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2-01-2012 @ 6:00PM
Quick story: I once walked in on a naive white guy talking to a black coworker that he was friendly with. The conversation was completely innocuous (I don't even remember what they were talking about) until the white guy says, "There's a colored guy in my class..." To which our coworker responded, "A WHAT guy in your class?" At this point I started listening pretty intently. Here's the long and short of what followed: The white guy, in trying to not offend the black guy, chose...poorly. The black guy explained to the white guy why that was not "cool" and told the white guy that it's fine to say "black." The white guy said, "Sorry," and the black guy said, "It's okay, you didn't know."Was the black guy wrong for being offended? No. Was the white guy using an offensive term? Yes. Here's what's more important: They treated each other with respect and spoke rationally and maturely. The white guy didn't mean any offense and the black guy was not personally offended, but recognized that the other person needed to know that there is a lot of meaning behind certain words.Right now, there's a semantics argument happening. The real issue is intent (on both sides). There are people just waiting to be offended just as much as there are people actively trying to offend others. The only way to remove yourself from the equation is to be cognizant of your environment. I say things that people would consider offensive all the time, but I say them to people who I know won't be offended. No one should have to walk on eggshells, but that doesn't mean you can say whatever you want, knowing that there are socially unacceptable words, and expect the community as a whole to embrace your self-centered worldview.tl;dr: Be an adult, recognize the power of language, and have respect for yourself and others.
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