Are racial slurs ok as a term of endearment?
Recently I began hearing my middle schooler call her close friend a “blond.” The manner in which she used the word implied that it was a short form of “dumb blond.” My kid would come home from school and say things like, “Mom, you know what my blond said today?” This kind of bothered me. Not just because I happen to be a blond, but because I have a really hard time hearing anyone defined and entitled by skin or hair color. You’ll hear me point out someone by the color of their clothes long before I mention skin color. So, I talked to her about it. I told her that movies like “White Chicks” and “Legally Blond” may make it seem that girls with blond hair are the last group that our culture allows us to make fun of, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. Then she stunned me with this retort. “Mom, we are best friends. We’re joking. It’s how she knows I love her. And she calls me her maid.”
“Maid?” I asked
“Yeah, she said if we were born a long time ago, I would be a slave so she calls me her maid.” Then my daughter peeled into giggles of laughter at the thought. I should tell you here, if you haven’t figured it out already, that my daughter is bi-racial, of Irish and African ethnicity.
This whole expanded definition of the “blond and maid” friendship didn’t soothe me a whole lot. But it did get me thinking about how terms of endearment are sometimes slurs that, spoken in the privacy of an intimacy imply, “This is our special word. Our joke. This separates us from the world and bonds us together.”
A perfect example would be the fact that many African-Americans use the “N” word within their racial circle as a term of affection. Oprah would prefer to erase even that use of the word. Chris Rock thinks it’s powerful. Within the context that it is used, it is a word of acceptance and brotherhood or sisterhood.
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