Friday, October 12

race bait

The Collegian editorial board either desperately needs a logic mentor or they’ve really been “chilled.”

The board recently refused to print the N-, W-, and C-words (nigger, wetback and chink, respectively), which irks me on a few levels, though I’m mostly concerned about the students’ understanding of race and ethnicity. In this case (as opposed to the tenuous “FUCK BUSH” statement) the context — a stage performance based on race issues — was clear and present, and apparently dangerous if readers are to buy the board’s arguments.

But they shouldn’t, at least not if they believe in developing any kind of constructive discourse around race issues, which is clearly what these performers intend by touring their show across college campuses.

Further muddying the editors' decision is a review of the performance from the same Wednesday edition of the paper. Here, the condescending asterisk is employed to replace “i” in “nigger,” “e” in “wetback,” and “i” in “chink.” Read those words, asterisks included, aloud. Any literate English speaker will pronounce the words fully. So what we have here—and what too many fearful, mostly Anglo reporters and editors continue to promote—is an inherent mistrust of the readership. The message is, “You can’t handle this, reader, so we’re going to protect you from it.”


People of all races have constructively used the words nigger, wetback and chink, yanking them from the mouths of those who intend to use them for harm. That’s smart.

What very often happens is the further co-opting of such “slurs” by the free market, where they are exploited for whatever commercial purposes consumers are willing to deal in. From here, the language is traded and sold, often without context or toward meaningful ends. Paradoxically, commercializing the language also provides an opportunity to diversify its usage for educational means and to remind us that words are only weapons if we use them injuriously. (Imagine Higher Learning without the so-called slurs, or replacing every "nigger" reference with "N-word"?)

The expression of the word is wherein the harm lies. And that is how many words — many printed by the same “wetback”-censoring editors — can be just as, if not more, harmful. Said with hate-filled intent, the words “black,” “illegal” and “Jew” can be just as hurtful. “Fat,” “ugly” and “gay” are often used to discriminate and oppress. Should the FCC add them to its list of dirty words?

This is the exact sort of “chilling” that the Academic Freedom fighters would like to see. On their bets, the odds favor affirmative-action bake sales and bigot-bating conferences as a more acceptable discourse than empowered language with meaningful history. It’s exactly the kind of distraction that invites institutionalized racism and deems it “civil.”

These words will not die because newspaper editors refuse to publish them. Language expires only when it is no longer relevant or effective. So censor the N-word and diminish the victories of civil-rights movements. Defend the bake sale and feed generations of latent, debilitating discrimination.

This is the legacy of David Horowitz, the apparently well-masked face of twenty-first-century racism.

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