Tonite was Rogue Machines 21st Rant & Rave. It’s a monthly kiss to our bottom line and generates a wonderfully eclectic blend of prose from writers that celebrate The Spoken Word. This evenings theme was POLITICS…and this is what I read.
POLITICAL CORRECTNESS: a pejorative term, meaning excessive deference to particular sensibilities at the expense of other considerations.
Fasten your seatbelts.
CUNT. DYKE. FAGGOT. GOOK. HAJI. KIKE. NIGGER. RETARD. SLUT.
We know those words are hurtful…that’s why we use them. I don’t expect TV ads to overcome prejudice and fear …but those ads might influence social interaction. “You don’t have to like me…just treat me with civility…that’s close enough for military work.”
Gay children are killing themselves today. They were bullied – physically or verbally or both….
Do you really believe that life today for ANY minority is tougher than it was 50 or 60 years ago? Something else is broken because bullies have always existed. Bullies are like gravity, both will bring you down.
Our efforts to reclaim a word – like queer or nigger- remain works in progress. It sounds empowering…but the average person will go thru changes every time they get singled out.
The NBA playoffs ran this ad: Kids competing, zinging their opponent with trash talk. Then one kid brags, “I can do this all day. Your moves are just gay.” AHHHHNNNN. A role model rebukes him. “It’s not cool to use gay to mean dumb or stupid.”
You remember that physical reaction when you got singled out? Your body chemistry changed…that’s adrenaline. “Sticks and stones may break my bones…I am rubber, you are glue…” They’re just words, right? Come on. We all have personal connections to certain words…and a gut reaction, every time we hear them.
I’ve never heard ‘gay’ used as a synonym for dumb or stupid…but I’m told, today kids do. I have heard ‘retarded’. That’s also a musical term…meaning to slow the fuck down. But the learning disabled community now finds “retarded” offensive.
The thing is, Retarded replaced earlier terms like idiot, moron, and imbecile… ‘cause they were offensive. I’m wearing this golf shirt, very nice – Perry Ellis – and embroidered over the pocket:
The Stamps Family Presents. The Foundation For The Retarded. Celebrity Golf Classic. They handed me this and I thought. “Are you shitting me? You wrote that on the shirt?”
My people have been called boy, nigger, colored, nigra, Negro, Afro-American, Black, African-American…in my lifetime. Somehow, most of you remained white.
Usage is generational. People choose the label that resonates…maybe Black, maybe Negro, maybe person of color. But today, you call some people Black and they might bristle. For others, Negro is troublesome, sounds Uncle Tom-ish. Yet the NAACP hasn’t changed its name. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Joke from my childhood – NAACP stood for “Niggers Ain’t All Colored People.”
The NBA recently fined two stars for shouting FAGGOT – on camera! I don’t think Kobe or Joakim thought their target was homosexual. Either could have screamed nigger or motherfucker or cocksucker… Here’s why I think they didn’t.
We are intelligent animals…a work in progress. Sport is surrogate combat for us. As a species we are some remarkably contentious motherfuckers.
In competition, men summon their masculinity. The First instinct: Emasculate your opponent. It’s not a rational decision; it’s primate chest-pounding. “I am dominant. I will mate. I will prevail.” Pure machismo. Cage fighting audiences don’t want civility; they want to see somebody’s blood. If our society values human competition (gambling statistics and TV ratings say we do;) it’s counterproductive to demand civility from our primal surrogates. Once “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game that counts… Today, “Just Win, Baby!”
Compare sport and military terminology – attack, defend, counter-attack, dominate, overwhelm.
Pro athletes are not role models; they will not teach your children ethics or manners…sport offers entertainment, distraction and virtual participation.
Sport is a medium that approves force, will, aggressiveness…from women too. It’s all about testosterone. Life becomes elemental. “Conquer…or be conquered.” This is why we play games; this is why we watch games. And awarding trophies to kids that just show up might seem nurturing but does little to serve the purpose of competition – to reveal character, to overcome adversity, to function within a team.
When I was a kid, “faggot” meant you weren’t stand up, that you could be intimidated. Punk and pussy also meant that. But the subtext of all three engaged behavior deemed insufficiently masculine. The insult was more sexist than homophobic. “Punk, my sister could kick your ass.” (BTW, today, lots of girls can kick your ass;) And “Sissy” referenced effeminate qualities; behavior viewed more appropriate in girls than boys. This shit is complicated. This shit is fundamental to every child’s maturation, always has been. But it’s really about how human beings treat anyone they perceive as different. As THE OTHER …That caribou at the edge of the herd that draws a predator’s focus.
I was The Other pretty much all of my childhood. Uncommonly bright, I stood out in my segregated First Grade. Uncommonly dark, I stood out in my newly integrated 6th Grade. To the Greek villagers of Salonika, who’d never seen anyone like me, I became “Arapi” or “Mavraki”. In ’61, I was one of 5 Negroes at Antioch College doing “sit-ins” in segregated Ohio…in ’62, one of 4 Negroes on my Munich University campus; their word for Negro – Negar.
Growing up, I heard lots of Words. Early on, “nigger”… later “fucking baby killer”…but in junior high some called my manhood into question. Punk/sissy/faggot. I played violin. I wore glasses. Wasn’t gang-banging; I was reading, my grammar was impeccable. Gotta be gay;)
I understood what homosexual meant. I wasn’t drawn to men. I was drawn to boobies;) And I was appallingly shy…partly because most girls that showed interest in me were white. I had also read about Emmett Till; I had seen the photographs of bodies, hanging from trees…
Now, I knew what bullies intended when they shouted nigger/faggot/punk. I knew they wanted to intimidate me, to scare me. And I learned that the only effective response was confrontation. “I’ll see you after school, punk!” “I’ll be there.” I’ve been punched numerous times in the mouth, in the face, in the belly… Strangled til I passed out and was left for dead… Jumped on Christmas Eve, on a crowded bus by three bullies. Passengers just looked out the window while I got pounded. Ho Ho Ho…
My father, growing up was a Golden Gloves welterweight champion in New Orleans. A great story would be that my father trained his son to be a skilled boxer. But Daddy was busy teaching English at Howard University, coaching their debating team…so my ass got kicked a LOT. My self-esteem wasn’t based upon my won/lost record. It was based upon my willingness – my need – to stand up, when bullied. My parents prepared me for adversity in this world.
Most people do not steal. Their behavior is guided by a moral compass. Someone, at some point provided them guidance; a parent, a teacher, a pastor, a relative…somebody. But their civility was probably not learned from watching sports on television.
Parents: If you want your children to have self-esteem, to behave with courtesy and respect for others, (and you really should, because children need that guidance) you teach them that shit at home. They’re your children; that’s part of your fucking job description.
This problem is so much larger than cruel words. Human beings remain unenlightened beings. And telling people what they shouldn’t say doesn’t disappear their willingness or need to say it.
I was engaged to a Midwestern woman, back in the late ‘90’s. She was the spoiled baby girl, three older brothers and a sister. Theirs was an exuberant, close-knit family that celebrated holidays with an excess I still marvel at…and envy. They were working class people, their credit cards perpetually maxed out. (My fiancée’s first marriage had ended in divorce and bankruptcy). The entire family was fond of me …and why not, I’m a helluva catch;) Dad was a WWII veteran, a fellow paratrooper. The brothers invited me to come golf and hunt and fish. There was not a single visit, over holidays or a birthday, sitting around a room in spirited conversation that one brother didn’t slip up and say “nigger”. There would be a moment of embarrassment – “Oh God, I am so…” and I’d wave forgiveness…and eventually, life and the conversation would continue.
Now, I knew the family had other people of color in their lives; people that they worked with, celebrated with, regarded as friends. I understood that longstanding patterns of thinking are difficult to change, particularly under comfortable, unguarded circumstances. And I trusted they had no hidden agenda. My engagement ended because of our differences about money and values and trust…it wasn’t about race.
Each of us must learn to distinguish between words spoken thoughtlessly and words spoken with malice. Parents: Prepare your children for this world. Teach them ethics and manners… and teach them self-defense. Don’t rely on TV ads to make the world safe for your child. That’s on you.
20 June 2011
(Video of performance on Youtube)