More From Alder's Ledge

June 8, 2013

Do You Talk Like A Racist?

Prejudice In Everyday Lingo

Sometimes our words get away from us in anger. Other times we are offensive without even knowing it.  Perhaps it’s ignorance, maybe one’s environment, or lack of exposure, but it paints an image of intolerance and bigotry. 

Many of such unacknowledged offensive words have been so ingrained into the everyday experience.  Words whose connotation is actually an insult or slur to a group of peoples.  It’s not always the word in and of itself that is demeaning, but the application.  Using words that would otherwise be used to describe an individual, versus allotting an individual to the description.  Example:  “He is Jewish” has a distinction from “He is a Jew.”  Application and implication of words that alone are not offensive, but in reference and intent can be damning. 

It’s not about being “PC” (politically correct).  In truth it is about being sensitive to the individual and being accountable with one’s words.  Certain terms and slang in front of someone who identifies with them (by choice or inadvertently) are simply not said.  Some words original creations have morphed and no longer have the same implications in modern slang.  Wouldn’t necessary call it an evolution, just no longer the jargon preferred or applicable in the present setting.  Though the majority may see it that way- the people/person it was once applied to may well remember and feel the wounds and scars these words inflict.  The question then arises, “why even incorporate such terms into one’s vernacular?”  If it is offensive in any circumstance- it should immediately draw one to the conclusion that such lingo should be removed entirely.

Humans are creatures of habit.  Repetition is the key to memorization and training.  Dehumanizing terms can condition the individual/community into “acceptance” and rationalizing the treatment and view of those who they believe are different.
"In dehumanizing others, we exclude them from the circle of moral obligation".  Using demeaning words is just one of the stepping stones to acts of intolerance and hate.

Credence needs to be given to the power of words.  They can instill emotions, cultivate memories, and implant perceptions.  By using racial slurs and demeaning terms, one is participating in dehumanization.  In the stages listed in genocide the importance of words acts as the fuel for the horrific result of human rights violations and death.  History has witnessed how words are manipulated and implanted in Nazi propaganda films equating Jews to rats, Rwanda radio broadcasts calling Tutsis cockroaches, and currently Rohingya being labeled kalar as reference to unclean and dark.  Words can be used to fan the flames of hate and intolerance just as they can be used to quench our need for love and hope. 

So think about how your words have the possibly to destroy or build.  Such phrases as "like a gypsy thief, Jewed them down, or that's retarded/gay" do not build a relationship and/or understanding.   They destroy the right to to be seen as a person; a human with a mind, body, and soul.  We must choose our words carefully.  The potential is there in our inner dialogue which leads to outward utterances, preceding our actions, which govern our everyday interactions and has impact whether one wants to realize it or not.
"The tongue has power over life and death; those who indulge it must eat its fruit." 
Proverbs 18:21


1. Psychology today


3. Beyond Intractability

4. Genocide Watch

5. Peace & Collaborative development network

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