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  #41  
Old 16 February 2018, 12:42 AM
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ChasFink, I understand what you are trying to say, that words are phonemes strung together with no inherent moral value, and that it is the attribution or contribution of their users that give them meaning. And you’re right, language is flexible, so I also understand your argument that there may have been a time and a place in the history of the world where the n-word wasn’t used in a deliberately offensive way. However, that has probably never been the case in America.

I downloaded ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano,’ by himself, published in 1745. It is one on the earliest slave narratives, and a word search showed the use of “black” and “negro,” but never the n-word. A similar search of the white abolitionist Benjamin Lay’s book, ‘All Slave-Keepers That Keep The Innocent in Bondage, Apostates,’ from 1737, also shows the use of “black” and “negro,” but never the n-word. Not once. 100 years later, in ‘Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,’ 1845, slaves are still referred to by the author as “black” or “negro.” In this work, however, the n-word does show up, eleven times. And every single time it’s a quote of a racist using it in a horrifyingly derogatory way that I can’t and won’t repeat here.

Going off of only these historical American documents, I would guess that the word negro was always the neutral term, and the n-word was always the slur. Based on Douglass’ work alone, I think it’s safe to say that any living American, young or old, knows full well the word’s historical and lexical context, and what it means when they say it.
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  #42  
Old 16 February 2018, 01:24 AM
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Is there any doubt at all that the teacher in question meant it in the extreme pejorative sense? So it's rather irrelevant whether that sequence has other meanings or a previous meaning or an origin that somehow emerged during extremely racist times without any racism...

The swastika's non-hateful origins are not in doubt; It's still used. (I personally use it often because it's on the map as a symbol of the temples we visit.) That doesn't absolve anyone from being careful that it's not misinterpreted as the hateful symbol it became. If there were some doubt as to its meaning, as for example many years ago when we debated its use on an Asian t-shirt, this would be relevant. In this case, I fail to see any relevance at all. The teacher could have discussed all of that history without using it this way, ad also without using it at all.

This gets at the most annoying thing about this story to me: These are not kindergarten students. They don't need to actually put their hands in the paint to understand what paint is. I'm tired of this stupid trope of "how will you ever know your feelings toward beliefs/religion/flags/symbols/sexuality/pejoratives etc if you don't actually get as close as possible to abusing them?" I don't accept that thoughtful adults need to actually smell dog poop in order to come to terms with their disgust of same. These are extremely important topics and this fallacy just makes a mockery of them, IMHO.
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  #43  
Old 16 February 2018, 01:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
Is there any doubt at all that the teacher in question meant it in the extreme pejorative sense?
I don’t think so.
Quote:
So it's rather irrelevant whether that sequence has other meanings or a previous meaning or an origin that somehow emerged during extremely racist times without any racism...
It’s irrelevant to the OP. But the separate linguistic argument has been going on for a few pages and we learn from each other here, so I don’t think the conversation itself is irrelevant. Once the question has been raised, it’s reasonable to respond to it.

Quote:
The teacher could have discussed all of that history without using it this way, ad also without using it at all.
Agreed, totally. It was a giant teaching fail to the point where the professor may have even made it more difficult for the next teacher to get across related relative points to these students.
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  #44  
Old 16 February 2018, 01:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Pink Pill View Post
I don’t think so. It’s irrelevant to the OP. But the separate linguistic argument has been going on for a few pages and we learn from each other here, so I don’t think the conversation itself is irrelevant. Once the question has been raised, it’s reasonable to respond to it.
I agree. My bad; I wasn't commenting on the general debate.
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  #45  
Old 16 February 2018, 02:40 AM
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Ah, I see.
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  #46  
Old 16 February 2018, 12:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
The swastika's non-hateful origins are not in doubt; It's still used. (I personally use it often because it's on the map as a symbol of the temples we visit.) That doesn't absolve anyone from being careful that it's not misinterpreted as the hateful symbol it became. If there were some doubt as to its meaning, as for example many years ago when we debated its use on an Asian t-shirt, this would be relevant.
However much we may disagree on other points brought up in this thread, I do agree with you here. Everything we've been discussing is really about being careful not to be misinterpreted, and being sensitive to how your communications may be received by others. In that spirit, just in case I wasn't clear in any of my other posts, I want to say that I meant no offense to you or anyone else here, and apologize if anyone was offended.
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  #47  
Old 17 February 2018, 05:36 AM
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Well, I don't think it's a matter of people here, for example, being personally offended but for what it's worth I don't find your arguments offensive.

It's not for me to say whether the teacher's actions are offensive either. I think we have every right to criticise but I wouldn't suggest, from what we hear in this story, that he's not a good teacher or anything like that. I just think it's good to take a critical look at these things.
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  #48  
Old 19 February 2018, 02:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
Well, I don't think it's a matter of people here, for example, being personally offended but for what it's worth I don't find your arguments offensive.

It's not for me to say whether the teacher's actions are offensive either. I think we have every right to criticise but I wouldn't suggest, from what we hear in this story, that he's not a good teacher or anything like that. I just think it's good to take a critical look at these things.
Agreed on all points!
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