“Fag.”

Fags

A gay pride center was vandalized early Friday morning in Salt Lake City, Utah. The picture above shows what was written. “Fags.” The incident is being investigated as a hate crime (duh). Read all about it, if you’d like, and comment.

But this reminds me of a conversation I was having earlier in the week, thanks to the Dr. Laura controversy regarding her use of the “N-word.”

Some say it’s cool for black people to use the “N-word,” but no one else. I would assume the theory is that the word directly refers to them, so it’s different when they use it.

But there’s also a difference in meaning when I hear black people use it compared to…say…my racist family members. They say it with hostility. Anger. But when I hear my African-American friends use it, it’s more colloquial. Familiar.

I admit, I don’t like the word. But more than the word, it’s the intent behind its use, that determines my reaction.

It’s the same with “fag.” I don’t like the sound of it. I typically don’t use it. But I hear gay people call each other “fags” all the time. Once again, it’s all about how it’s being used. 

An old friend once told me that we give words their meaning. I’d like to amend that: We give words their power. 

So should we just ban words like the “N-word” or “fag” entirely? Is that even possible? Or should we have some sort of understanding that language and the interpretation of it is nuanced?

You tell me.

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