Changing Racism One Word At A Time

Racism is different now. It used to be blatant, right in front of people for all to see. It was not uncommon in public to hear racial slurs be shouted at people with a nasty intent in mind. Those days are over. Now people are looking for the subtle racists, the ones it takes effort to find. When found, great effort is taken to humiliate, ridicule, and lambaste these people for their beliefs. This is not the way to end racism in America, it will only fuel it.


A word is a random assembly of words that only make sense depending on the language you speak. What gives these words weight is the way in which people use them. The term Redskin for example used to be a derogatory term to describe Native Americans. This word has had a new meaning for 50 years, that of a football team. The team singlehandedly changed the meaning of the word from derogatory to not. Yet people today are now focusing on the fact that it used to be a derogatory term and rid it from our language. What does this really accomplish? Kids growing up don’t know its old connotations; they only know it by the football team. Why are we making this word out to still be racist when it no longer is? The meanings of words can change, let’s not forget that.


Banning a word will not make the issue go away, it will make it worse. Changing a word’s meaning over time is the only way to stop it from being used. Why does the “n word” or the “F-bomb” have so much power in today’s society? Just look at their nicknames. We can’t even say them; we have to have nicknames to reference them. Why is this? It is because of past connotations these words have had that are still associated with these words. Their meanings have never changed. They still mean the same thing they meant 150 years ago. In order to lessen a word’s effectiveness, it has to be given a different meaning or used in a different context. That is why “nigga” has become such a popular term in the black community now. It is an attempt to change the meaning of the word to “brother” or “friend” instead of its nasty past. The problem I have is not with the use of this new meaning, it’s with its implementation. This new meaning should not be solely used by black people; everyone should be able to use it. By not allowing white people to use the word, that old connotation is allowed to stick around and make us remember the old word. If everyone was able to use it, it would take some time to be integrated in society effectively, but everything takes time. Nothing good ever comes fast.


Time heals all wounds. That has always been the case. We need to stop trying to get rid of things that have lost their meaning because of what they used to mean. There will always be racist people, which will never change. They will always find a word to use they think best fits their description. What can change is how we let go of the past not by outlawing words, but by allowing them to flourish in a different way. America has already done the hard part of banning slavery and Jim Crow laws. Actions speak louder than words. Instead of focusing on banning, let’s focus on change. It has worked thus far. Racism is much different now.


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