Sunday, March 15, 2015

The hypocrisy of the "n-word privilege"

This applies mostly to North America, but to some extent to many other countries as well (especially English-speaking countries). Suppose you hear someone speak but don't see them, and they use the word "nigger" casually. Many people will feel enraged and insulted by proxy, or personally if they are black. Then you look who said it... and see the color of their skin: It was a black person. Suddenly it's ok. Everything is fine; the anger subsides.

Martin Luther King Jr said in his most famous speech: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!"
Yet you just judged someone by the color of their skin. And you think that's completely ok.

This dream has not yet been fulfilled. People are still being judged by the color of their skin. Such an inconsequential thing as skin pigmentation is used to determine whether using some particular word is objectionable or not, even to such an extent that if a person of the wrong pigmentation uses the word, they may face serious repercussions because of it. Because their skin is of the wrong color...

And this is, apparently, not racism.

It is. And it's hypocrisy.

To understand how absurd this is, suppose that one of that person's parents is black and the other white. Does the person still have "n-word privileges"? What if the person is 1/4 black? 1/8? Where is the line? So we have to go back to the 19th century southern states, where a person was considered black if he is 1/16th black? At what point does the use of the word become objectionable? Do we need to require DNA testing to measure the "blackness" of a person and thus their "n-word privilege" rights?

Or is it a sliding scale? Is the strength of the outrage directly proportional to their whiteness? If he's 1/4 white, then it only deserves a very slight feeling of discomfort, but if he's only 1/8th black, then it's mildly annoying, and if he's only 1/64th black, then it's already quite outrageous? This is just absurd.

If you say that it's not about ethnicity but about culture, then does a black person who has lived their entire lives in a rich family in a rich part of the country, gone to the most prestigious schools, and working on prestigious jobs, still have the "n-word privilege"? Or does he has slightly less of the privilege? What if a white person has lived all of his life surrounded by the black culture, does he have the "n-word privilege"? No? So it is about ethnicity after all?

Are you going to interview the person who used the word in order to attest how black they are, and what their cultural background is, before you pass judgment? Are you going to DNA-test them to make sure they are not lying? Or are you going to base your judgment based solely on the pigmentation of their skin?

I have a much simpler solution to this conundrum:

How about we start treating people equally regardless of their ethnicity?

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