Thanks to paper grading, I don’t have the time to do a proper essay. So, I’ll do a quick ramble. Yesterday I was talking to a friend about the latest addition to the Gates incident-the cop’s racial slur.
My friend made an interesting point. He noted that when people want to insult someone, they tend to go for obvious, visble qualities. Race is, obviously enough, one of those qualities. He also made the point that a person who makes a racist remark would seem to be (with some notable exceptions) acting the same way that people do when they launch an attack based on appearance.
For example, like most blonds I have had to deal with stupid blond jokes (trust me, having a PhD does not grant immunity). When I was a kid, I was skinny and people would attack me by comparing me to a beanpole. While these do not compare to vile expressions of hate, these examples do support my friend’s claim: people are often full of dislikes and they express these most often by going after some obvious physical feature.
In the case of race, people have all sorts of established stereotypes to use in their attacks. So, if they dislike a person, they might simply use a racial slur. It is easy and will get a response. But, does this make the person a racist? That is, of course a good question. When someone makes a stupid blond joke to try to annoy me, are they a hairist? Or are they just expressing their jerkness using a tool they hope will work? Or perhaps they don’t even reflect on it-they simply put words on their dislike and spew them out.
My friend also made another good point. While he does not condone racial slurs, he thinks that people should have freedom of thought and expression. He noted that saying mean things about someone should not be labeled as racism, they should be seen as being mean and perhaps as an ass. As for racism, he thought that the term should be used for more than just saying mean stuff. It should apply to things such as discrimation, genocide, and so forth.
So, what should we call folks who throw around racial slurs? “Asshole”, perhaps?