It's become clear to me that we, as Americans and responsible adults, need to make a choice about the way we communicate and the words we choose to do it in. Because this is beyond NOT FUCKING ACCEPTABLE.
Warning for slurs. Oh, and beating the shit out of an innocent child.
My workplace is part of a program that helps troubled or special needs children gain job experience, learn the pride of a job well done, put some extra money in their pockets...all that. So on any given day, for a few hours we have a bunch of teenagers on the assembly line floor, generally doing the really light stuff, you know, nothing big but it does need to get done and it frees up hands for the heavy labor. While most of the ones we currently have fall under the classification of 'troubled', they're generally decent kids and they do good work and don't cause problems, friendly and polite, etc. Two of them though ARE 'special needs' kids. They both took a day off for the Special Olympics just a little while ago and came in the next day with a bunch of medals and big grins, everyone cheered for them, it was great. One of the kids is new, and I think it was a good introduction to the 'community' day shift's got going.
Other relevant fact about my workplace: more than half, maybe about 60-70% black, I'd guess, give or take. I don't usually pay attention and judging based on today wouldn't be fair, because like fourteen people were absent and I'm not sure who they were (based on today, figure would be higher). This is not an issue really, as that's pretty much how the population block falls around here, except apparently that means we have to hear the word 'nigger' tossed around. A lot. I mean A LOT. Up one end of the floor and down the other it's people calling 'hey nigger' this and 'what's up nigger' that. And generally that's not an issue either, since none of it is hostile and it's all just people BSing around with their friends and I'm not allowed to complain anyway because I'm caucasian, so to hell with it.
Except the new Spec Ed kid--who honestly is about six in his brain from what I understand--apparently is not familiar with this word. So after several hours of hearing it tossed around as a friendly, casual greeting and punctuation, he cheerfully uses it to address one of his school friends, who is also black.
New Spec Ed kid is white.
ENTIRE END OF THE ASSEMBLY FLOOR EXPLODES.
I do not know all the details. What I do know is that there was a lot of screaming, a lot of hate/race yowling, an ambulance was called, as were the police, the floor was cleared, and that boy left the plant on a stretcher. Three grown men were removed by the police. Grown men. One teen. A kid. No idea what he'd done.
Look, I understand that racism is an issue. And I understand that tensions are high in America right now on this topic. But we as adults need to decide if words like 'bitch' and 'cunt' and 'faggot' and yes 'nigger' are acceptable parts of our everyday lexicon, or not. And it isn't acceptable either to say we're simply 'claiming' a word; that it's okay for women to use 'bitch' or 'cunt' and people of color to use 'nigger' and LGBT to use 'fag' or...whatever crass slang is floating around Alphabet Soup these days. Not if we want to push for equality: these things need to be either equally acceptable, or equally unacceptable, regardless of who says them. Because we cannot have it both ways. We cannot use words like this as a casual greeting to each other in public social situations and then turn on children in violence and outrage when they emulate us, just because they are not part of that cloister.
No. No this is not okay. It frightens and appalls me that not one but three supposedly reasonable adults were turned into...into THIS, just brute howling thugs beating up a defenseless, clueless kid, because of a WORD. A word they'd been using all morning, casually, easily, like nothing.
How in the hell have we gotten to a point that this is how we use our language. How in the hell have we gotten to this point as a society.
I keep wanting to add to this or change it or something. I cannot articulate...anything. Just, God. What.