Sunday, May 3, 2015
A Thug Too Far!
Debate has broken out among the chattering classes about the word "thug" which often is used to describe miscreants, often poor urban blacks, who act out. The word of course has a long history which it might be useful to remind ourselves about. Check it out here. I'll wait.
Now then, the current debate wants to add "thug" alongside "nigger" as an epithet which should never be uttered. I get the connection to race, I grant the connection to race, but nonetheless I am not eager to retire yet one more word from the lexicon. When words go off-limits they become overly charged with a harmful power. Instead of adding "thug", or as some folks are already saying the "T-word", to the list of forbidden language, let's use it and then make sure we hold folks accountable for what they mean, whether they be reporter, mayor, or president.
It's a poor dog whistle which can be heard by anything other than a dog, and the argument needs to be less about the language used to describe events than those events themselves. Allowing ourselves to be distracted by the impolite language all too often means the facts which prompted the discussion go unremarked upon. There's plenty to focus on without, as is all too often the case with modern media of all kinds, chasing off after the next shiny controversy which offers convenient talking points.
Sticks and stones are mighty weapons, but so are words and we should use them carefully and with serious intention. But we shouldn't behave like intemperate school-marms and outlaw language which merely hurts our increasingly tender sensibilities.
'Nuff said...for now.
P.S. Just saw the latest Avengers movie and both Captain America and Baron Strucker used the word "thug" without the slightest hint of racial code. It was just a word.
NOTE SOME WEEKS AFTER THE FACT: I'm leaving this post as is for rhetorical purposes, but my opinion has changed. Despite my wishes that the word not become code, the facts have superseded that and it has been appropriated by those who desire to label and demean a certain sector of society. It's a shame but it is how it is.