Friday, April 6, 2007

Niggers and Faggots

Go to this site and click on the last link at the bottom, which should be the file about Boston nightlife and "Is the F-word as bad as the N-word?" Fast forward to about 45 minutes into the show. Before I even clicked on the file to listen to what these guys had to say, I knew exactly what their viewpoint was going to be. First of all, when you're dealing with gay spaces, you can almost always bet they are going to be white spaces before you even enter unless it indicates otherwise that it's for "people of color" or otherwise indicates I knew this was going to be white people. Second, white gays almost always, without fail, express, what I feel are, silly, naive and/or incorrect ideas whenever they speak about race.

These guys were no exception, but what bothers me is the way they talk about "nigger" vs "faggot." You can tell one guy was trying to be more controlled, but one was just a more typical white male about it. There was absolutely no need for him to say things like "What's up, nigger!" or "Quit playing the victim mentality." Those comments, as well as others (such as talking about how blacks call each other "nigger" and don't get offended or how blacks are saying they are better than everyone else), just indicate his own racism, ignorance and anger. Furthermore, the main host couldn't even be bothered to remember the person's name who made the comments on Paula Zahn's show about his viewpoint that "nigger" is worse than "faggot" (nevermind the fact that he can barely even say "homosexual"). And yet these guys have the nerve to say "It's all about respect." I didn't hear any respect in this program for blacks, what blacks experience in life and what blacks have experienced at the hands of their white ancestors. In fact, all I heard was dismissal of blacks.

Most white gays whom I've heard express their opinion about "nigger" vs "faggot" say they find "faggot" as offensive as "nigger." That's fine. I don't agree with that, but you're entitled to your opinion and are free to express that opinion. As I've mentioned on my blog, I, personally, don't usually find either offensive just for the simple fact that I have been desensitized to prejudice and anticipate that people will say these words just as surely as I anticipate receiving my law degree in about a year. But I understand that/why a lot of people find one or both offensive.

My personal viewpoint is also that many whites, gay and straight, don't actually find "nigger" offensive (just as Ann Coulter allegedly doesn't find "faggot" offensive). I understand this, as well, as they are not the objects of the hatred associated with that word (and just because you experience something parallel doesn't mean you understand...this has become painfully clear to me). Therefore, I can understand white gays finding "faggot" as equally as or more offensive than "nigger." After all, they have no way of knowing just how or exactly why "nigger" is offensive to a group of people whom the term is most meant to hurt, regardless of the fact that they experience something similar with "faggot," other than what they're told or what they can imagine...that is, if they even bother. And, yet, this is one of the reasons why I think they have no business arguing that "faggot" is as offensive as or more offensive than "nigger." They have no way of knowing if it is. Plus, different strokes for different folks. There are some black gays who would say "nigger" and "faggot" are equal while some would not.

The way that they argued their position was a problem, to me. It demonstrated that they weren't willing at all to try and see why some people find "nigger" more offensive, and, to me, their tone was one that says the idea that "nigger" is more offensive is totally ridiculous. Well, actually, some of their comments were totally ridiculous. First of all, the idea that blacks call each other "nigger" and find no problem with this is absolutely incorrect. Yes, there are black people who call each other "nigger." Yes, that word is used in way too many urban songs. That does not mean that all black people use it or refer to other blacks that way, nor does it mean that there aren't a significant number of black people who hate that word no matter how it's used or whom it's used by.

Furthermore, I have heard or read other lesbians, for example, refer to themselves and other lesbians as "dykes." I cringe at that, but they do it. Yet, who is going to argue that this is representative of how all lesbians feel about the word "dyke," "lesbians call themselves that, so it lessens the viciousness of the term when it is said by outsiders" and so forth? Gays can and do take terms used with a negative connotation by others, turn them into something that is acceptable to them and utilize those terms...but if anyone else says those terms, gays will react similarly to black people when "nigger" is said by outsiders.

I don't know where these guys have been, or maybe this is just a sign of how little they truly know about blacks--which, again, is why they should probably keep their mouths shut--but there are so many anti-N-word movements and websites popping up, mainly--if not completely--propelled by blacks. The "nigger" debate has been huge and ongoing among blacks. And, personally, I know more black people than not who never say that word and are against that word. The one thing I would absolutely say for myself about these slurs is I do not want any black or gay person calling me "nigger" or "dyke," respectively, I don't care what the context or meaning is. They run the same, perhaps even higher, risk of getting their teeth knocked out as a white or straight person does with me, just depending on my mood.

Second, why would you compare the Chinese or any other experience to the black experience? Regardless of whether or not some think "chink" is as bad as "nigger," the fact remains that blacks were the ones who came here against their own volition and built a country (yes, they did) of which they weren't even considered citizens. There is no other slur with a historical context like the one associated with "nigger." I think every injustice perpetrated against every group that experienced an injustice is sick, but slavery went on, just looking at America alone, for over two centuries. Yet, you can find every single one of those injustices discussed with more compassion and sympathy in America than black slavery inspires.

Blacks saying these things does not mean black people think they are better than everyone else. The only group in America that has a general supremacy problem is whites, and this includes a lot of white gays. Every other group of people in America suffers some amount of self-hatred, thanks in large part to whites. A significant portion of blacks, Asians, Latinos and even some of the misguided people living in other countries think white Americans are better than everyone else nearly as much as white Americans do.

Finally, this stuff about the victim mentality. White gays, let me ask you--what if straight people told you when you talk about gay slurs and gay civil rights such as marriage and serving in the military openly to stop playing the victim? How do you think you would like that? I imagine you'd be outraged and wonder how these people can't see the gross lack of inequality suffered by gay people today. Why is it that some of you assume that black people only complain about inequality rooted in the past? Sure, "nigger" has a historical meaning and story, but that doesn't mean it is not associated with racial injustices that happen today (such as police brutality and other racial hate crimes, neighborhood steering, negative reactions to interracial dating, and so on) and doesn't cause similar pain today as it did in the past. Blacks are the longest-oppressed group in America and continue to be oppressed today, yet we're supposed to be quiet about it or have absolutely no reason rooted in logic to think that "nigger" is worse than "faggot"?

No one needs to wallow in a victim mentality, but that is not to say that no one who is a victim in some ways can never point out the ways in which he/she is victimized, which is basically what whites imply should be done when they tell blacks to stop playing the victim...when one is simply stating an opinion about slurs. Yeah, "free speech" back at ya.

To end, I want to mention that I know there are many whites, Asians, Latinos and others who would say they are offended by "nigger." Even if they can be offended by that word, I just don't think they can know what the experience is like for many blacks, especially since not all blacks agree on how they experience that word or whether it should even be used in the English language.

I only know my experiences when it comes to hearing people use slurs against groups to which I don't belong. I have told my father to shut up whenever he has said something offensive about Asians or Latinos, especially if there are children around, but I know that I have never felt angry, afraid, paralyzed, enraged, hurt or like I wanted to kick someone's ass whenever I've heard a slur used against Asians or Latinos. I don't really feel any of those emotions when it comes to gay slurs, even though I might feel irritated sometimes and gay beatings do tend to anger me.

But I do get angry often when people dismiss or say ignorant things about blacks, especially when white gays do it and especially when they are white gay males. Forget being gay--being white and male gives them entirely too much privilege in this country, and so when they say things like this it just sets me off. I wanted to punch these guys while I sat here for a long time physically biting my tongue as I do when I'm completely pissed. And I know that many blacks do feel one or more of the aforementioned emotions when they hear the word "nigger" from non-blacks, particularly wanting to kick someone's ass.

Maybe I'm alone in not reacting the same to all slurs, but I really don't think I am. Every time a white person publicly uses a racial slur, I see some whites defend that person just like every time someone publicly uses a gay slur, I see someone defend that person. A lot of white gays would tell you no one ever defends racial slurs and people always accept gay slurs just as a lot of racial minorities would tell you no one ever defends gay slurs and people always accept racial slurs against their group of people. I'm sorry, but the lack of touch with reality on everyone's part is ludicrous. Even if we don't all agree that all slurs are equally offensive, we need to validate others or at least admit that we don't know what the hell we're talking about when we speak about certain things because we don't care about certain groups of people enough to know or learn anything about their included.