The Slur Olympics

Nadia Shahab Diaz ’21, Opinion Writer 

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My friend – who, for contextual purposes, is a white, gay, woman – and I were listening to Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” as she drove; after it ended, she said, “It’s funny, because he says the n-word in that song, which is fine, since he’s black. But he also says f****t and b***h, and no one says anything about that, even though those words aren’t his, they’re supposed to belong to me.” She’d also faced an acquaintance – a straight black man – who was casually using the word “f****t” in conversation, and she told him, “You can’t say that, or else I can say the n-word.” And he laughed at her and responded, “No, you can’t!” Of course, she didn’t.  But that is because she is someone with a sense of respect and empathy, someone aware of how that slur can hold demeaning and insulting connotations. It’s a shame that that person couldn’t offer her the same respect.Since I came to Dickinson, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with the underlying game of Oppression Olympics that I’ve seen on this campus. I’ve seen a considerable disparity between the strong social emphasis on problems of race and attention to other minority groups. I’m not implying that race is not an important issue that shouldn’t be discussed; but there is a clear gap between this campus’ political correctness when it comes to talking about race, and an almost blatant disregard for how we talk about other groups.Youtuber iDubbzTV briefly discussed his thoughts on how the n-word is held on a pedestal in his video “Content Cop – Tana Mongeau.” “We are very f***ing stupid to hold the [n-word] at this colossally high standard whereas every other slur, that can used in a comedic sense or an editorial sense, but not [the n-word] because that one has history. Well, guess what… all the other ones have history, too. Z*pperhead?… Asian people didn’t get their heads run over in World War II, they weren’t thrown into internment camps, he said sarcastically. “Either all of them are okay, or none of them are okay. But if you try to come online and try to tell me that I can’t say a particular word, but you say words that are just as offensive…” Personally, I’d prefer to go for the latter option in which none of the slurs are okay to say. But I find it ridiculous to rank them, to say that one is more important than another, to decide which word carries enough history to have enormous weight surrounding it versus which others can be used by anyone, in music, in comedy, etc. It’s okay for a group to want to reclaim a word in order to take away from it the power that was once used against them, but do not demand that sort of expectation from someone else if you are not willing to make the effort for a different word, or if you think that your experience and identity holds more value than a different one. As someone who falls into multiple minority groups, I believe in the value of intersectionality, and it is impossible to rank different identities; the experiences are so different that one cannot be justly compared to another. In her book “Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions,” Susan Shaw discusses the significance of intersectionality. “It is important to emphasize that people experience race, class, gender, and sexual identity differently depending on their social location in various structures of inequality and privilege,” wrote Shaw. To clarify, I’m not advocating that anyone should be able to use the n-word as freely as they do the word s***. Or that the n-word compares to that kind of everyday swear words. But it is unjust and unreasonable to place such an expectation on one word if it is not also going to be applied to other slurs with history and discrimination behind them; frankly, it’s hypocritical. And if you fall into one or more minority groups on this campus and genuinely believe in the philosophy behind intersectionality, please either: do not sign up for, or withdraw from, the Oppression Olympics.   

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