There is a certain ambiguity when it comes to using certain words. How important is connotation when speaking, and how often does this lead to misunderstandings. There is a constant misconception found in the world we live in that drive our social circles, and our interactions with one another. We know when to say certain things and when to hold back, but should we even allow ourselves to speak certain slurs regardless of who we are speaking of or how we mean it?
Language is a collection of sounds which have, over time, been given meaning; meanings that have been constantly reassigned and implications that have been shifted throughout the centuries. We find ourselves in 2017 with an entirely different language that that spoken even a decade ago, but even regional differences alter the way in which we interpret the same language.
Living in Miami, Florida, I have found myself in a melting pot of cultures and languages. Every encounter with an individual is a potential mishap for a slur, whether intentional or not. The Spanish language is one which is diverse and entirely nationalized in each Spanish speaking country. Of course Cubans understand Argentinians and they understand Puerto Ricans but that does not mean that there is a certain barrier between each country when it comes to certain words. Simple words such as “papaya”, the fruit we are all fond of, can mean an entirely different and quite offensive thing to some. Here in Miami, like in all parts of the world, one must refrain from using certain terms which might be condemned as being slurs, when speaking with the general public, simply to avoid any conflicts that may arise from miscommunication. But here, we have a certain level of understanding because of the variety of nationalities one may find. We know that, but what happens when the lines become more blurred and the problem becomes something more than just multiple meanings for the same word, but the use of certain words for derogation?
Racial slurs, regardless at who they are being directed to or any sense of “endearment”, should not be used. We find ourselves at the pinnacle of a new age. We are only a mere decades past the civil rights movement, yes we have made great strides since then but the fact remains that racist and prejudice feelings still plague this country we call home. We cover it and overlook it but recent events have shown us all that there is still a problem and ignoring it will do it no justice. Nothing gives anyone the right to look down on a human being, a fellow countryman, a neighbor, nor a friend. Who are we to decide who is better, or who should have more rights. At the end of the day, we are skin and bones and there is far too much hatred being drawn from all sides against one another to the point that there is a great divide. Yes, things are not right but this does not give us the rights to create more tensions and more hatred along these long established lines.
This is an issue that plagues not just America, but the world. When it is not race, it is gender, or religion, or sexuality. We always seem to have a problem with those that do not think like us, or look like us, or live like us. We bind ourselves together in this us v. them mentality that just doesn’t make sense. Slurs allow us to deepen this distinction. They allow for the degrading of others based on characteristics they cannot help; characteristics that make them, them. Characteristics that they cannot help as much as we can’t help but breathe. Why must we discriminate against on another in this way? The debate goes that some slurs are so outdated that their meaning has become void, or that it has been appropriated by the group to which it was directed at, but this does not make their use right. Slurs are part of the problem and overlooking this simply makes overcoming this obstacle of humanity that much harder.
It is about time that we break these barriers and start fighting not against one another but alongside each other for the equality of all, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexuality, or any other denomination which we choose to identify with. We are not different. We are the same and as such we need to fight to be treated the same. Change starts from within. So stop trying to identify the differences between us and focus on accentuating the things that makes us all human.
Fight hate and bond through love and understanding.