In the scope of a week in my world:
1. Paula Deen gets fired for saying the N word 27 years ago.
2. I scan over an article, deem it worthy of sharing on FB, then as I am reading it out loud, I realize it is over the top in language and I plunge towards my computer to delete the message. Too late in those few minutes a bunch of people have read it and I am mortified. I apologize for it, but too late I’ve already been judged it for and it’s fair, and I accept the blame.
3. I see a picture of one of the church guys on FB. He’s dressed in a tux and sunglasses and someone has responded about the pimp in the picture. Never mind that he is a husband and a father of daughters. The same daughters that pimps would try to exploit if they had the chance.
We all make stupid mistakes.
In the case of Paula Deen I guess my question is has she changed? Is she sorry she got caught or is she more evolved? I will never know, I don’t run in her circles. I would want my sorry to mean something though.
I have never said the N word. I wasn’t brought up in her neck of the woods. In my vicinity it’s more about the spics, the wetbacks, and the coconuts. I’ve never said those words either but I’ve felt their sting before. More lately the words seem to be sexually powered rather than racially motivated. Pimp, ho, gangsta, biatch (which always catches my attention because of the spelling). I’ve also taken note of the people who say them. They tend to be ignorant.
“So what are ya?”, I was asked while in Texas. Ok, I tend to be more than a little sarcastic, so I replied, “a woman, what do you mean what am I?” “I know that! I mean where ya from?” “California, third generation. I’m American. Do you want to know if I’m a Latina? Yes I am.” “I know that! What kind?” As if it would matter, “Mexican.” And there it is, the little sneer that tells me that you think I’m less than you and where I wish Alex Trebek would show up on cue and show you I am not any more or less a person, but I more than likely have you beat in my world. I get the fervor over Paula Deen’s comment. It stings.
I also see life from her perspective. She was brought up in a place and time where there was an us and a them. I’m from the next generation and don’t feel that way. I was born in a time after desegregation and so my friends were everyone. Our generation, those who weren’t ignorant, didn’t go around calling each other stereotypical names. It was too fresh and too raw. We knew better. That’s where my generation parts ways with the generation that comes after us. To call someone the N word, a pimp, a ho, gangsta, etc… is met with distain and offense on my part because I know what those words mean and I don’t think by making them seem cool changes the meaning of the word. The generation after me glorifies sexualization and money no matter who you have to enslave to get there. Suddenly being a pimp and selling women to get money seems like a cool way to make a living. Until it’s your daughter.
Words. They are powerful, they mark territory, people, and more importantly show who we are. Use them carefully. Weigh them out. Would you be okay if someone called you a profiling name and then said, “oh just kidding”? Let’s be smarter. I promise to be.