Language is a powerful tool. It can be used to teach, to learn, to study. Humans can pass down stories from generation to generation, tales of gods and men or traditions that label individuals a tribe member. We can hurt with language. We can heal with language.
When did we become such pussies about it?
Somewhere in the past fifty years or so, America decided every word that could possibly offend somebody was now verboten. World War II and the resultant Cold War had empowered words and symbols so much that using “Jew” and “Gyp” as verbs was no longer acceptable in common parlance. The “pinko Commie” and the McCarthy hearings in the ’60s showed that even certain schools of thought were no longer allowed in this country.
The dictionary of political correctness has only grown since then. While some restrictions have been lifted (we can say “bitch” on TV now!), certain words are still only referred to in hushed tones as “the n word” or “the c word”, for example. And don’t forget about the terms that are only acceptable in certain subcultures. What, is the earth going to open up and swallow me whole because a Jewish kid from the Boston suburbs drops the word “nigga” while listening to a Jay-Z song?
This has now evolved even further into the “safe space”, organizations and locations entirely dedicated to not offending others. Not only can I not jokingly refer to my Jewish friend as “a fellow Yid”, but even criticism of others is supposed to be tempered in these safe spaces to cater to those who somehow can’t handle it.
The concept of a safe space is inherently flawed. What good do we do ourselves by catering to the most thin-skinned individuals? Is there so much white guilt floating around that we aren’t even allowed to think of words like nigger and cunt in a societal context? Yes, words have the power to denigrate and destroy, but no good can be accomplished by ignoring that people have been hurt in the past.
One must also remember that words have different meanings in different cultures. I can ask for a fag in London and will be handed a cigarette rather than a lecture. Describing an individual as “niggardly” leads to shocked faces even though the term shares no etymological history with “the n word” and you’re calling them stingy. How safe is a space where I’m judged for my use of language?
Honestly, in discussions with my roommates, we’ve decided to get over the language limitation society has imposed upon us. We may share some salacious language in our humble abode, but calling my Bangladeshi friends “brown” and joking about excessive curry use is no longer a big deal, just as they’re allowed to make fun of my tendencies to save money by paying $4 for powdered dishwasher soap instead of $15 for those little tablets. Regular renditions of “Niggas in Paris” echo through the halls of our apartment despite having no black roommates. Call it salty mouthed, call it offensive, call it whatever.
We call it a safe space.