(This was originally titled "Of Niggers&Nazis". And while I am not prone to self-censorship, I decided to go with a less provocative title, because given the irrational stupidity of the vast majority of the human race, I knew I'd get tons of hate mail from people who never bothered reading the article. I prefer to be hated for what I actually say, not for what people assume I'm going to say. Further, the simple fact is I do find racist terms personally offensive -- I daresay I use more racist terms in this one essay than I have in my past 8 years of being a writer on the net. Feel free to use Deja News if you don't believe me. Racism==collectivism, and I despise collectivism.)
"If the word is not there, you can't use it."
So said Kathryn Williams, curator of the Museum of Afrikan(sic) American History in Flint, Mich, as regards the word even Archie Bunker was loathe to use -- "nigger". The "there" in question refers to the Merriam Webster Dictionary. Ms. Williams is campaigning to have them remove the word, along with others she doesn't like, on the grounds that, presumably, racists learn derogatory and insulting terms from thumbing through Websters.
The NAACP is not yet pressing for removal of the word, merely rewriting the definition to suit their tastes. If MW fails to comply, the NAACP has threatened to begin an 'investigation' of the employees, owners, shareholders, etc, of Merriam Webster, "to determine if a culture within the company has made it difficult for them to recognize why this definition is unacceptable to millions of Americans."
Now, from all this, you might assume the definition in MW is something like
"Nigger: A jigaboo. See coon, sambo, spade."
But it isn't. The definition, in fact, is:
"a black person - usually taken to be offensive". This is followed by several other usages, and then by a long paragraph noting, correctly, that the word is one of the most offensive in the English language. In other words, the definition is accurate. Precisely how the NAACP wants the definition rewritten has not been stated.
But let's go back to Ms. Williams, who is responsible for educating young minds about history. She believes that if we remove 'nigger' (and spic and wop and kike and honky and gringo and wetback and every other word that gets giggles on the schoolyard and fisticuffs in the barroom) that we will remove racism. That if you can remove a word, you will remove the concept.
What Ms. Williams forgets, of course, is that you must have a concept before you can attach a word to it. Words mean things, they don't create things. If you change the word without changing the concept, the new word simply becomes attached to the old concept. Thus, "stupid" becomes "retarded" becomes "different" becomes "special" -- and the same concept is simply given a new label. Replace "retarded" with "special" and the result is only that schoolchildren call their slower classmates "special" instead of "retarded" -- the condescension and bigotry remains, no matter the word. Hell, the term "politically correct" has now been replaced by "socially aware" -- but the meaning has not changed. PC thugs become SA thugs, but thugs they are none the less.
So what does this have to do with Nazis? Simple. As goeth the NAACP here, so goeth the government of Germany and much of the rest of Europe. They believe that they can eliminate the social and cultural factors which gave rise to fascism by eliminating the word. Ban the word "Nazi" -- and their flags, symbols, colors, etc -- they think, and you end the threat of a resurgent collectivist/nationalist movement. They are fools.
A symbol is not an idea, and a word is just a symbol. The swastika didn't create Nazis -- it has existed for millennia. Ban the swastika, and they will find some other symbol. Ban the word 'Nazi', and they will call themselves patriots or race-supremacists or nationalists.
Words, books, movies, television, indeed, all art, is a REFLECTION of a culture -- not the source of it. Feminist anti-porn activists believe porn causes sexist attitudes -- when, in fact, all porn does is reflect the attitudes, sexist or otherwise, of those who consume it and the society which created it. No word, symbol, or image can come into concrete form until it is first conceived within a human mind.
If you wish to eliminate 'nigger' from the dictionary, eliminate racism from the soul of mankind. Words do not shape us -- we shape them. Words are merely our thoughts given voice, our consciousness turned into squiggles in clay or ripples in the wind. To change the words -- change the thoughts. End all forms of collectivism -- all forms of grouping people into convenient collectives to be oppressed, enslaved, outcast, or exterminated without consideration for the actual living human beings who compose those collectives -- and you eliminate the concepts which offensive words serve to label. But until you do that, attacking the words themselves is pointless, futile, and just plain dumb. Back To Main Page