The Power of Words

Lindsey Bell Editor-in-Chief When I first decided I was going to write an article covering Latin’s experience with Touré, I didn’t really have any idea what I was getting into. After attending the breakfast last Wednesday, I questioned my ability to write the article. I mean, I am a white, European-American. What do I know about post-blackness in America? Furthermore, I am still trying to come to terms with his ideas, and I am not sure if I agree with all of them. Just as I had pretty much decided I wasn’t going to write the article, I had the unique opportunity to have an informal lunch with Touré.  I shared my concerns with him, and he responded with encouragement. He said that if I feel uncomfortable, then I should absolutely write it.  I can’t say that I fully understand post-blackness yet, even after listening to him speak at Assembly, discussing with students in the library, and conducting my own research, but there is one thing I am sure of. While it is important to make distinctions between the various movements taking place today for minority groups, there are undoubtedly common threads that unite the causes. One idea that particularly resonated with me was the power of words. This idea of re-evaluating our use of those words that are so common in everyday language, that we have almost become desensitized to them. As a grammar guru, I have a certain appreciation for those special words that are just quintessential for their context.  However, I question the consciousness of some words that seem to effortlessly roll off our tongues. Then again, I have made a conscious effort to refrain from typing those specific words, because I do not feel comfortable typing them—regardless of whether Touré would qualify my usage as “academic”. Forgive me if all I am doing is simply giving into “he who shall not be named”—but that seems to me to be the only solution. The moment you begin to make exceptions, lines are bound to be blurred, and unfortunately crossed. One man’s “artistic value” is another man’s racist, sexist, homophobic, classist slur. Language evolves. This is an undeniable fact. Just as a popular style can go from the front cover of a magazine to the “what not to wear” section in the back, words fluctuate in and out of vogue seemingly overnight. We all remember the popular saying, “treated”. A word that once meant to regard or consider someone as something, to provide medical care to, or to take someone out to dinner now is said when someone is put down or embarrassed by someone, to be put in one’s place or “schooled”, according to Urban Dictionary. The very existence of a dictionary aimed at keeping those up to date with changing meanings of colloquial conversation, proves the evolution of language. However, I question whether a word can truly shed its historical context. After being informed of the origins of “mother fucker,” every time I hear the word, I will think of slave owner raping one of his female slaves and will think twice before using that sort of language. Touré brought up many interesting points, but this is just one that I thought was relevant to our community, especially with the recent Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign, promoted by Best Buddies, and dynamic conversations I have been a part of in LAW.  I would love to hear what the Latin community has to say on the power of words, post-blackness, or anything else Touré discussed, so please feel free to comment and share your thoughts!]]>