in a NEGATIVE manner to more people

but like i said the rest of your comment, I will address in more detail later on tonight or tomorrow

dalepetrie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – I think when you read my comment you will see that what I am doing IS trying to eradicate racism, I believe that getting hung up on a word reinforces racism more than hiding from it tries to solve it. It has nothing to do with reclaiming a word and everything to do with making your intentions known. I hope you can unemotionally read what I said above and still do as you said by addressing it in greater detail. But try to get my meaning before you do, that’s all I ask. If you still disagree with me, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@dalepetrie The term “nigger”, specifically, always had negative connotations, even in the very first usages. The terms “negro”, “neger”, “negre”, on the other hand, were not, in any shape way or form, meant to be used in a derogatory way.

dalepetrie's avatar

@DrasticDreamer – I understand that. I agree that it has negative connotations. I think the word when the negative connotations apply to the situation, not as a racial identifier. I feel that if you deny the term, pretend it doesn’t exist, it’s not much different than being Jewish and denying the Holocaust…it’s a horrible word which was used to victimize people. My point isn’t that we should be able to say it willy nilly, my point is, we shouldn’t have a double standard where some people can be racist and get away with it, while others who aren’t racist can have that label applied to them for saying a simple word, a combination of letters. I’m just a person who says if there’s a problem, you confront it, you don’t hide from it. Really though I have only one point to make that I think is important, and I rarely say I’m right and you’re wrong, but anyone who doesn’t agree with this statement, I’m sorry, doesn’t know what they’re talking about. It’s as simple as this.

Racism = judging people based on their race.

Racism is not saying a word, I don’t care what the word is.

That’s all there is to it, and I refuse to argue that point, if you don’t agree, you are WRONG, period, end of discussion.

Facade's avatar

@dalepetrie Refraining from reminding others of painful events is not hiding from a problem, and making a new meaning for a hurtful and extremely unnecessary word is not confronting it.

Good Lord, I am done with this.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Hmm. You’re right – racism is not simply saying a word. It’s depends on the intended use of the word, and I completely agree. However, the word nigger, in and of itself, is a racist word – based on the etymology of it. What I’m saying is that someone might say, “So and so called so and so a nigger today”. In that sense, the use of the word is not racist, because there was no hate behind it – it’s simply to relate a story. However, if the sentence is changed to, “I called so and so a nigger today” it is absolutely, completely racist.

The argument “there can be niggers is every race” is so absurd and ridiculous that I’m not even going to bother arguing it.

Judi's avatar

Makes me think of the time my kids came running into the house crying. “The neighbor kids called me a honkey! What’s a honkey mommy?”

dalepetrie's avatar

@Facade – and as I did refrain (and always do) from using the word in any way other than a) to communicate meaning to someone for whom there is no pain associated with the word or b) in discussions like this where it’s used academically, I fail to see your problem. Again, I made a simple point, saying a word, whether it’s hurtful or unnecessary (and I agree with you on that point, never said I did not), is not “racist”, racist is judging someone because of their race. And when I hold a definition in my head of What the word means, and I KNOW it holds no racial connotation when the word occurs to me, I’m not going to be bullied into having you act as a thought police telling me what I can and can’t think. You can feign all the indignation you want, but fact is, when our culture views saying a word with no intended racial connotation as more racist than a patently racist comment, that’s fucked up. And I’m telling you that from a white perspective, when white people see black people acting in a manner consistent with their stereotypical idea of how a “nigger” would act, it reinforces the negative stereotypes and does nothing to alleviate them. And having someone say that OK, we can’t even discuss these issues, we can’t discuss a word, a combination of letters from our own individual perspectives, that shuts down useful dialogue, and adds to the problem. Honestly, I’m done with this, I know I’m not a racist and I could give two shits if you think I am or not, because I know I do not judge people based on their race, I know I don’t use hurtful words to peoples’ faces, I know that I refrain from saying anything which might be misunderstood as a mortal insult. I believe I hve the moral high ground, so I no longer give a shit.

@DrasticDreamer – you don’t know what you’re talking about when you say that the word nigger is in and of itself a racist word based on the etymology. Look no further than Wikipedia (or a dictionary for that matter) and you will find:

The word originated as a term used in a neutral context to refer to black people, as a variation of the Spanish/Portuguese noun negro, a descendant of the Latin adjective niger, meaning the colour “black”.

The etymology is NOT RACIST. The word was originally NEUTRAL.

And for the definition, from

2. Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. a person of any race or origin regarded as contemptible, inferior, ignorant, etc.

This is the way in which I use the word, which you will notice is a perosn of any race or origin.

You can not simply decide that existing definitions are “so absurd and ridiculous that you’re not even going to bother arguing it.”

Go ahead and beat me up all you want now, I’m right, I know I’m right and what you are tryin to do is to judge something by a subjective standard. I’m a big believer in objectivity…I think the only way to evaluate something fairly is objectively, and what I’m taking great umbrage to here is the suggestion that we should base judgment of what a person may or may not be, not by their intent, not by their character, but by not simply what they say, but by how what they may say, MAY be regarded by a segment of humanity. It’s positively ludicrous and I’m really surprised all you intelligent people don’t seem to understand my point, but keep getting hung up on your own subjective judgments.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@dalepetrie So I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve been thinking about this and I, again, fail to see why expanding the audience at which you can hurl the insult ‘nigger’ is making any sort of a positive impact on the world, against racism or against prejudice – I, again, fail to see why that particular word is one you need to use to describe anything negative when the whole point is to understand that it was wrong to associate bad characteristics with people because of their race. You are clearly a person of words and length of response – there is no reason someone with your vocabulary can’t find a better substitute. And I don’t get why you wouldn’t want to find a better substitute, but that’s just me. And you really shouldn’t talk about objectivity vs. subjectivity because the word in question has none of the former and all of the latter.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@dalepetrie Actually, I did look up the word, just to be sure. And when I went to it said that the earliest usage of the word “nigger” was always derogatory. Calm down – I like you, and I’m not attacking you. I approached this conversation from as logical a standpoint as I could find. If, as you say, the word truly wasn’t derogatory in origin, I completely see your point. However, as I stated above, what I read on seemed to indicate otherwise, and that it was derogatory in origin.

That said, even if you are right, I still wouldn’t personally use the word. Not after the history of this country. It’s unfortunate if, as you say, the word wasn’t originally derogatory toward specific people, that the meaning changed… But, as I said, simply based on the history here… There’s no getting away from what the word became.

dalepetrie's avatar

To all, I personally do use other words. I told this story, and one thing that I’m having a hard time with is why people are questioning why I don’t just use a different word. I did. I do.

My concern is where perception allows people to draw erroneous conclusions based on a subjective standard.

By having a situation like the one I described occur to me, yes, I can find other ways to handle it, can, do and did. At the end of the day however what you have is one ignorant person who is racist, who behaves as a racist and who accuses me of racism by accusing me (and my innocent son) of thinking that all black people look alike. My point is, that is as hurtful to me as if I’d called her a nigger. And what it made me think was that she was a contemptible, ignorant person (see the definition I posted above).

Now, I would bet you ANYTHING that this woman has accused other innocent white people of racism. I would bet that the reason she acts this way is that she HAS been a victim of racism at the hand of more than one white person. And it seems to me that she is not smart enough to connect the dots, to realize the irony of her actions….she groups all whites together in her assumption that they all lump all blacks together. I could explain it to her in these terms, but she wouldn’t get it. She will go through her life without having that “aha” moment.

If a white person says something racist, there are many simple epithets we can hurt at him/her to make them “get it”. It is not the long tirade that makes someone wake up and say, “oh my God, am I doing to them exactly what I’m accusing them of doing to me?” The way to make that breakthrough to a person is with a very short, simple comment that yes, does inflict pain, something that bothers you, that gets under your skin. Because then you think about it, and THAT is how social progress is made, one person at a time.

I feel that because society has these double standards where under no circumstance is a white to say this word otherwise he or she is regarded as a racist, while there is an underlying assumption in much of our society that those of a race once victimized by racism somehow are exempt from themselves being racist. My point is that her comment to me might be regarded as a) a forgivable emotional response, b) a reflection on me, or c) a non issue. This comment is not regarded as appalling, shocking and socially unacceptable when a black woman says it to a white man. And it is the NATURE of that comment that if I WERE doing that, would make me indignant at first, but on thinking about it, would make me step back and say, “wow, was I really doing that?”

In my opinion, a black person saying to a white person “I know you think we all look alike,” is QUALITATIVELY EQUIVALENT to a white person saying to a black person in response, “If you wouldn’t act like a nigger, maybe you wouldn’t get treated by one.” To say that it isn’t is to underestimate how offensive her comment was to ME. My point is, she can say something that is equally as appalling, which if used appropriately to a person who was deserving of the comment, COULD result in changing someone’s perspective. It’s a personal insult and it personalizes the pain, it is both offensive and thought provoking. It is a comment, which if I WERE a person who treated all black people like they were interchangeable, would be tough to shrug off.

And THAT is the value of being able to say something offensive without feeling the need to censor one’s self, if and ONLY if it is actually called for. If a non-white person wants to put a white person “in his place”, no one will question it, but there is this assumed malice on the part of the white person. My point is, if I’d said what I was thinking to this person, she would have been mortally offended, as would anyone in earshot (even though her equivalently offensive statement was not regarded as such). It would have stuck in her craw. She would have told people about the nerve of this guy. But somewhere along the line, enough of her peers would say “he has a point.” She would play it over and over and over in her head and eventually she would “get” it. Maybe. Maybe not. Not sure what the probability is. But IF it happened, and it’s very plausible that in a certain number of cases it WOULD happen, one racist would have mellowed. Social progress would have been achieved.

Instead, I self censored because I am smart enough to know what the consequences would have been in the short term, I was aware of how it would have appeared. I left the situation feeling like as liberal as I am, as much as I believe in the concept of racial equality, it makes me question how much of the racist attitudes that some whites hold are brought on or at least reinforced by blacks who are racist against whites. But that dialogue on race can never happen, not on an equal level. And at the end of the day, this woman probably to this day thinks that all whites are racist. If any white person doesn’t like her, she thinks it’s because she’s black, not because she’s a bitch. And how much less offensive would it have been if I said to her, “maybe if you wouldn’t act like a bitch, people wouldn’t treat you like one?” Some women regard the word bitch as every bit as offensive as black regard the word nigger, or people like me regard accusations that they think of non-whites as interchangeable.

My point is, society’s insistence that we censor ourselves is inherently dishonest. Society does not want us to be honest, it wants us to cloak our meaning in layers. And every euphemism you use, every substitute for what you REALLY mean, dilutes, or changes imperceptibly what is being communicated. Without brutally honest communication, without being able to say what we really mean, we leave room for confusion, we leave room for misinterpretation, we leave room for people to put their own subjective ideas on what you are saying, it removes implied meaning from intended meaning, which is detrimental to understanding. And without understanding, we will never achieve harmony.

I honestly believe that as long as we get hung up on words, as long as we make the symbols with which we communicate taboo, as long as we obey society’s imperatives that political correctness supersedes honesty, we will never be honest with each other, and if we are not honest, we will never understand each other, as long as we misunderstand each other, racism will persist.

What I’m saying is that I’d much prefer to live in a world where we didn’t have to couch our meaning in certain circumstances, particularly in ones where the rules are not applied evenly among all people. When we have rules for one group of what you can and can not say, and rules for another group for what you can and can not say, and those rules don’t mesh, that’s a recipe for continued ignorance and misunderstanding. So, bottom line, I DO live by these rules, I just don’t like them, and I think they are counterproductive. I think every single one of us engaged in this conversation ultimately wants to achieve the same thing…a world where race is a meaningless “dead” concept. Call me a radical on this, but where the accepted opinion is that we can get beyond our problems by avoiding them, by holding a fake funeral for a word, by placing a moratorium on a word’s usage, I believe that avoidance combined with a double standard will result in far slower and far more effective progress than would confronting the problem head on, even if it’s brutally painful to do so. Kind of the ripping off a band aid vs. pulling it off slowly. Guess which way I go.

So, I really, really hope you understand my point, and don’t think I’m just saying I should be able to call anyone any name I want. I’m just wishing for a world in which our language was more honest, and the attitude that we should be even more dishonest is to me at the heart of the problem. But even so, I obey the rules of society on this one. I just hope you think about it, think about perspectives, think about what racism really is, and think about what you do if you demonize a word more than an attitude. If you don’t agree, I’m not surprised, I just hope that since essentially at the end of the day, even though I disagree with you, you do win on this one. I do follow the rules you want me to follow. All I’m trying to do is to build a logical argument for why I believe we may be going about it the wrong way. I’m not going to be confrontational to buck the trend, but I am going to discuss it hypothetically in forums where people may listen and consider what I have to say. Even if I don’t change your mind, I hope I can make you understand what I see as fundamentally wrong here. That’s all I’m after. So peace…truce, whatever. I don’t want to argue any more. I won’t use the word. But I’m not going to feel guilty next time I think it, because I know that the definition of the word that I use in my head holds not racial connotation.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@dalepetrie We were not discussing whether or not people of color can or can not act in a prejudicial manner when it comes to other races or whether or not they can feel internalized racism – that’s obviously all possible and is a tangent. Just because you’re pissy because it seems to you that only ‘white people get flack for racism’ doesn’t mean you need to be using the word ‘nigger’.

And this “In my opinion, a black person saying to a white person “I know you think we all look alike,” is QUALITATIVELY EQUIVALENT to a white person saying to a black person in response, “If you wouldn’t act like a nigger, maybe you wouldn’t get treated by one.”????

to me is not any kind of equivalent.

Facade's avatar

@dalepetrie Most people do not even THINK to use that word. You wanting to use the word and coming up with a new definition to justify it just gives light to so many things. I hope you come to your senses soon before you say it to the wrong person.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir & @Facade – I still get the feeling that you’re demonizing me for something I haven’t done and wouldn’t do. I don’t need to “come to my senses” because as I made clear, I accept and obey society’s rules. I just think they’re fucked up. And you don’t have to agree that the two things are qualitatively equivalent, but that’s the problem I have is that you and others don’t. You don’t feel that a white person has any right to feel like someone has prejudged him, someone has decided something about him based on his race. Racist is racist. The double standard is fucked up. And the reason you both have a problem with me in my opinion is that you support the double standard (possibly because it benefits you to do so). I personally think it’s really fucked up that you think a black person can say any old racist thing they want to a white person and think that because the legacy of our histories is not the same, that the white person shouldn’t be equally as offended.

My problem with this double standard is the downright hypocrisy. Basically, you SAY you want to achieve “equality” by denying history, by not confronting the language that has developed over the course of this racist legacy of whites forcing blacks into subservient positions, first physically then via social means. But then you want to lord that same legacy over the heads of white people. It’s having it both ways. It’s saying, “because we want to get beyond the past, whites can’t say the word ‘nigger’, but because OF the past, blacks can say racist things to whites and it’s not a big deal.” Fuck that.

Facade's avatar

@dalepetrie Enjoy your revenge and feelings of entitlement. I’m done with this my own question.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@dalepetrie yes, ‘cause that makes any sense – you have a black person and a white person telling you the same thing and you’re making it about race – I have mentioned in an earlier post to you that I believe people of color can be racist to other people (maybe it wasn’t to your benefit to read it) but I said that has nothing to do with the discussion at hand and it doesn’t. You have switched subjects because you can no longer defend your original position. And we are confronting the language, your language. And no one said that you can say the word nigger but others can call you racist slurs. Tell me where either of us have said that to you and I will concede. I do not tolerate slurs no matter who’s uttering.

dalepetrie's avatar

I’m still defending my own original position, I’m not switching gears, if you perceive that then you mistook what I was saying.

My original position was words aren’t racist, intentions are, because words can have different meanings to different people. I explained what my internal definition of that hot button word was and gave an example of when it came to mind. Then I decried the fact that in our culture, we have a double standard where one group can say certain things but others can’t.

I was treated as if I said this word to someone. I was accused of being racist for thinking it, even though I’ve explained ad nauseum why the word does not carry the racial connotation in my definition. I even backed up both the etymology and definition of the word as I personally view it.

Still I’m treated like I’m trying to justify some racist viewpoint.

Which is ironic because it was my VERY POINT in the beginning that a black person can say something with racist intent and NOT be viewed as a racist, while a white person can say one simple word with no racist intent behind it, and our culture will treat the white person as a racist.

Thank you for proving my point, you couldn’t have DONE a better job in jumping all over me for thinking of the word. I’ve even seen defense of the racist comment the black woman made to me as not as bad as what I thought.

I’ve been told that if I want to communicate my meaning, then I can do so by using a separate language meaning the equivalent of what I feel.

Perhaps I’m the only one who paid attention in history class, but I think we have enough proof that treating two groups with separate but equal standards DOES NOT WORK.

I gave other examples, retarded for example of how words become taboo, and how counterproductive that is to progress and mutual understanding.

Again, I treat all people the same until I get to know them…I base how I interact with people on their relative personalities, on their character, not on their appearance.

Nonetheless I am aware of certain taboo words, and though I ascribe widely accepted definitions to these words and shun the usage of words in a way in which I do not believe they should be applied, I understand that because interaction is not about intention, but about appearances that I at times have to communicate my intended meaning in a more indirect and more awkward way.

I think this political correctness goes far beyond one word, there are many words which I choose a substitute, even if it’s a 50 word sentence to try to convey my meaning as clearly, simply because of societal norms.

I’m a very polite person, I’m very considerate of the feelings of others, I do not want to hurt others’ feelings unless there is a good reason to do so (such as to give the person a chance to reflect on their own shortcomings by pointing out the irony that exists due to the inconsistentcy between one’s rhetoric and ones’ actions). Ergo, I do not use certain hot button words.

But I do believe that is a function of society telling me that I at times can’t say what I mean out of political correctness. I do think that it points out a hypocrisy in our perception. I believe that it leads to double standards, because it insists that in order to achieve equality between different groups, we have to adopt different standards of speech and behavior.

And at the end of the day, black people can throw around the n word all they want, because there’s a presumption that blacks can’t be prejudiced against their own kind (which simply is not true by the way), yet any white person (unless they have a ‘hood pass’) who says the n word, no matter WHAT the context, meaning, or intention has said the most offensive thing one person can say to another (which is also not necessarily true, which was my original point by the way, one from which I’ve never wavered).

So, to address the last two comments specifically, @Facade, not sure who brought up revenge, nor have I ever felt entitled to anything other than the same courtesy I give others which is not to judge anyone based on his appearance. You don’t have to walk away from your own question or take cheap, childish shots at me…you can just accept that we see things differently and agree to disagree. I’ve indeed stated that I agree with your position qualitatively, I do agree that we should all strive not to use words to hurt and offend each other. The problem as I see it is you seem to think I’m defending something I’m not defending and you’re getting offended by the suggestion of things I would never do. I feel that you are trying to hold not just my behavior, but my very thought processes to a subjective standard, your standard, which I think is problematic, detrimental to social progress and personally offensive to me. I don’t think you harbor any ill will, nor do I harbor any to you, I simply think this is a very difficult topic for people to discuss non-emotionally, and I think you let your emotions cloud your judgment (and I’m not saying that I too haven’t gotten emotional about this). As I said, I’m calling for a truce, not a continued argument, not revenge, and not to chase you away or even hijack this thread to the extend I have. I leave you with nothing but feelings of peace, even if you do not reciprocate.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – you challenged me to state where either of you have said that I can call a black person a nigger, but a black person can hurl a racial insult at me. It’s not that direct. What happened was that I related a story where a black person hurled a racial indignity at me, an accusation of racism on my part that was based on my appearance, making it ironically racism on her part which actually seemed like perhaps I was the racist party, given the charge of her words. Taken out of context, no one seemed to react in any way to her judging me because I had white skin. And the statement that occurred to me in my head, which again I DID NOT SAY, had TO ME, no racial connotations to it. However, it contained a word which, though within that context of what I was actually thinking, held no racial context within the word or the thought. Yet I knew that in the perspective of those observing the situation, I was already regarded as the more racist of the two people, and that simply saying what I was thinking would, because of the inclusion of one word to which I ascribed no racial prejudice, cement in the minds of everyone observing that it was I, not she who was acting racially prejudicial. I’m stating my belief that it’s fucked up that because of our perspective appearances, society would hold us to different standards.

What you have done repeatedly is to not even address what this woman said to me as part of your argument. And when I stated to you that it is every bit as offensive to me, and this is how I feel, to be pre-judged based on my color as it is for a black person to be judged by a white person based on his or her color. And you SPECIFICALLY rejected that the two conditions were the same. Well to me, racism is racism, and racism is not about a word, it’s about judging someone based on their race, and it should not be tolerated from any direction. And it seems to me that by saying that in your mind it’s not the same for a black person to accuse a white person of being racist based solely on his whiteness (i.e. a black pre-judging a white based on his race) as it is for a white person to pass pre-judgment on a black person because of his race, that seems to me like you are looking to apply different standards, which is offensive to me. And to go beyond this and say that it’s qualitatively worse for a white person to say a word that a black person might assume to be racially offensive, even if the white person didn’t mean anything racial by it, than it is for a black person to make an outwardly prejudicial comment to a white person with every intent of pre-judging the white person based on his race, well that’s morally offensive to me. This is the problem I have, and I still get the impression that there is too much emotion wrapped up in this for you to see what logic can prove infallibly. And I fail to see any reason to continue on this path if you don’t understand what I mean. I simply can not make my meaning any clearer and I do not wish to keep repeating myself. Nonetheless, I’m not about to back away from someone accusing me of having revenge fantasies and feelings of entitlement, accusations that I’m acting in a racist manner or accusations that I’m changing what I’m arguing about. But, to boil it down as simply as possible, I believe:

People should judge each other based on the content of their character, their beliefs and their intentions. not their appearance, and not on one’s own subjective interpretation of what a person says.

If we are trying to achieve equality and harmony between two groups, we can not hold them to different standards of diction and behavior. Separate but equal is NOT equal, and separate but unequal sure as hell ain’t equal.

There is a danger in demonizing words, even if there is a damn good reason to do so. That danger exists in the possibility for the well intentioned but loose lipped to be judged more harshly than the ill intentioned but presumed victim.

If you want to continue this discussion, I suggest that I’d love to know if you understand and/or agree with any of what I’m saying, if so where, and where YOU think we diverge. Because it seems to me that we might have Some common ground, bu I’d never know it from your repeated attempts to tear holes in very specific parts of my arguments while never addressing the big picture.

Or we can just drop it, knowing that I’ve never called anyone that word and never will, so the argument is academic in the first damn place and off topic to boot.

CMaz's avatar

John Mayer is the man!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@dalepetrie am running to yoga now, will address this hopefully by tomorrow night

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Mayer is still a douche.
So what does that make the line of tramps lining up to get banged by him?
They know what they’re getting into.

TheOnlyException's avatar

”“I can’t really have a hood pass. I’ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ‘We’re full.’”

I HOPE he was joking…

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