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6/7/2015 10:46:03 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Are people who use them racist? Or other -ists depending on the epithet?

People who use them all the time in normal conversation, I'll buy that they are whatever-ist. But, what about people who say them when they are mad, and only when they are mad?

You could argue that when people are mad, their true colors show, since they are too angry to hide them. However, when people are mad, and they want to hurt others, they will say things just to hurt them, and epithets clearly fall into that category. They may mean the things they say, but their word choice and how they say them is designed to be hurtful.

Further, are epithets whatever-ist in general themselves? Let's take the big one: N*****. Is it inherently racist?

While it is used to only refer to a black person, does it really describe more than that? Does it depend on the speaker?
For example, for Huck Finn, it is used to describe anyone who is black, and there may or may not be any malice, while someone like Chris Rock uses it to describe certain black people. So, for Chris Rock, the term isn't really racist, is it, since he wouldn't use the term (as defined in his comedy routine) to describe upstanding citizens of color (i.e. it's not universal)? Conversely, for Huck Finn, it would be racist, since it is a blanket term used based on race and nothing more.

Now, obviously, this is such a charged term it should be avoided, and there is much history associated with it and the obvious connotation, so I'm not arguing it should be used. But, given that I have heard this term in particular more times in the last two weeks at work than I have in my entire life (barring media and relevant discussions), it got me to thinking about epithets in general and if the word truly has that much power, or if it is the speaker's intent, and how the word's use by the speaker reflects upon their character.

Thoughts? I'm not sure what I think, and I am more wondering what I should think about those I know nothing of who I've heard use the term (e.g. customers outraged and throwing insults), and not so much of co-workers who I already don't respect much (i.e. people I know enough about to make a character judgment).

I guess what I am asking is: if someone were to say N***** as an insult, is that person automatically a racist, or does it depend on how and why the term was used? If the latter, is the term itself racist?
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