Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thoughts On : Offensive Words In Fiction Books

So I'm in the midst of reading a really good book when one of the characters, Emmanuel, a young black Rwandan character says the following:
 "Nigga took a bullet to the face and lived to tell"
It disappointed me. The same disappointment O feel when I see my 20 something African American nephews banter back and forth on Facebook:
"N... your team is going down this weekend"
"Did you hear about....? That's one dumb n.....!"

I'm not going to mention the name of this book or  the Author, though I will be reviewing it later this week. The reason I won't mention it in this piece  is because I don't think the usage of the word by the author is racist or insensitive. In fact anyone who spent a significant of time around African American youth or researched the vernacular of Black teens the "N" word would come up. Often.


So I've been thinking about this word and how it briefly stole a little enjoyment of this book from me . I realise a great deal of my reaction is personal. Frankly I'm just tired of hate filled words and tired of my Black community consistently referring to themselves with a phrase that is rife with controversy if uttered or written by others of a different race.

So what do we do about these words? How about others like "Fag", or "Retard"?

Is it an Author's responsibility to not perpetuate the use of these words? The Publishers? I don't know. I do know that every time these words are said or written  it becomes easier not to react to them  to just keep reading. That saddens me even more.


 My solution is a zero tolerance for myself and those around me. When I was visiting with my family a few years ago I noticed my nephews spent a lot of time calling things "gay" and calling each other "fags" I was really upset with them.I bit my tongue until one night when the five of us were alone having dinner I bought it up to them.
They were surprised I was upset and said it was "nothing" Just a "joke". This floored me. Neither I or my sister was raised this way . I can remember being punished for calling my sister a dog ! What upset me the most though was that none of my nephews had any hateful feelings towards the Gay community, though you wouldn't know that from their speech patterns.
The great thing about my nephews is that they really listened to what I had to say about their word usage. I explained why I thought the word "fag" was offensive, by paralleling the use of that word to how they would feel if a white youth used the "N" word in the same manner. The fact that I didn't hear that words ONCE for the remainder of my trip made me feel happy and hopeful.


There are no easy solutions but it's important to remember words are powerful.Sometimes we need to police the words that come out of our mouths. If they don't reflect the feelings of your heart why use them at all? Maybe as speech patterns and vernacular change so will our fiction books reflect our progress.


1 comment:

Cheree said...

Great post. I agree that words are powerful and writers should choice them very carefully, but if the story needs such names because of the content then there's nothing wrong with it as long as they don't make the words into a positive account.