I don’t use pejoratives of any kind towards any group, but last year when I wrote the series “The Top 10 Things that Black & White People Want to Know about One Another but Won’t Ask” for CainTV , one of the blogs was about the use of the “N word“. I literally talked to thousands of white & black people about how they felt about the pejoratives used towards them (“nigger”/”cracker”) and overwhelmingly, black people were offended by the word “nigger” (some from whites only & some no matter the race – I happen to be in the latter group), while white people were not so offended by “cracker” or “honky”. In fact, less than 10% of the white people I surveyed were offended. Some even laughed at the notion that they should be quite frankly.
Looking back on those threads throughout social media, the emailed responses I received, and recorded responses from people I spoke with, it is amazing how many of the same people who said they weren’t offended a year ago, are suddenly offended & sensitive to it, in the aftermath of Paula Deen drama & in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial. It’s a glaring difference. I’ll never, ever tell anyone what should & should not offend them because that’s for each person to determine for themselves, but the difference of one year is astonishing….and very telling. If black people who are offended by Paula Deen’s use of the N word, yet not offended by intraracial use of it are demonstrating “selective outrage” (as many on the right love to point out & I would agree to an extent), then white people who were not offended by “cracker” a year ago, yet are suddenly offended now, are demonstrating “convenient outrage”. Some want to be offended, so they can feel better about disparaging Rachel Jeantel & her admission that Trayvon Martin used the term “creepy a** cracker” and defend Paula Deen’s use of the word, or give her a pass. What’s the best way to do that that with ease? Suddenly pretend to be offended by a pejorative which some could have cared less about only a year ago. As the 18 year old daughter of a friend so eloquently expressed to me:
“I’m not offended by being called a honky or a cracker because neither of those words have long and bloody histories of disgusting hatred and oppression behind them. Had they been used during some sort of inhumane torture of my people I might get mad. But they weren’t, while most racial slurs against people of color were. A POC using a name against a white person won’t do much to the white person besides hurt their feelings, if that. White people using racial slurs exhibits deep roots of xenophobia and racism, things which will continue to hinder the progression of equality until they are abolished.”
Pejoratives used by persons outside of the acceptable use community are often frowned upon and punished severely in our society. White people can call one another “honky”or “cracker” but blacks can’t do it without the possibility of being offensive. The same is true for the N word when used by non-black persons, “spic” when used by non-Hispanics, “hymie” when used by non-Jewish persons (although I have never heard a Jewish person call another Jew a “hymie”), heterosexual use of the words “fag/faggot” – even women can call one another bitches, but if a man does it there’s hell to pay.
These are just linguistic, social etiquette nuances which we have created and allowed to flourish for so long. The only exceptions I found in my research, was familiarity with the user & that’s almost always with people under the age of 30. It’s not fair, it’s not right, I don’t like it, but to ignore this about the English language & hurl accusations of hypocrisy or “selective outrage” is simply dishonest. The bastard (spoken) English language is one of the most confusing, inconsistent & manipulated languages spoken. Our dictionaries are not the problem, we are.
Just an observation…