Saturday, February 24, 2007

Banning the N-Word

I noticed that Stillman College is having a conference on usage of the N-word. The article also makes the point that there were a number of city councils that are trying to ban the word. While I think the conference is a great idea and deathly neccessary, I'm not so sure that official bannings of the word is the right way to go. It is my opinion that the only beneficiaries of censorship (of any kind) is the power structure--they will twist whatever ability to censor that they have towards their own ends and goals. And so, for that reason, I feel very uncomfortable with the talk of "banning" anything. It feels like (to paraphrase Audre Lorde) using the master's tools to dismantle his house.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I'm often conflicted about banning such things myself.

On the one hand, I support the notion that words (or perhaps more importantly, the thought pattern of hatred behind the word) is unexcusable and wrong. In that light, I can see where making a formal, legal ban makes sense, in the idea of defining communinity standards and taking a stand.

On the other hand, I very much distrust our government, so that becomes an issue. Secondly, the banning of anything does not stop the usage (see Marijauna), and even if it did, the stopping of the use of a word does not address the larger underbelly of the issue - the mindset and values of hate and domination.

Something like a legal ban could be a good thing, but necessarily must be partnered with a program of education and an honest discussion of values among peers. Otherwise it becomes at best a band-aid for an amputee, and at worst an empty gesture that fuels reactionary fervor.