I know that this is a subject that has been written about ad infinitum, but I would love to put my two cents in about it. In light of (slightly) recent events surrounding one Richie Incognito and one Matt Barnes and a certain word-that-shall-not-be-named, I’d love to just put a slightly different spin on the issue. My personal stance on this issue comes from long debates with my mother. She is old-school. Well intentioned, but slightly ignorant. She genuinely does not understand why people are allowed to say words and phrases that she cannot. This doesn’t make me think that she is an evil person, but the way I view this issue means that she is entirely wrong. Keep in mind, I admit I may well be wrong, and be well out of my rights with my opinion, as I am willing to admit that the world as I know it comes from my own personal lens, and my view of the world is just a part of it, not the whole.
Onto the nitty gritty. The instances in question were these two quotes:
The way in which I understand the world has led me to believe that Matt Barnes is fully justified in using this word, and Richie Incognito is not. Matt Barnes is even right when he states that it is “no longer a racial slur”, in a way. The way I understand it, this word has been re-appropriated by a sub-culture within America. This sub-culture has long been oppressed by the dominant mainstream American culture, and has found this word that was a constant reminder of that oppression a new home as a symbol of resistance and empowerment. As someone who looks white, and acts white, I’ve been able to blend with this dominant culture, and have not had to experience the levels of racism that someone of color would typically have to experience in this country. That being said, I can never understand what it is like to be an oppressed person or an individual of color living in the United States. As such, I feel that I am an individual who is automatically disallowed from using these tools of resistance in passing conversation, or as anything other than a symbol of solidarity and alliance. That’s wherein the issue lies. Matt Barnes is correct in stating that it is no longer a racial slur, it isn’t, it’s a word that’s become a symbol of resistance to an oppressive culture. White people aren’t disallowed (in my opinion) from saying it because it’s a racial slur; they can’t say it because it is a word that serves as a constant daily reminder of their ancestors abuse of a biased and flawed system that exploited individuals based on their skin color. I would never use it, and am appalled by white people that do use it, because to me it’s putting us back in that place of oppression, turning us into the oppressors again. I don’t want to wish my views, or force them, upon anyone. I simply want people to look at this extremely complex issue from a potentially fresh perspective.