What is it that makes a word offensive? A word is a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others to form a sentence. But what is it that gives a single word meaning, and especially an offensive one. Words are obviously our way of labeling things in our world in order to better communicate, however there are those words that when used elicit a negative response from those that hear. So we know that most words are used to define things in order for us to communicate, what makes particular words become offensive? Simply put, emotion. The emotion that we attach to words determines how offensive a word is, for instance, if I simply say the word “nigger” it would elicit a very negative response to those around me, but why? There is no context to the word, I just say it randomly. However, the fact that I am white puts that word into context before I even say it, even if I do not have any particular context in which I say it. Assuming the audience present is all black, the context is that I am white and white people do not say it, or the individual saying it is a racist.
A black man on the other hand can say the slag version of the word, “nigga” as many times as he pleases and it is not offensive to him or most other blacks. Some even have cited that this is an attempt to remove the alleged power from the word, but has it done that? No because the word as power based on the amount of emotion others put into it. That word does not have less power by saying it more, in fact I think you could argue the opposite. If I say “nigga” instead of “nigger” would that be less offensive to an audience of blacks? Perhaps to some it may not be as bad, but because I am white it is likely to still ruffle some feathers.
Even if I say “bitch” with an audience of women, I will get a very negative response, even if not directed at any one specific person. But why does this word elicit this response? Again, the emotional value you place on this word, or any offensive word, is what gives the word power. If we do not ascribe emotional value to specific words or phrases, then they do not have any power. I believe that when a person becomes upset about specific words that it is more of a reflection on them than the ones using it. They are allowing their emotions to dictate their behavior, they are allowing a simple word to offend them and upset them because of the emotion that they have ascribed to this word. Sometimes we even see people seeking to ban or stop the usage of certain words, what a display of insecurity. Because they are offended by a particular word they see the need to stop everyone else from using it. How about removing your emotional attachment from the word, then it no longer has the power to control you and your emotions. Making it illegal does nothing but give that word more power to control your emotions and numerous insecurities.
I assert that we should carefully choose which words we ascribe emotions to. We should ascribe emotion to words like love, not nigger or bitch. When someone tells me they love me, it says to me that they are willing to sacrifice themselves for me, as sacrifice is the epitome of love. Therefore I give that word power by attaching emotion to it. When it is said to me, it elicits a positive emotional response. Do not allow words to disturb your peace, if you allow that to happen then it is your own fault for having an emotional attachment to that particular word, whatever it may be.