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Joshua Lee

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Is the language we use perpetuating the racial divide?

When I started working at the University I was asked, "Who do you relate to?" I answered unawares of their intention, "My wife." To which there was a pause... an irritated pause... ,"No, What race do you identify with?" Response, "The human race."

This only provides a small example into the plethora of ways that language contributes to how we perceive ourselves and others. This example illustrates how language shapes identity or at least perceived identity and its association with our race. It gives clues to how society contributes to a divide that no longer should exist. I believe that we can move beyond defining ourselves through race. We can rebuild ourselves through language and allow growth to truly take place.

Perhaps then a lack of opportunities wouldn't be presented as a racial issue but an economic issue, perhaps stereotypes would disappear and we would be able to characterize each other based on work ethic not racial stigmas, Perhaps we would be able to address the social issues from a less jaded perspective. Maybe now is the time that we stop making up for our ancestors mistakes and start working together as true equals.


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    Jun 29 2013: Here is an interesting perspective on the usage of the N-word.

    John McWhorter is a speaker at TED https://www.ted.com/speakers/john_mcwhorter.html

    I've heard a program on NPR where it was mentioned that N-word is now used by black people to make white people feel shame and guilt. In a sense, it's used as a tool to dominate white people.
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      Jun 29 2013: That is an interesting article Arkady, and the author, John McWhorter says..."The affectionate use of the n-word was well established a century ago". I suggest the origin goes way back further than that.... maybe the 15th century, to Niger, Africa?


      I don't think black people ever stopped using the term. Malcolm X and co author Alex Haley used the term throughout the "Autobiography of Malcolm X "(published in the early 60s). I cringed every time I saw the word, which was used many times throughout the book. It was difficult for me to even read the word, and I kept reminding myself that if they wanted to call themselves that, they had a right to. It still gave me an odd feeling because of all the negativity that has attached to the word.
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