Tuesday, December 02, 2014


On facebook a couple of days ago I posted a link to a blurb about how some players for the St. Louis Rams made a visual statement before last Sunday's game in support of the Ferguson protesters, and then compared it to the 1968 Olympics black power salute.  You never can tell where these things are going to go, so I'll post the highlights for a debate on name-calling which then ensued in comments.

Here you go.

Meshell Yes, this is very cool. How confusing for cracker racists. Hee hee!

Ron I'd say cracker racists are in a continual state of confusion. And anger.

Mindy I think that phrase is redundant, Meshell.

Toni I just wish the non racists would stop saying cracker racists.

Meshell How do you know, Toni, that those of us saying "cracker racists" aren't, in fact, cracker racists?

Toni I'm of the opinion that derogatory terms, remain derogatory, regardless of who utters them. Therefore, I don't care. I also dislike the twitter feed dedicated to outing and getting fired those who spew racist hate, but also say shit like "kill that white bitch for her racist ways" not helpful.

Meshell Toni, my mom says much the same thing, and tells me that I shouldn't call people cracker. I respect that opinion, but I think cracker is a descriptive term for a certain type of racist prevalent to the rural South. I'm sorry that it bothers you.

Toni Thanks For The Apology

Brad I agree, Toni. Name calling is a juvenile and reductive tactic that only solidifies the barriers between people. Regardless of the source.

Meshell Ok, but I wouldn't call it an apology, just a respectful acknowledgment of your opinion, and an expression of mild unhappiness that my choice of words causes you any sorry of negative response.

Ron Okay. A couple of points on name-calling.

1. Personally, when I hear epithets about being white, I always think to myself, seriously, whatever, white people still run everything, this is an absurdity, who cares. That any white person is disturbed by "cracker," except, maybe, for some sort of normal recoil in reaction to anyone effectively saying "nyah, nyah," is truly beyond me.

I recognize that some people appear to be bothered by it, so I should remind myself to be sensitive. But I also put it in the category of people who correct me for saying "god damn." It's, like, man, really?

2. I think name-calling is not only acceptable but desirable in certain situations and within certain contexts. Ridicule and scorn can be legitimate. I think calling out racists is automatically up for consideration as far as that goes. I mean, maybe it's a bad idea if you're trying to persuade those racists, or maybe it might put off the people you're trying to get to listen to you, but it's not off the table as a rhetorical device.

COP - The fucking Nazi Party.

ELWOOD - Illinois Nazis.

JAKE - I hate Illinois Nazis.

I had really forgotten how funny this scene is.

Toni So.. name calling is ok as long as the people who are doing the name calling are subjugated? I feel like you're perpetuating the divisiveness.

Ron Look, sometimes name-calling is bad and sometimes it's good. It depends on the circumstances. Surely you agree that there are certain behaviors, ideas, etc., that are undesirable ought to ostracized, mocked, ridiculed. A blanket philosophy that name-calling is always bad is just absurd.

Toni Sure. Ideas, behaviors etc...but not people, and definitely not broad groups of people generally speaking. Sure, blanket philosophies are bad we've had that discussion before. But imagine, no...try to live in, a world where we don't label whole groups of people, especially negatively? Bitch about the behavior, mindsets, etc...but stop the rest. It's tiresome, divisive. Not conducive to peaceful living.

Meshell Nothing is off the table as a rhetorical device: censorship is oppression! Fight the Power! I find a lot of ideas offensive; I don't understand how a word like "cracker," which, really, doesn't have much power, can be that troubling, compared to ideas, expressed with varying degrees of obfuscation, that rape victims should have been more careful, or that poor people should "work smarter" or get better jobs, or that black men should expect to be gunned down in the street because they listen to rap music. Now, that is some offensive shit. However, people can say it, because we must allow for freedom to explore ideas.

Ron No, Toni, I'm going to make fun of people when I think it's the right time to do that. Name-calling doesn't CAUSE divisiveness. It's a symptom, if anything, but not a cause. So I reject your assertion as far as that goes. I just don't think it's true. And I can't have weird philosophies with which I disagree tying my hands when it comes to communication. You, of course, are completely free to refrain from name-calling. Hell, I'll even accept if you want to call me out for going too far or hitting below the belt. But not just for name-calling. No way. I have to be able to do that, in the abstract.

Brad If your intent is to shame people, then I think name calling is a perfectly legitimate tactic. But that doesn't make it any less reductive and juvenile. For what it's worth, I resort to it myself sometimes. I just take into account the fact that I'm removing the possibility of a mature debate once I open that door. And calling names usually only serves to reinforce the name caller's sense of superiority. Again, not very useful if the intention is to have mature debate. See how the introduction of one (fairly mild) epithet completely derailed this discussion?

Ron Brad, I almost fully agree, except that name-calling, insults, whatever we're calling it, can be juvenile OR a near art form. Just go read some Shakespeare to see what I mean. Again, it depends on what one is saying and under what circumstances.
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