Thursday, December 07, 2006

Essay 1408

Michael Richards’ infamous tirade ignited a new wave of debate on the damning power of a single word. From leaders to laypersons, everyone’s performing CSI-style examinations on the notorious epithet. Activists have even proposed its official expulsion, though we can only wonder how the measure might be implemented and enforced.

Yet Richards’ rant — combined with the alleged social crimes committed by Mel Gibson, Sacha Baron Cohen, Andy Dick, the Los Angeles Fire Department, the U.S. advertising industry and more — ultimately sparked outrage for a companion term: Racist.

People must think the R-word is as offensive as the N-word. They sure tend to respond with blatant anger and defensiveness when called a racist. Oddly enough, folks who openly display racial insensitivity are also highly sensitive about getting labeled for their biases. They apparently don’t see the irony and lessons to be learned from playing on the receiving end of discrimination.

“I’m not a racist!” plead offenders with their hands firmly caught in the cultural cookie jar.

Most would agree the R-word covers varying degrees of nastiness. Michael Richards is probably not a hard-core White Supremacist. But should that translate to Richards is not a racist? From the reactions and commentary, including the man’s own protests, the answer is unclear.

At the same time, it’s unlikely the phrase will gain underground popularity as a term of endearment. Don’t look for folks to start greeting each other with, “Whassup, my racist?”

Maybe the R-word requires categorical markers for specific situations. Just as the Department of Homeland Security issues color-coded terrorist warnings, a similar system could be devised for race-based scenarios. Then again, choosing colors would undoubtedly lead to heated arguments surrounding skin-tone symbolism.

Numerical or graphic designations might work better, provided we could decide on groupings according to the severity of dirty deeds. Statisticians or Census Bureau employees are encouraged to volunteer ideas.

An alternate solution entails banning the R-word entirely. There’s just too much historical and emotional negativity attached to it.

Substitutions should incorporate a positive spin to avoid upsetting people. Pro-White Privileged. Exclusivity Enabler. Ism Fan. Inequality Control. Affirmative Inaction Supporter. Phobialicious. Prejudicialicious. KKKoolio. Bigotti. Slurpie. Apartheidealist. Jim Crowboy. Ethnic Household Cleanser. Derogatory Remarkable. SegreGREATer. Persecutie. IgnoRanter. Biasexual. Stereotypographer. Discriminationalist. Bell Curvy.

Or try a contemporary replacement — with a comedic edge — for cracker: Kramer.

No comments: