A fairly recent show from Advise Show Media:
That was pretty bold of that lady, but I won’t pretend to be surprised. Guess I grew up around that sort of thing long enough to where it no longer shocks me much, especially when down South. People are very opinionated and vocal down that way, and they will hurt your feelings sometimes, which is one reason why I chose to move away. Too sensitive to be hearing all those putdowns so often, particularly when coming from complete strangers who just feel the need to walk up and tell you something.
For example, when I was a teenager and at the time residing in my hometown in Mississippi, a bunch of us were hanging out downtown in a parking lot as was our custom. Anyway, some guy I never saw before or since walked right up to me and in front of everybody present announced that he wouldn’t date me because I’m “not all-white.” To which I responded that I wouldn’t date him anyhow. He was just some scrawny, country white guy who looked a few years older than myself — no prize, I tell ya that. But he felt the need to walk up and loudly assert that to whoever happened to hear him. No clue why. That’s just how they can be down there sometimes. It’s rude and can really be taken too far, and I wish my fellow Southerners would really stop and think about what they’re doing when they treat people that way, especially considering how many of them claim to be Christians. Ain’t nothing Christ-like about discriminating against people for no good reason.
But as for the word “nigger,” I grew up hearing it a bunch. My Papa used that word daily, as did most grown men I was exposed to and plenty of grown women too for that matter (though not my Grandma — she doesn’t like that word). And I also listened to the black folks refer to white people with racist pejoratives as well, like “cracker” and “honky” and whatnot. Both sides like to run their mouths, though admittedly I heard more racist slang from white folks, perhaps because I was surrounded by white folks more often. And I remember back when I was a young teen and was returned down there to live after having been moved up to the Midwest where such talk was closeted, and it really got to me and made me ashamed for several years there for how my people talked to one another. Made me uncomfortable about being a Southerner, that is until I learned how many Midwesterners harbored racist attitudes as well but just didn’t vocalize them except in private. Now I know it’s an American issue, not only a Southern problem.
Honestly, I don’t get too riled up about racist pejoratives except when they’re slung around intending to be offensive and hostile. People are gonna say what they’re gonna say, and lots of us enjoy employing colorful language in expressing ourselves. And, as I said before, both blacks and whites like to talk shit about one another, so it goes both ways. Doesn’t bother me much anymore except when people are really aiming to harass and belittle one another, then it’s a problem. Though I imagine it can prove hurtful to people to overhear that sort of thing anytime, even when not meant toward them specifically or accompanied with a threat. I get that, but it’s kinda like trolling…people love to get a reaction out of one another. Probably because people feel so powerless that they resort to slinging words around since that at least has some sort of impact. But it targets people in no better or worse position than you’re in, as Mr. Advise pointed out, and it does nothing to solve or heal the problems between groups of people.
But still, I do feel some sort of need to defend the South a bit here since just last week I was sitting in a friend’s home and listening to him rattle on about “niggers,” this being up here in the Midwest where he was born and raised. And he barely even comes into contact with black folks, and when he does he tends to be very nice toward them despite his prejudice. I see that kind of thing all the time. Seems pretty two-faced, and I personally might rather someone tell me the truth about what they think of me instead of pretending to like me when they don’t, but that’s the frustrating thing about people. We all have our prejudices and discriminate in whatever ways, but it’s a question of whether we can be honest about why we hold the beliefs that we do.
For many years I felt prejudiced against the German-Americans who heavily populate the Midwest, and I’d tell them so, and they’d think I was crazy since they’re not used to being called out like that. But it came down to a cultural divide between us and differences in how we’re socialized that made me uncomfortable living surrounded by them and subjected to their expectations. That’s just one example of a prejudice I harbor(ed). We’re not all the same and don’t wish to live according to some identical script, and race and ethnicity can play a part in how we identify and behave, and that’s just to be expected. I don’t hold it against us that we don’t all appreciate one another fully, but it’d be nice if we could at least acknowledge the humanity in one another regardless of race or class or sex or whatever else. Because like Mr. Advise said there, if your life came down to depending on someone who belongs to a group you’re prejudiced against, and they help you, that very well might change your heart, or at least we hope it will. Might not want to date them and might never fully understand where one another is coming from, and so be it, but we can at least try and be civil and call out problematic behaviors rather than stereotype an entire group of people and then talk down at them accordingly. That doesn’t help matters much. But then again, neither does pretending to people’s faces and then talking them down behind their backs.
It just is what it is, I guess. People do love to lash out where they think they can get away with it. If we felt truly productive and powerful in our own right, we probably wouldn’t aim to cut one another down so often, because that’s a strategy of weak people who think bringing somebody else down will somehow elevate them comparatively. All this competition has us so clouded to where we can’t accurately see one another for who we are, preferring instead to see folks as belonging to this category or that one. Kinda sad.
But then again, I wouldn’t wish for us to be censored to where we can’t speak our truth to one another, even if it may involve colorful language to vent frustrations. Guess it’s a matter of whether the aim is to open up constructive dialogue or to simply dismiss one another out-of-hand.
Words can hurt, it is true. They do contain power.