Don’t Make Me Laugh

Look. Words are artificial constructions of our minds. They don’t exist in nature; if humans didn’t exist, neither would words. So they mean whatever we agree they mean and communicate whatever we think they communicate.

So if I know with certainty that if I say the word nigger to a particular person, she will take it as derogatory, then the word is derogatory in that context. On the other hand, if I know for a fact that if I say it to someone else, it will be taken as a sign of close kinship and shared heritage, then that is exactly what the word means in that situation.

Context is everything. The dictionary is filled with words that mean different things in different contexts, and everybody knows this. Everybody knows this so well that it never even occurs to us to complain about how it ought to be otherwise. That’s just how words work.

Nobody complains how unfair it is that you can’t go into a garden supply store and say “I’d like to buy a couple of stakes” and have the clerk wrap up a couple of T-bones for you, like what would happen at the butcher. And why don’t we complain about this? Because none of us is nursing any kind of secret yearning to get our steaks from a garden supply store. We’re all doing just fine getting them from a butcher and we know it. Nor is there any satisfaction to be had for us in saying this sentence to the clerk at the garden supply store. What would we get out of it? So we’re just fine with the fact that the word stake/steak has several different meanings depending on who is saying it and whom they’re saying it to and what the situation is.

So if you’re going to whine childishly on the air about how you can’t use the word nigger without getting nailed for it while other people get to use it all! the! time! and they never get the same treatment and it’s just! not! FAIR!, what you’re actually doing is letting on that you’ve been nursing the itch to use that word, that there’s some desire you’ve been bottling up inside yourself that is building up pressure to be let out.

Now, let us think. Let us think hard. Why might it be that Dr. Laura is so resentful of the fact that this particular word has multiple meanings based on context, when the same is true of any number of other words that it has never occurred to her to be resentful about?

What unexpressed idea, laden with long-suppressed emotion, burns within the heart of Dr. Laura, yearning to be released with the use of the word nigger? That cannot, in fact, be adequately expressed in any other way?

Is it, perhaps, the desire to show her black sisters and brothers that she thinks of herself as one of them, shares their culture and their emotions and their dreams?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

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