Saturday, September 09, 2006

The N word guardians and the taboo of silence

Whenever this comes up, I am immediately reminded of the power of appropriating language. I refer to the by-now old strategy that Daly et al used in the quest to remove the knee jerk reaction to terms like "dyke," "bull dyke" "bull dagger" etc., to refer to lesbians.

Daly recognized that as long as a word was allowed to retain its pejorative power, then it would be used pejoratively.

Linguist and language lovers know inherently that a word can lose its power to harm and that the fastest way to defuse hot button terms was by public use.

was celebrated in the 70s & 80s by lesbians just as queer became the appropriated and acceptable label in the 90s. Kinky and perv are once taboo terms now undergoing the same transformative shift in meaning. How? Through public usage and comfortable adoption. People say the word "queer" or "kinky" outloud in conversation, during a dinner party, on listservs, and they aren't ostracized, they are not struck by lightning and the traditional family structure does not deconstruct. They say the words and they continue talking. There is communication.

It's time that the term "nigger" underwent the same public outing, experienced the same disempowerment.

But as long as a white people act as guardians of the word and the nonwhite people who are its objects, the word nigger will retain its power to shock. This is an effect of censorship. The word-guardians continually inject the N word with taboo status. The nature of taboo is silence, shame, fear.

Let it go. Remove the taboo that is so reverentlly guarded and perhaps we'll have some real discussion instead of weighing in on whose political correctness is "right." Besides, there's something sickening about this white person's guardianship. It harkens to verandah etiquette: "Don't stare at the nigra, darling. It's not polite!"

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