—the superiorty of the white male ...
Offensive words are a cumbersome (and sticky) issue in our society.
Not long ago I saw a promo for one of those abominable reality shows, in
which a good-looking young woman (a babe, if you will) looked straight
into the camera and said, "I'm a bitch, I'm gorgeous and I'm fabulous."
I had an immediate flashback, to a time when you had to be very careful about using the word bitch around a woman. And you wouldn't even think about calling her one. Today, they call themselves bitches, like it's all the rage or something.
I can't help but suspect that it is somehow connected with that book that
came out a few years back, which brandished the rather sensational title,
Getting In Touch With Your Inner Bitch.
And - taking it up a notch - I found myself looking over a little item that has been stirring in the back of my mind for years now. It is the fact that all classes of people are offended by specific words, with but one exception: the class of white males.
For the life of me, I cannot think of a single word that offends me as a white male. It is indeed possible to offend me personally, but not as a member of that class.
By contrast, I could meet a black person (one I have never met before) and horrendously insult them by calling them a nigger.
But they could not reciprocate!
There is nothing a black person (excuse me, an African American) could
say to me that I would find insulting in the same way, and to the
same extent, that they would find the word nigger insulting.
In that sense, there is an inequality that yet prevails between us. It is an inequality that seems firmly entrenched within that troublesome phenomenon we call offensive words.
Within the context of that phenomenon, I have a power (it seems) that they do not have. I have the power to insult them.
But they do not have the same power - to insult me. (Remember, I am not
talking about me personally, but simply as a white male.)
And of course I could have the same kind of experience with a woman (of any color). I could meet one (again, one I do not know), call her a whore and greatly offend her.
And in the same manner of the scenario involving the black person, she could not reciprocate. There is nothing she could say to me that would offend me in the same way (and to the degree) that I offended her.
The fact that one class of people may be insulted by a word thrown at them by another, and be completely unable to reciprocate, is a tacit acceptance on the part of the offended class that a certain inequality exists between them.
The class of white males is virtually immune to offensive words.
There is only one conclusion we may draw from this: white males are clearly superior to all other classes (at least in terms of their ability to be unaffected by words), and will remain in that position of superiority until the other classes can create epithets that are just as offensive to white males as are the words that they are offended by.
Lest anyone object to this by arguing that other classes have no interest in creating such words, it is important to emphasize that such disinterest is not the issue. The point is that it is impossible to create them. Whether you want to or not is irrelevant. The class of white males is not offended by words, and cannot be so offended.
But there is yet hope.
The other classes could simply learn (develop the social strength) to be not offended by the words, which is something they should do if they want to be truly equal with the class of white males.
If they want the real deal with us (bona fide equality), there is only one way they are going to have it. They absolutely positively must stop being offended by words, any words, but especially class words.
Essentially, they need to get over themselves.
Women must make it unequivocally clear to men that they do not give a solitary damn what they are called, or how they are spoken to. And they must mean it. Simply mouthing the words will not work.
African Americans must call for a repeal of the prohibition on using the so-called N-word. They must make it absolutely clear that it is okay for anyone to use it, regardless of their color.
In fact, they should probably invite white people (especially males) to call them niggers whenever they feel like it. Otherwise the word is going to continue lingering and festering in the deepest regions of their souls like some sort of bogeyman waiting to pounce on them some day.
As long as you are offended by a word, that word has power over you. You are literally enslaved by it. If you want to be released from this form of slavery, only you can do it.
You will never be released as the result of mere social forces, bearing an aspect of some form of enlightenment, discouraging the use of certain words, lamely describing them as politically incorrect.
No, you will not be released until you say that the words
are no longer offensive. This is a type of slavery from which you must free
yourself. No one can do it for you.
Essentially, what I am trying to say is that class distinctions are only reinforced by certain forms of word usage.
But it is not just the usage. It is the reaction.
The fact that a white male can offend a member of a particular social class with a mere word is an indication of the power of their class ... or, it is an indication of the inferiority of the class that is being offended by the word (inferior because they are so easily duped into being offended).
All classes of people clearly demonstrate that they believe the class of white males is still superior whenever they make it clear that the white males have the power to offend them with words.
And white males will continue to wield that power as long as the members of the other classes allow them, and they allow them by continuing to demonstrate that they are still offended. Talk about a vicious cycle.
July 20, 2004