So much fuss over words! And yet, what else do we have if we want to communicate? I am constantly amazed by how often people complain when you expect them to either say what they mean or mean what they say. I am accused of nitpicking if I repeat a word someone used when they don’t want to take responsibility for its actual meaning.
In a comment thread about Sarah Palin, I was upset by the misuse of the word nonplussed. But apparently, usage experts are beginning to acccept its use for the OPPOSITE of its definition. Nonplussed does not mean “nonchalant” or “not bothered!” It means the FUCKING OPPOSITE! Negro, please! It’s like when people think they can use the word “literally” to mean “figuratively.” Or “I could care less” when they mean “I couldn’t care less.”
No no no no no no. Words don’t, and never will, mean the opposite of themselves.
So, back to “Negro.” I was just testing you when I used it. Is it offensive? If so, why? Everyone is up in arms over the Harry Reid quote about Obama, characterizing him as a “light-skinned African American….who doesn’t use Negro dialect..” I swear to god, I don’t see the racism. Reid was just explaining why Obama was electable as President. He was an early Obama supporter and to me, it sounds merely factual. To many normal people (i.e. not Republicans) Reid’s language was decidely racist, even if forgivable.
John McWhorter, a linguist and journalist who is black, explains why he doesns’t find Reid’s comment racist. And he is quoted by Andrew Sullivan, who adroitly compares the greater acceptability of light-skinned Blacks to society at large to openly gay men who don’t seem effeminate.
Is it racist to even be aware of race? Do we have to be color-blind in order to escape being accused of racism?
Here’s a disagreement I just had with one of my nephews, who insists that Reid’s language is racist. Years ago, I was mugged on my doorstep by a big Black guy who grabbed my bag, knocked me down, and ran to a waiting car. When recalling the incident that’s exactly how I describe it. Am I racist for noting that the guy was Black? My nephew asked how I’d feel if someone described their mugger as a “big-nosed dirty Jew.” I’m pretty sure I’d laugh, as I am while typing this. Although I guess I’m a little annoyed by the nose reference, which I find size-ist, if not nose-ist.