Opinion: Why the words you use matter

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Opinion: Why the words you use matter

Amanda Brandenburg, Editor-in-Chief

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I was born into a beautiful, racially diverse family. My aunts were adopted so one is Puerto Rican and the other is African. Now, I was taught to be respectful when I was younger, but I was also taught to stick up for my family, and do what is right. Being white, people wonder why I get offended when someone uses a racial slur, but why are they confused with me being offended and not why someone who should not be saying a particular racial slur is saying it? That is what is a major issue in society and what brings me to a story when sticking up not only for a part of my family, but for what is right showed me how close to home racism really is.

Now, I am unfortunately well aware that racism is still a very big issue everywhere–some places much worse than others, but how do you respond when people in your life start using racist remarks for the hell of it?

I have white friends who have said the n-word before and justified their actions with “Well, it was in a song,” and “Black people say it.” The first time people around me ever started saying it, I was shocked and scared to speak up because I did not want them to stop being friends with me–a very stupid and cowardly way to justify my own actions, but that was the truth. When they started using it more casually, I started to speak out against it, telling them it was wrong of them to say it. They would apologize to me saying, “Oh, I forgot,” but how do you forget years of oppression?

The worst experience I have ever had with a racist was with a “friend’s” boyfriend who I had learned would use the word so often that it did not surprise me when he used it. I constantly called him out when he used the n-word, but one time in particular, after having a rough day, I yelled at him for being a racist to which he was offended by and got mad at me for–very confusing, I know! That night after leaving from hanging out with all my friends, he had started spam texting me racist and homophobic remarks because that was the only way he knew how to get under my skin. At first, I let the texts continue to roll in and I felt I could just ignore them, but then responded by telling him to leave me alone. 

The spam only got worse and so did my knowledge of the whole situation. His girlfriend, someone I considered to be one of good friends, was sitting across from him at a table allowing him to talk to me like that. 

It’s disappointing to see how a word, that is backed by hatred and injustice, is thrown around loosely by those who have absolutely no right to say it. It is important to learn to take a stand against racism everywhere. Racial and ethnic inequalities loom large in American society. People of color face struggles when it comes to securing quality healthcare, housing, and employment and justice in our courts. That’s why I get offended and that’s why it matters.