Saturday, August 19, 2006

Offense offered. Offense taken?

It has been said that one should never give insult unintentionally. Apparently Chavez follows this advice.

Setting aside the absurd claims that he has "captured" spies and returned them to the US and that the US is preparing for an invasion, the use of the term "gringo" to refer to us is probably not an accident. He meant to offend. So, are we offended? Probably not.

It is interesting that those of Northern and Eastern European descent are rarely offended by derogatory terms and negative stereotypes. It is not merely that there is no remedy to such prejudicial behavior... We are often not even offended.

Call me a "cracker" and I will laugh. Use the term "gringo" to sum up my entire being, thoughts, feelings, and value as a human being and the shot lands far clear of the target. Furthermore, movies like "White chicks" and the comedy of the Chappele Show (sp) are watched as much by "whites" as by "blacks." But, use a term like sp*&# or ni**#$..., terms no less offensive according to the dictionary, and one will be properly pilloried.

Perhaps derogatory terms only have resonance when used by "persons in power." So my use of the term sp*&# is offensive precisely because I am a college educated, Middle-class "white" guy. Only, this doesn't really explain things.

My grandfather never completed the 6th grade, couldn't read or write, and never earned more than a couple-thousand dollars a year in profit from his 50 acres in Tarborough, NC in his entire life. He was as poor and uneducated as any "colored" person in America. I daresay he knew and used the term ni**#$ to describe "black" people. Was it any less offensive because he lacked power or influence? I doubt it.

So, what is the difference?

Why is it OK for a South American dictator to lump all of us together into one offensive term but aweful for any "white" person to use similarly offensive terms to describe him in return?


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