Said by Maya Angelou tonight on the CBS evening news in regards to the racist comments made by Don Imus. She was speaking specifically to the question of whether it matters if a 60 year old white man or a black man makes these comments. Vulgarity is Vulgarity no matter who says it. There is no comparison to be made. She says. And I happen to agree.
I have been very disturbed by these recent events and it has opened my eyes to the power of the public voice and how shameful words can so easily filter back into everyday language. I am hearing that young people are using these words at school and it is causing offense not only to people of color but to people who care about general respect to others. Why? Why are young people using these words?? I keep asking myself the question, "how can the N word and other words we worked so hard to eliminate from common language be used so freely these days?" I asked the parent of a teenager and do you know the response I got? Well, some kids like to recite parts of Dave Chappelle's acts and he uses that word. As my face registered horror (cuz I don't watch Dave Chappelle) she then explained that he uses the N word to make fun of racism. HUH? What the F*ck. Yes that's right, I can have foul language like anyone but since when did using the N word become funny? It isn't funny. It is offensive. It is offensive to me. I have spent the past week on a rampage against all forms of entertainment that freely use words that I thought we had learned NEVER to use. By using those words in music and comedy we are desensitizing our youth to the kind of impact those words REALLY and TRULY have on people. They should not be used and certainly never casually.
I was raised by parents who were coming of age in the 50' & 60's. They were part of the generation that rallied against the Vietnam war and fought for equal rights. They were a generation of opinionated people with loud mouths and righfully so. I feel that my generation was better off because of all the things my parents fought for in this world. As a result, the things I learned just from being a kid in their house was that there were words we just don't ever use. It wasn't a house enforcing too many manners- we were allowed to put our elbows on the table, didn't have to make our beds, and we were even allowed to swear as long as it was not at someone. However, we absolutely needed to have respect for others and we needed our language to reflect that respect. How is it that 2 short generations later we are becoming lazy with our language? How can so many people be so careless with their words? I feel like grabbing these guys by the lapels, shaking them, and saying "damnit, use your God-given brain to find better words to put out into the world. Young people are listening and you are not doing anyone any favors!"
I am proud of how the Rutgers women have handled themselves in the wake of the insults hurled at them. They are standing tall and frankly I think that is the best revenge against stupid men.