I've been around a lot of conversations recently involving racism, or homophobia, and whether or not people should be 'allowed' to say certain things. For instance, the Aboriginal Memes facebook page, which was eventually taken down after an online petition was started. Which is great, if there weren't a bunch of other copycat pages which have just taken its place. Similarly, a conversation between a couple of friends the other night turned into a Free Speech vs. Hate Speech debate, including whether or not using 'gay' as an insult was ok because of 'intent'.
The thing I've come to notice is that some people, in the face of logic and/or empathy, will just not budge. They will refuse to see the world from another person's perspective, and they believe that their own view is the most objective and rational one. I'd just like to address this issue, in case someone ever stumbles upon this blog and finds themselves in the category of people who think that "words are just words, they mean nothing" and "if someone doesn't intend to hurt anyone, that's all that matters".
The reason these words mean nothing to you, these words like 'faggot' and 'nigger' and 'abo' and 'rape' and 'that's gay', the reason is that you will go through your life hearing them directed at other people, never at you. If they are directed at you, it will be by your other white, straight friends, while you laugh together. Never in your life will you hear them directed at you while walking home alone late at night, past a group of angry, drunk, strong men. Never will you hear them behind you as you start to run, and never will you hear them shouted over and over while you are beaten on the ground or raped. Never will you hear them muttered when you go to the police station to try and find help.
Nothing in this world exists without context. Ignoring a word's common usage and history is not intelligent or rational, it's just denial. Convenient denial, because you are in a position which allows you to be in denial. You don't think everyone else would like to think of them as 'just words'? Others aren't able to, because the words are tools, used to oppress and harm them. That is privilege.
The people these words affect, these people are not you. And these people are telling you that the words hurt them. By disagreeing, by minimising their experiences, by telling them that in your opinion they are wrong, they are being irrational - by doing this, you are effectively saying, "I am the only one that matters in this world. I don't care what happens to anyone else, my experience of life is the ONLY right one."
And you know what? Society will agree with you. Society will say, "Yes that's right! White, straight dude, you're right. Everyone else's experiences are nothing compared to your opinions."
So next time you call something gay, you laugh about a racist joke, and you roll your eyes at the person who is being too serious, who is trying to tell you that it's not funny - Pat yourself on the back. Because it's really fucking easy being you.