Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The "R" Word

There's a stink over the word "retard" in the new Ben Stiller movie "Tropic Thunder".

Some angry people want the word "retard" banned, and they want the movie boycotted for using it 17 times in a way that could be viewed as derogatory towards developmentally challenged people.

If I thought that banning certain words would bring about the end of xenophobic bigotry, I'd get on board. However I think the effort is doomed to backfire. Instead of bringing people together, the protests further divide people, ruining any chance for mutual respect to ever develop. It creates conflict that drive people into their 'us' and 'them' trenches, where they will stubbornly stay with their peers, heads down and shooting blindly at "those damned outsiders".

Protesting certain words, in reality, makes them more effective tools to offend others. And when looking to give offense, people are going to grab the most effective tools at their disposal.

Besides, if using specific forbidden word results in career suicide and social exile, people will simply gravitate to other words and use them to mean the exact same dismissively hateful thing.

What needs to be banned is the attitude that "together, we can disrespect and dehumanize people that aren't like us".

And we can't do that by taking a black sharpie to the dictionary.

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