Friday, February 02, 2007

And You Thought California Was Bad

Hot on the heels of banning trans fats, New York city now wants to ban the use of the word "nigger". Let's see if we can figure out why this is a bad idea, shall we boys and girls?

Well, how about "prior restraint"? Admittedly I'm an amature at Constitutional interpretation, but this seems to be pretty cut-and-dried. In order to categorically ban the use of the word "nigger" you'd have to demonstrate that it falls under the rubric of the fighting words doctrine i.e. the word must be of

such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from [it] is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.
My use of the word "nigger" in the context of this post demonstrates that it can be used in a fashion that forwards the search for truth.

But that's not really my strongest objection; I'm really annoyed at the culture of taboo which has grow up around the word. I mean, the people who were pushing the resolution couldn't even bring themselves to say it, dancing around the issue by saying "the 'n-word'". Presumably they'd argue that sometimes it must be said, but only in the presence of 12 learned elders, who must then rend their garments in despair. By declaring it "The Word Which Shall Not Be Spoken" they've done nothing but further its power.

Ultimately it is just a word, even if it is offensive. Trying to get people to eliminate is from casual conversation is probably a good thing, but the notion that any single word is so powerful that it can't ever be spoken is just ridiculous.

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