Words exceed their structure, their morphology. Words often transcend their semantic and pragmatic content. They become ideas, emotions, revolutions. At times they become perpetrators of violence.
Words can be taken lightly, yet their evocative power should never be underestimated.
There is a constant debate regarding a class of words largely considered politically incorrect, derogatory, hurtful, and discriminatory. Epitomes of these terms are the n-word for black folks, the f-word for gay men and the c-word for women.
Some people explain the intragroup use of these words and its cultural and social significance. Others emphasize the empowering and healing qualities of reappropriation, the process of reclaiming pejorative terms by groups. In a recent op-ed published by the Advocate, DJ Aguiar quotes Harry Potter ("Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself") to argue that these words should be evaluated -- and at times accepted depending on the context -- to foster dialogue (interestingly enough, in his article Mr. Aguiar spells out the f-word, the j-word, the t-word, and the d-word, but not once he spells the n-word).
On the other end, there are people who cannot forget that the n-words is currently used on twitter to deliberately insult the President of the United States, that the f-word is posted on ominous signs held by Westboro Baptist Church members picketing funerals, that the c-word is screamed to women during domestic violence attacks.
"When I hear the N-word, I still think about every black man who was lynched -- and the N-word was the last thing he heard." -- Ms. Oprah Winfrey stated while interviewing Jay-Z.
It is hard to separate words from a terrible past.
This is a challenge.
Not a lecture, a debate, or a dissertation.
It's a pledge. The pledge of refusing these words.
Not solely to be good people, or to be culturally competent, or out of fear.
But because these words are ugly and chances are that -- in a Dostoyevskian act of laic faith -- beauty will save the world, not ugliness. These words will not disappear, but by consciously ignoring them, we reclaim the vastness of human intellect.
No n-word. No f-word. No c-word.
No t-word. Honor the complexity of experiences within the transgender spectrum; stories that are infinitely more significant than a six-letter word often used to describe what's eccentric, awkward, and trashy.
No d-word. Even if successfully and powerfully reappropriated by lesbian communities, this word reportedly accompanies homophobic and misogynistic attacks in still too many cases. Lesbian minds, unions, identities and struggles deserve well more than this.
No h-word. Scientifically and clinically problematic, this term is incorrectly used to describe individuals who are intersex. Although many people quite honestly don't know the reason, brief Google searches can explain why the h-word is stigmatizing.
This term is often used as synonymous of being stupid, messed up, drunk or high. Yet, it originally describes people affected by intellectual disabilities and developmental delays.
Dwarfism is another medical condition that inspires endless jokes and easy laughs. Making fun of people affected by any kind of disorder is just too easy and ultimately coward.
The list could go on and on because humans can find both mesmerizing and repugnant ways to say things. The point remains: we are smarter than these words. We are cuter than them.
Accept the challenge. Add words to this pledge in the comment section.
The effort will at least force us to take a look at the dictionary, action that never hurts.