Since the neo-Nazi and Antifa protests in Charlottesville, Virgina that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer there has been ample discussion of racism in America. It’s interesting (and a bit ironic) that it took the killing of a Caucasian woman by a protester to elevate the discussion to a national level. Everyone has an opinion. Statues have been torn down. Cities have urged law makers to make a stand against the Confederacy once again. Standing up against racism is admirable when public opinion and the news is in your favor, but what about standing up against other forms of racism when it is not convenient?
Uber Rider with Gangster Rap
Several weeks ago I gave an Uber ride to a young man who asked to plug-in his phone so he could charge it. I have a spare cord for that reason. He also wanted to play music. I switched the audio input to his device. The music that he wanted to play was gangster rap. It started off as just rap but as the song got deeper into the lyrics the artist began referring to people as N****** and B*****. I allowed it for a just a few seconds. It was his ride.
However, it was my car. I could not listen to it any longer. I asked him to turn it. He turned it to another song similar to the first one. This time with a bit more force and a lot less understanding, I told him to turn it. He began to defend it saying it was just words and they do not mean anything. I told him that when we listen to songs that portray others in that way that we give others permission to refer to them with those terms. I arrived at his destination and he got out of the car. He apologized. I told him that perhaps it was better to not listen to that music in someone else’s car.
Respect and Free Speech
I have African-American friends, a wife, and two daughters. I can never condone or listen to anything that demeans and dehumanizes them with such vile and reprehensible words. They will never be N****** or B*****. They are amazing people who deserve respect. The respect that everyone deserves.
We should celebrate free speech. It is the right of every citizen to not live in fear that the government will restrict their words. However, even the government recognizes exceptions. You cannot yell fire in a burning building unless there is a fire. A person cannot threaten someone without consequences. Regardless of free speech, we should talk about ourselves and one another in a way that induces others to treat us the way we want to be treated.
As a future attorney, I think I know better than many the significance of words. For instance, the difference between “may” or “must” in a contract is vast. The condition is optional when “may” is used. It does not create a breach if the condition is not met. However, if “must” is used, then the condition is essential. If the condition is not fulfilled then it creates at least a minor breach of contract (or that condition). Words matter. The words we use to describe ourselves and others matter.
Striking Out Racism in All Its Forms
If we are to strike out racism in all its forms no one can refer to people as a N******. When the rappers refer to themselves (or others) using that language it gives the listeners permission to refer to them like that. People may not actually call others N****** but unfortunately, they may think it. You cannot stop others from thinking it, but if you stop saying it, then the likeliness of them thinking it is less. Racism begins in the mind. It is our thoughts that guide our words and actions. If you want to strike out racism, you cannot degrade or demean yourselves, then expect others to hold you on a pedestal. You can say whatever you want, but you cannot choose the result.
Final Thoughts On Striking Out Racism in All Its Forms
There are so many ways that racism affects our society. As long as there are differences there will be some sort of “ism” that harms us all. We are all harmed by racism. It strikes at our very nature as humans. Racism creates a virtual caste system wherein there are different classes of people based upon the color of skin. This is categorically false. There are no different classes. There is only one class. We are all human beings that deserve the same rights and privileges. We all deserve respect regardless of the color of our skin.