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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Stop the Word to End the Word

I've always loved the TV show Glee, which contains characters from every walk of life and shows that diversity is a good thing. I was pleasantly surprised when the show first introduced Becky (portrayed by Lauren Potter), a girl with Down Syndrome. I was even happier when I saw the "Not Acceptable" PSA starring Potter and Jane Lynch, which says that the word retarded (from hereon out the r word), among other ethnic slurs, is unacceptable. (Seriously, watch the video below. I mean it.)

I've posted about the r word in the past (here and here), and even changed my stance on the word because of a Bleep! member (here). I wholeheartedly believe in everything stated in the above PSA, and I hope that everyone who watches it at least tries to make an effort to stop using the r word.

The organization who released the PSA is called R-Word, and its motto is "spread the word to end the word." I took the pledge, which states, "I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities." I hope you all do it, too! The Bleep! Twitter now follows the R-Word, and the Bleep! YouTube channel subscribes to the R-Word's channel, too. I urge you all to do the same with your personal accounts.


  1. Part I:

    Talia, this video is a classic of political correctness:

    1) First of all, CONTRARY to what all these actors are saying, all these ethnic terms are often COMPLETELY acceptable when ethnic group members use them on themselves. It happens all the time and is in fact sometimes a normal and enjoyable method of greeting.

    In addition, Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino, in the 'barbershop scene', shows the way that people who actually live in 'multi-ethnic neighborhoods' talk to each once they get to know each other: they freely use ethnically specific swearwords as a way of BONDING with, not alienating, others. (This is the way the real world works and a much healthier way of talking that the ultrasensitive, politically correct attitude of modern liberals and hardcore feminists, who are constantly looking for ways to take offense as a way of gaining a psychological advantage. Think, for example, how often the word 'racist' is thrown around now just if someone disagrees with a liberal about something racial, for example affirmative action-it is assumed, if one opposes affirmative action, one must be racist: how could any thinking person believe otherwise? The word is thus used as a way of foreclosing discussion and intimidating rhetorical opponents into accepting one's politically correct notions of race.)

    2) Secondly, since the use of these words is SOMETIMES pejorative, and since SOMETIMES members of these (as any) ethnic groups are not good people, its use is therefore justified on these specific individuals. For example, if a black man has raped my mother, and I confront him, is the n-word the proper designation for him? Oh yes, utterly so, since he would be the lowest form of life there is, and therefore (while also black) fully deserving of this denigration.

  2. Part II:

    3) Thirdly, there is a false underlying assumption here, and that is that words have the power to hurt. But this is not necessarily true. Words only have the power to hurt if a) we agree with them, b) value the other person's opinion, or c) the person saying the word has the power/ability to physically coerce or injure us, and thus can add physical insult or its threat to their intended verbal injury.

    The Stanford linguist John McWhorter (whose books incidentally are a good start point in curing political correctness) relates a story in Authentically Black where he had a verbal fight/argument with a person living on the same floor as he in an apartment building, and, at the end of the argument, when the person called him the n-word under his breath, he was merely amused, because he realized that the person was trying to salvage his pseudo-self-esteem and that its use was thus an expression of impotence. In this case, all of my three above conditions were satisfied, and thus John wasn't hurt at all by the word. To the contrary, he thought less of the person who used it, and thus this person only hurt himself. The sociologist Zora Neale Huston expressed something similar, saying: " Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me."

    4) With regarded to 'retarded': to banish the use of the word among people who aren't retarded, and when no one retarded is present, would rob English of a powerful word of abuse and denigration. (And this incidentally is the effect of political correctness and censorship on language: to strip language of its power, color, and precision.)

    In conclusion, because words have the power to hurt only if we let them, attempting to make retarded people feel better by banishing the word attacks the problem *** ********--excuse me, from the wrong direction. To the contrary, if we want to make retarded people feel better, we need to help them become the most competent and emotionally secure persons that they can be, and not to worry about what other people think and say. (And, as per the example of Gran Torino, we need to teach them how to respond in like manner to people who would put them down in this way.) This in effect will be the best psychological inoculation to the word (used improperly) conceivable. Thus, unfortunately, this PSA actually is COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE to the self-esteem of retarded individuals because it focuses on the wrong solution and implicitly pretends that words create reality. They don't.

  3. 1) I disagree that these terms are ever acceptable, even within their own communities. I'm Jewish and would never dream of calling a fellow Jew a kike, and if a Jew called me a kike I would be offended and disgusted.

    2) Just because someone deserves to be called something, and is indeed that word, doesn't mean it should be used. But frankly, if God forbid anyone rapes somebody's mother, I give the child permission to use whatever words he or she wants to on the perpetrator.

    3) Valid points and excellent analysis. I would probably feel the same as McWhorter if I was ever called a kike in that sort of situation. But I would still be offended that the person calling me a kike was using such a hideously disgusting word.

    4) I believe that everyone, regardless of mental ability, should be taught that the word "retarded" is highly offensive to those with developmental disabilities and reflects negatively on the speaker. It shouldn't hurt someone with developmental disabilities' feelings any more than it should hurt a black person who's called the n word.