End Stage Diversity

Eradicating Cultural Typoglycemia – Part II: A Radical Adult Approach

Inside Joke 7K0A0438DISCLAIMER:  Those who have sensitive cultural constitutions and are prone to mood shifts when discussing difficult intercultural issues should not read this post.  This is a discussion about epithets.  However, none are actually recorded herein, either in whole or in part, though at least one is implied.  On behalf of all within my sphere of influence, domain, domicile and earshot, I extend my deepest regrets to any who are offended by the following discussion and by any specific arguments made herein.  For a brief video note to those who decide to read further, click here.

“What spell has been cast that fogs our eyes and binds our [tongues]? What power have we let slip away?” [1]

When did the power of adult vocabulary slip away so completely and vanish like the buffalo from the American mindscape such that otherwise intelligent, articulate professionals have widely lost the ability to use grownup terms? Have our minds been so short-circuited, our vocabulary so stunted by The Diversity Paradigm that we are forced to revert to the syntax of six year-olds to express ourselves?

Oooooh, Mommy!  Billy used the x-WORD!”

Sound familiar?  Confident the parent will have no trouble deciphering the truncated term with precision, the child reporter at least got to articulate the first letter, ‘innocently’ getting the full idea across to everyone. The child might well have said, “Billy used foul language,” or “Billy used a curse word.”  But that’s the joy of a euphemism, and the curse of it. Where did everyone from lawyers to million-dollar journalists come to believe the truncated term is any better, and qualifies as writing or speaking professionally?

It didn’t work for me. In the presence of my parents, I called my baby brother a very bad word, but substituting an x-Word template, attempting to leverage the latitudes often taken for granted under the weight of the presumptive evidence of childhood naïveté.  My mother didn’t say, “How thoughtful and professional of you, dear.”  She called me a “potty mouth,” and enthusiastically reminded me why soap isn’t a popular condiment.

What spell has been cast over the masses by which we’ve been, of late, convinced that mimicking the dubious innocence of a child’s expressive to enkindle the imagery of an insidious denigration makes it any more palatable? By what mechanism do people find themselves laboring under the mistaken belief that a Jello mold x-Word would render any direct reference neutralized in the eyes of the targets of its thinly veiled dysphemism? Has The Diversity Paradigm‘s political correctness and its thin veneer of civility beclouded our minds, lowered our standards, and intellectually weakened us all?  Not even for a split second does it seem to occur to its wielders that headlining a fashionable but transparent euphemism wouldn’t feel much different than a direct verbal assault to many. No idiom, there are few who would believe that the meaning of an x-Word cannot be instantly inferred, even by a child.

Is the x-Word the measure of what we are as professionals after years of the King’s English and tens of thousands in tuition plus $299 for the Diversity course CEUs/CLEs? And why do the rest of us eagerly take the bait, hook, line and sinker, and get eagerly reeled into engagement in a genteel row that diminishes everyone, readers and participants alike?

Somehow we allow ourselves to get lured in by the school of gradualism to ‘the other kind’ of discussion that starts out innocently employing the euphemism, then eventually someone deploys the full articulation of the vulgar term anyway. And there we sit, egg on our faces, bamboozled yet again, expected under the prescript of professionalism to grin and bear it.

As Loki chided Thor in the first Marvel Comics “Avengers” movie, “Are you ever not going to fall for that?” 

Next time someone posts an “x-Word” headline, try this:  Ask them to please either use the precise term, straight up for everyone’s edification, or not at all. No sugarcoated ersatz “tweener” locutions, please.  Suggest that there are more adult ways to get the point across without reverting to puerile masking. Most people, D&I folks or not, wouldn’t be caught dead posting in any such straight up discussion.  Why are we so eager to post comments in discussions under the banner of the next best thing?

Innocently or not, no matter how many other times or other places the x-Word formula is employed, the only difference between the two types of discussions is merely how they start. It is decidedly not a culturally neutral approach to a professional informational discussion. Intentional or not, it always risks reigniting afresh the ongoing cultural conflict outside of the courtrooms of America between Diversiphiles and Diversiphobes, which in turn feeds the continual flow of cases into the courtrooms.

Who really won in those cases, by the way?

The defendant Rob Carmona, a nonprofit executive who happens to be a member of a protected class under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, used it in the workplace — and LOST his discrimination/harassment defense, his use of the term proving relevant to his case regardless of its intent. That executive lost his credibility and hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The court seems to have held that blacks can be genuinely offended by the use of that epithet no matter who uses it. [2]

The defendant Paula Deen, a television star who happens to be a member of a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, used it in the workplace — and WON her defense, her use of the term proving irrelevant to her case regardless of its intent, and she lost her credibility and millions of dollars. The court seems to have held that no one but blacks can be genuinely offended by the use of that same epithet. [3]

Complex legal coincidence, or simple familiar formula?  Do those cases seem to settle all things legal on the use of that particular epithet?  Hardly.  Either way, who were the real winners in both cases?  You be the judge.

In the headline and in the body of their stories, the x-Word template is employed by professional journalists to thrill with a near miss, rather than using real words like ‘euphemism’ or ‘epithet’ or ‘slur.’  Frankly, I’d rather see them say “a really bad name” instead of ‘the x-Word.”

The x-Word template may be more sensational, but imparts no fundamental truths, solves no problem, and multiplies the pain of indignity to all who are just as humiliated and incensed by the scantily clad truncation as they are at the the brazen use of the naked belittlement. The news and blogosphere headlines blare it across the nation, reminding all of the harsh realities of an American mindscape that cannot and will not let it go.  It plays an incremental psychological semantic Russian Roulette, with each use increasing the chances of a reader or hearer reaching the full limit of their patience and capacity for exposure to its indignities.

Truth be told, one racial x-Word genie has been out so long, no one can even find the bottle let alone try to stuff the genie back in it. The hateful disparagement has been around for centuries, perhaps enjoying greater popularity today than in 1863, even being broadcast by satellite radio into deep space. If there’s intelligent life out there in the universe listening to our broadcasts, even they will be well prepared to greet their first black Earth visitor in accordance with Earth custom.

So, how do we go about the business of turning an x-Word into an ex-word? A half-century of Diversity hasn’t worked. It obviously isn’t going to be accomplished through professional discussion, moralizing, dialog, legal rhetoric and discourse. But maybe there’s an iridium rich cultural asteroid out there that could block the sun’s light, leading to the global extinction of those cultural lingustic dinosaurs.

Make a choice.  Just stop using any x-Word. Don’t let the light of day strike them in your lives. Don’t get dragged in to any discussions of them that won’t change anything. Within a few generations, locked away in a void of silence, it will fossilize and disappear from the surface of the human lexicon. No headlines, no songs, no blogs…no court cases. Just iridium rich silence.

“It can’t be that easy,” you say?   Whole languages have gone extinct, as have useless terms in most languages over time, and with a lot less effort than all the law suits and journalistic excellence on display. There’s plenty of precedent for language extinction, if not hopefulness of it.

Is this about forgetting? Is it about erasing history? Is it about working toward collective amnesia or revisionism?  Hardly.  But isn’t that where fossils find their greatest utility?

Who today needs a detailed court transcript to know precisely what all the x-Words and variations are, or to use a court decision as a basis for deciding whether deploying them is right or wrong, euphemized, implied or expressed, legal or illegal, thoughtful or thoughtless, professional or unprofessional? The only real choice before us is whether we’ll keep them alive or not. It is about making epithetical language extinct within our circles and spheres of influence until they have no known speakers, fossilized and no longer roaming the earth.

For those who want to keep any x-Word alive, just own it, and speak it out loud, sing it or blog away with it in all is glory, and see who follows, or who flees. That much we can respect, though not admire, about the community of entertainers that have made their millions brandishing the term.  For each of us, it is our choice, and our Constitutional right, good taste and good judgment notwithstanding.

For those who would prefer it become an ex-word, mark it “Do Not Resuscitate.”  That is your choice, and your Constitutional right. Do not perform resuscitation by recitation. Refuse to let it or its word-picture equivalents be revived in any form in your lives, mentally, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually. One day, we may all be free of it.

Back to Part I of Eradicating Cultural Typoglycemia

Onward to a discussion of new alternatives…click here.


Copyright © 2013 Robert D. Jones – All Rights Reserved

[1] Adapted from “The Choice Before Us”, Starhawk, www.starhawk.org; DISCLAIMER: Use of the quote is not an endorsement of views expressed therein.)

[2] CNN/Carmona – See: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/03/us/new-york-racial-slur-lawsuit/ )

[3] CNN on Deen – See: http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/12/showbiz/paula-deen-lawsuit/ )


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