I’m just going to put it out there: the world hasn’t suddenly gone crazy. The majority of people haven’t got their knickers in a twist about whether we use the words “black” or “spaz”. Unfortunately, it’s a very small minority that has chosen to take offence. And what’s the result? The rest of the world tip-toeing around, scared that they’re going to say something unwittingly that is going to (at best) offend someone, or (at worst) get them fired.
What makes these words offensive to some people is the intent behind them. But shouldn’t we, as adults, be able to make a sensible judgement on whether these terms are used in a derogatory way or not, rather than just blanket banning their use?
It’s gotten so bad lately, that a recent conversation between friends went a little like this:
A: “I’m not sure I remember her from your drinks.”
B: “Oh, she was the one sitting on the left.”
A: Blank look
B: “She had just come from a shopping trip.”
A: Maintained blank look
B: “She was wearing a blue top.”
A: “There were two girls there in blue.”
B: “She was the more solid looking one, with short, dark hair?”
A: “Um….they both had short hair – ”
Me: “Oh for pete’s sake. She was the black one who loves Marmite.”
A: “Oh! Of course. She really did like Marmite, didn’t she?”
Let me put it to you that the use of “black” as a descriptor should be no more offensive than someone describing me as “asian-looking”. And I don’t hear many people scratching around to avoid using “asian”. Nor do I hear of many Asian-looking people objecting to being described as such. Because it’s not offensive. It’s a fact. Like my eyes are brown and I’m skinny with a foul mouth. And I wouldn’t object to being described as any of those, although of course I’d rather be described as “staggeringly witty, interesting, well-travelled, and once competed successfully with a bunch of men to eat a quarter pounder, 20 nuggets, mcflurry and large coke in one go” but hey, we can’t all get what we want. And before I leave the subject, why isn’t calling someone “white” deemed offensive in the slightest?
Now you’re probably going to protest the use of the term “spaz”, even when it is used in a jokingly affectionate manner. It’s just offensive, I hear (some) of you say. But I can assure you that my down-there-lady-bits aren’t taking offence whenever someone calls someone else a c***. Nor is my posterior protesting, whenever someone is called an a***hole. I’m sorry to be crass, but thems the facts. It’s not the words that are offensive, it’s the intention. So let’s be clear in what we’re complaining about, if we’re complaining at all – don’t brand someone racist because they used a word that you don’t like. Do it because of what they mean, not just what they say.