Re: pejoratives (especially as regards Southern-States slaves and their descendants) ... While still granting that the N word has certain air of nastiness about it (comparable perhaps to words like fatso, fag, slut which "The Ethical Slut" proposes to "reclaim," etc.), I fancy that what especially bothered/bothers Southern-States slaves and their descendants about being called that word, is, not the structure and make-up of the word itself, but rather, how the word is/was spoken.
One person may use the N word out of plain old ignorance, not realizing it offends the referent. Another person may use the word with a sneering, derisive, hateful tone of voice, and every intention of hurting the person/s he/she refers to by speaking that word.
Furthermore, what probably hurts/hurt and offends/offended Southern-States slaves and their descendants most of all was the way they were/are treated by the race/culture that was responsible for forcefully severing them from their African kin and deporting them to America. The permanent loss of spouse and children. The endless hours of compulsory, sweat-drenched, back-breaking work in the cotton fields. The whippings and beatings. (Gods the whippings! Ever seen the old photo of a shirtless Southern slave, facing away from the camera, his back crisscrossed layer upon layer with thick, poignant whip scars?) The maimings (Think "Roots" and the scene where they chopped off the ends of "Toby's" feet so he couldn't try to run away anymore). The hunger and thirst. And overarching it all, the superiority attitude sported towards them by their slavemasters.
And then ... the segregation. The denial of the right to vote. The cold refusal to give a guy a simple job and let him keep it. The false/unfair prosecutions. Displays of rudeness. More beatings. Cross-burnings, lynchings, and cold-blooded killings of every kind and again, overarching it all, the superiority attitude sported towards them by their oppressors.
No wonder they grew to hate the various pejoratives (which they probably didn't see as pejoratives at first) after said pejoratives were spoken by their European American oppressors with a sneering, derisive, hateful tone of voice, and every intention of hurting them by speaking it. When piled opon all the other cruelty they suffered from, the pejoratives were literally just insult added to injury.
So it is that guys like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. used the word "Negro" proudly to denote themselves and the race/culture to which they belonged ... and yet, that word too came to be seen as a pejorative, not because the letters, sequencing, and technical logic that once belonged to the word were inherently hateful, but because of the spiteful way "non-Negroes" used the word. So I think it was very much a case of, not what was said, but how (and in what context) it was said. Which likewise is true of every word and sentence in the whole English language (or any language).
The tormenting, torture, and twisting of these once-innocuous words turned them into pejoratives, one after another. And thus began the long procession of ever-changing monikers, a sort of perpetual struggle to at least be spoken to politely if not sincerely. The N-word, colored persons or persons of color, Negroes, blacks or black persons, African Americans and as of this thread, brown-skinned persons which itself isn't faring too well (despite its optical accuracy). When, then, will that "war over words" end? only when "European Americans" stop treating "African Americans" like a lower, less-honorable form of life.
So I both do take my monikers seriously, and yet at times laziness and the madness of it all sways me into the use of outdated(?) words. I mean really, was "blacks" invented as a moniker for the descendants of Southern-States slaves out of someone's desire to make that minority race/culture/heritage feel bad about themselves? I doubt it. Yet the style of its subsequent usage by the descendants of Southern-States slavemasters turned it into a word of hate. And then people cried out once again for a new word that would end the hurtfulness at last, and the can was kicked down the road yet another time. But guess what? No matter how many times we change what we call them, they remain marginalized, maltreated, and outcast. Thus zeroing in on the words just doesn't seem to have solved the big problem.
My personal impression is that the word "blacks" offends some "blacks" (who'd much prefer I call them African Americans), but offends other "blacks" (who'd much prefer I *didn't* call them African Americans) not at all. That's the state of affairs as I thus far understand it, and the reason I often say "blacks" (and "whites"): because it's quick and easy, doesn't seem to offend too many people too much, and allows us to get (a little quicker and more efficiently) to the heart of the matter; namely, how we treat the descendants of Southern-States slaves in general. And by extension, how the descendants of Southern-States slavemasters and their ilk, those who happen to be polyamorous or even just who love and/or live with polymorists, can improve the way they present themselves to the minority race/culture in question so as to inspire in that race/culture a feeling of safety and welcome amongst "white polyamorists."
The general gist of all this applies to "blacks," Hispanics, Jews, Native Americans, Oriental persons, and all races/colors/cultures who do and/or have in the past suffer/suffered oppression from America's infamous Caucasians. But it especially compares the merit of the "moniker problem" with the merit of what I believe is the root cause of the moniker problem: the superiority attitude of the majority culture/color/race. Changing words in order to change attitudes is usually, IMO, pulling the cart before the horse. We bigots (I won't resist inclusion in that group at least for argument's sake) need to "get over ourselves." Then and only then will we find monikers that the descendants of Southern-States slaves will perceive as gentle, kind, and respectful.
And that's why I said and still believe that demonstrations, civil discourse between the races, and things like Martin Luther King Jr.'s unforgettable "I have a dream" speech, will help black/white relations much more than any tinkering with nomenclature.
I can see a bit more the "justification" for coining words like "polyamory." After all, those are words that describe things (e.g. people) for which/whom no label existed previously. So there at least one could argue that the English is made more complete by the advent of words like polyamory. But to take an already-existing word (e.g. blacks) and change it over and over again because it feels offensive no matter how many times we change it, doesn't seem to me to accomplish much of anything except to confuse the English language (or any language) and make communication harder (for we all know it was already hard enough).
And that's why I persistently vote that we talk more about how we treat each other in deed (e.g. tone of voice and the attitude behind it), less about which actual words-for-the-same-thing we use (animals versus non-human persons, blacks versus African Americans, gay marriage versus same-sex marriage, etc.), and get back to this thread's original topic which is how to get polyamorists of diverse races to come together (by persuasion, not coercion) even more than they have thus far.
Along those lines, I propose that for the sake of those to whom nomenclature does greatly matter, we start a new thread for that particular discussion. At the risk of taking flak for being an inappropriate man for the job, I'll go ahead and create that thread.
Love means never having to say, "Put down that meat cleaver!"
Last edited by kdt26417; 11-26-2013 at 06:46 AM.