African Americans have worked to reclaim the N-word by using it so frequently in positive and negative contexts, that it loses its incendiary ability to shock, degrade, and demoralize.
Eve Ensler did the same for women with the C-word, yelling it out at top volume on stage while performing her one-woman show, “The Vagina Monologues.”
I think it’s time conservatives reclaim a word that has been thrown at them at increasing rates, and possibly causing more strife and anger than either of the other two:
The term has become so diluted that when you hear it, there is no way to know if you’re dealing with the Grand Wizard of the KKK, or just a run of the mill conservative. The distinction is certainly not that black and white, no pun intended.
In matters of meaning, I like to start the old fashioned way- with a dictionary. From Oxford:
RACIST: A person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.
Racists are people like the folks I met on a TV shoot in Louisiana in 2008, who were upset that we had a “ni**er” on our crew, and asked if we could believe “They were gonna let that ‘monkey Ayrab’ Obama” be president.
Civilized people of all political persuasions agree that individuals like this should be ignored, and if their primitive opinions were to turn into dangerous actions, neutralized.
Lately, “Racist” seems to have devolved from a definitively distinguishing label of a universally unsavory person, to a term that’s thrown around rather haphazardly toward anyone who expresses an opinion on race that someone else doesn’t agree with.
“I don’t think equal opportunity programs benefit minorities.” “RACIST!”
“I don’t think welfare helps poor people excel.” “RACIST!”
“I don’t think raising the minimum wage will help minorities prosper.” “RACIST!”
“I think people in America should learn to speak English.” “RACIST!”
“People should come into this country legally if they want to live here.” “RACIST!”
I would hope that it’s clear to all, that those people from Louisiana and the people giving opinions like the above regarding the complexities of economics and governance, are not the same type of people. These days, the lowest scum of the earth and the highest of intellectuals can earn the same horribly derogatory label in the eyes of many, by simply addressing tough racial issues. The hair trigger ready to launch the R-bomb has become so sensitive, I was once called a racist after complimenting a certain race of people.
Are there real racists out there? Of course. Do varying levels of racism exist? Of course. Is, as the “Avenue Q” song says, “Everyone a Little Bit Racist?” Maybe. Am I one? Hard to say. By some folks’ definition- I guess I am. I don’t seem to have any say in the matter. I know in my heart that I would love to see all races live together in peace, equality and prosperity, but I’m not sure that’s a factor in the labeling of a racist anymore. That’s the problem, isn’t it? How can we solve a problem that is inherently in the hearts of individuals, when someone ELSE is deciding and defining what is in their heart?
Is Donald Trump a racist? Maybe. If you look at the words Donald Trump says, while certainly unpolished and crass, by the Oxford definition, not inherently racist. Is it that he has ideas that left-leaning people do not agree with, so he is labeled by them a racist? Maybe. Is he a buffoon? Absolutely. But a racist?
Does he think and feel like our Louisiana racists do? How about Steve Bannon, universally accepted by the left as Trump’s “racist” buddy? Or author Sam Harris, who had the R-Bomb screamed at him repeatedly by Ben Affleck on Bill Maher’s show, when he suggested that Islam was not a religion of peace? Maybe it’s not. He has a doctorate in Comparative Religion so it’s possible that he would know. Are these people real Oxford Dictionary, “Monkey Ayrab Hating” racists, or are they offering opinions on a very complex issue that those of a different political ideology do not agree with?
People in general are tired of it. They have thoughts and opinions that could actually help solve the issues of racism and economic inequality but they aren’t allowed to say them, or they will be incorrectly called a racist, and consequently dismissed. So they sit back and watch the nation crumble under the economic policy of “everyone needs to be nice to everyone.” They stayed quiet for many years. But on Nov. 8, they did something that scared the hell out of the hair-trigger racist callers- they voted for the biggest “racist” of all.