Normally when I write one of these entries, I highlight multiples cases of reckless, haphazard, and outright dangerous examples of people wielding firearms. From playing with guns while intoxicated to people being irresponsible in their handling of guns in a public setting to instances of recklessness such as leaving a loaded gun in reach of a child, there are innumerable cases that demonstrate the lack of responsibility on the part of many people in this country. People who probably think of themselves as “responsible gun owners”.
Untrained or poorly trained civilians are not the only ones who demonstrate insufficient care in the handling of firearms though. There are times when law enforcement officials themselves–people who go through ongoing, rigorous training in the handling of firearms–demonstrate their lack of care. One particularly egregious example of this happened yesterday: a reserve police officer who is also a teacher at Seaside High School in California, recklessly handled a gun, resulting in a student being injured…
People of Color (Black and non-Black) in the United States can (and many do) hold prejudicial or bigoted beliefs about white people. Whether it is right or wrong to do so (IMO, a strong argument could be made that it is reasonable for PoC, based on their treatment by white people, to hold anti-white prejudices), anyone with an understanding of history can see and fully empathize with why they might. Those prejudicial and bigoted beliefs only affect white people on an individual level. They do not have an impact on the rights possessed by white people. They do not have a collective effect on their economic, employment, or educational status.
In short, People of Color can be anti-white, but they cannot be racist against white people bc they lack the collective power to impose their prejudices on white folks as a racial category. Access to social, political, economic, and religious power is a fundamental component to the system of oppression known as racism (in the same way that access to such power is essential to sexism, which is why men do not experience sexism). Without that access to power, there can be no domination, oppression, or subjugation of white people by PoC.
But what if PoC could be racist? Imagine how different United States history would be if People of Color could be racist. We might see examples like the following:
In everyday conversation, I’ve almost completely stopped using intelligence referencing ableist slurs. I think I’ve slipped up once or twice here or there, but overall it’s one of those things where I catch myself before I (as an example) refer to someone as stu*id. It’s important to me to not use such language for two reasons:
To characterize someone as stu*id, idiot*c, or r*tarded based on their behavior or something they’ve said is to attribute the words or deeds to a lack of intelligence. Pretty much no one is capable of making snap assessments of the intelligence of others, so right there is reason enough to stop using these slurs as they impugn the intellect of their target. Moreover, using such language is inaccurate. For example, there’s a YouTube vlogger who records himself eating some of the hottest peppers out there. During a super slow period one day last week, I had a guest show me one of the videos. Some people look at the dude and think “He’s fucking stu*id for eating those peppers”. I posit that it has little, if anything to do with his intelligence. In fact, it looks to me like he’s a dude who knows that there is an audience for outlandish, outrageous, and even potentially dangerous behavior. I suspect he’s doing it for the hits and/or the attention (no idea if he makes money off his videos, but if he does, that fits with my theory). What he’s not doing is eating these ridiculously hot peppers bc he lacks intelligence. “Foolish”, “Outlandish”, “Bizarre”, “Potentially Hazardous”…these are all words that better (and more precisely) describe the actions of hot pepper eating YouTube guy.
Splash damage is a real thing and its worth avoiding the use of language that causes it. In the context of ableist language, splash damage is caused to unintended parties through the use of ableist slurs. As mentioned in #1, to call POTUS45 an idi*t bc he wants to build a border wall is imprecise (ignorant, laughable, or absurd are terms that more accurately describe him), and of course we can’t assess his intelligence based on his support for that inane wall. But using an ableist slur to describe him is metaphorically throwing a wide net. To call him an idi*t is draws an implicit connection between his idea (the wall) and the speakers’ assessment of his intelligence. Basically, it’s saying “you came up with this horribly racist idea bc you’re not smart”. Chitler is not the only one affected by the slur bc there are people who have lower than average intelligence as a result of cognitive impairments or deficiencies. These are people who are already treated horribly by society and face stigma and discrimination bc of their cognitive disabilities. We shouldn’t compound that by implicitly claiming that harmful or bigoted ideas are the result of cognitive impairment.
Like I said, for the most part, I’ve eliminated such words from my everyday use. There are times, however, when I read something that is just so mind-boggling that
out of sheer reflex, certain terms spring to mind (although that’s where they stay). Maine gubernatorial hopeful Shawn Moody recently uttered some words that had me reflexively grasping for some of those old, abandoned slurs. He thinks teachers should use fire extinguishers to stop school shooters (yes, you read that right):