It doesn’t matter why you use a derogatory word. It’s just not acceptable. Ever. But they keep flying out of people’s mouths.
This week we had two Canadian examples of the way we often carelessly throw hurtful words around.
One was homophobic, and one was racist.
Both words are derogatory and are slurs – and it doesn’t matter why you use them, it’s not acceptable. Ever.
Kevin Pillar, the Toronto Blue Jay’s outfielder used the word “f—-t” directed at a pitcher in the heat of the moment because he was mad/frustrated at being struck out. You can read more about it here.
Senator Andre Pratte used the N- word as an example of what not to say, and how we should be mindful of how people want to be addressed. He was referring to transgender people while “debating the Liberal government’s legislation to bar discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender expression.” Great sentiment, misguided vocabulary. You can read more here.
Never Use a Derogatory Word
The most salient point, in my opinion, is how easily these words flew out of the mouths of these people in the first place. And it’s not like either word is not known to be derogatory.
Pillar used his as a put-down. So not only is the word derogatory to gay people, but it was used as a synonym for something negative. Make the leap with me – when we use words this way, it implies that the identity that the word refers to is bad/wrong/etc.
Pratte, on the other hand, casually used a historically racist term as an example of what we shouldn’t do. What?! How is it ok to use the N word to shed light on the ways we should respect people? Let’s be clear – using or hearing any derogatory word is painful. The impact is negative, regardless of the intent. It is not ok to use the N word because you are trying to make a point about human rights. No no no.
These two incidents are egregious, in slightly different ways and for slightly different reasons.
But what they both do is remind us of how easily these words (and the sentiments that go with them) make their way into our minds, hearts, and vocabulary; into our culture. And that despite our intentions, our words can be violent, hurtful, hate-promoting and dangerous. Not to mention insensitive.
Apologies are important and necessary – and we had two this week.
Plus, the Blue Jays have added a 2-game suspension for Pillar (I’m not sure what the Senator gets). But if we took some time to excavate our language and consider what words really mean, and their impact, we would be better served.
And it would make places safer and more inclusive for everyone.
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– same topic, but with a challenge to help you see more.