I’ve begun to notice a common misconception amongst the usage of racial or derogatory slurs towards the presence of minorities. Apparently, there are grounds for justification when slurs are used; as long as malevolence isn’t intended or there are additional circumstances, the use of slurs that were created to degrade and further oppress minorities is comparably less harmful than someone who aggressively uses them often. Let’s begin by looking at two separate incidents that occurred this past week and debunk the misconceptions behind them, shall we?
Incident 1: White adolescent male, avid conservative and Trump supporter, started cracking textbook terrorist jokes at a South Indian boy in his class. Additionally, he showed cultural prejudice by making accent jokes. Trump supporter continued with these verbal abuses daily, having his friends in the class chime in to laugh along. He didn’t see the issue with this racial insensitivity until only after he was called out on social media as a racist. Naturally, when apologizing, he attempted to justify his remarks by saying he expected the boy to take it as a joke.
Incident 2: White adolescent male, liberal, supposedly anti-bigotry, anti-racism and anti-ignorance. He called this same brown boy a “sand n***er,” not once, but twice. White liberal apologized only after he realized the boy was dropping out of the class due to the continued racial abuse from his peers. When confronted after the fact, he attempted to downplay the degree of racism expressed by saying he’s known this kid since middle school, values him as a person and dear friend, and isn’t the most racist person in the class.
Naturally, no one in the community expected anything less from a Trump supporter. Everyone with common sense could see the overt racism in calling someone a terrorist because of their brown skin color. There was no debate about this. But when it came down to the white liberal and his actions, people hesitated to label his actions and him as racist. In fact, the aggressor himself was angered for being called such, and other non-black people of color joined in on trying to justify his actions: “They’re ‘friends’ so it’s not a big deal,” “There are more blatantly racist kids in the class,” and my favorite, “He apologized so everyone should move on.”
There are no external factors or circumstances that can diminish the severity of members outside of marginalized communities using racial and derogatory slurs. Likewise, political affiliation and good intentions do not automatically shield individuals from their ability to be problematic or further oppress marginalized groups. Neither liberalism nor intent without malevolence exist as adequate excuses towards justifying and lessening the amount of vileness displayed. If anything, the simple fact that the offender publicly aligns himself with liberal views should clearly indicate at least an awareness of the racial sensitivity and innate hatred associated with this slur. Yet, the offender deliberately referred to his peer as a “sand n***er” more than once, and only apologized because he didn’t want to be grouped in with those classmates everyone expects to be racist. This red flag literally screams of not seeing the problem with committing racist actions until the possibility of being labeled as a racist has been presented.
It’s time we stop picking and choosing who or what we wish to call out. Intent does not absolve or minimize impact, and racism does not operate on a circumstantial spectrum. Both aggressors subjected their peer to socially unacceptable variants of racism, and both should face the repercussions of their offenses by being held equally accountable.