The Chicago Tribune informs us that “Whitey” is not really a slur. Why? Because it’s just not offensive enough. The entire rather short article is below. Not only does the Tribune staff inform us that it’s really not offensive, they tell us that anyone who finds it offensive is simply ignorant and stupid.
It’s hard to come up with an ethnic slur that has less of a sting than “whitey.”
A prevalent yet unsubstantiated Internet rumor has it that Barack Obama‘s wife, Michelle, used this term at some point in a speech, and the Obama campaign is concerned enough to have posted an online rebuttal.
I’ve got to ask, though. Are there really white people out there so ignorant of history, so unaware of the nuances of language and so threatened by minority grievances that they take genuine umbrage at the term “whitey”?
More a taunt than a threat, the word has no ugly history and hints at no particular stereotypes. It may have been hurled in a menacing fashion in ugly personal confrontations from time to time, but it’s never been used to keep a people down, to put them in their place, to rank them as subhuman.
To be truly offensive, a derogatory term needs to have an ominous context that “whitey” lacks.
Those who take offense are confusing prejudice—which is making negative assumptions about people based solely on external characteristics, of which all races and ethnicities are guilty—with racism, which is prejudice in action.
It requires them to imagine that “whitey” marginalizes, diminishes and therefore harms white people.
And if they’re really that dumb, then I guess they deserve to be insulted.
Now all you deep-down-inside institutional racists dig down and think of a couple of racial slurs that you consider simply “more of a taunt” and insert it for the word “whitey” above. You see? We’re all free to make whatever slurs we deem appropriate as long as we feel that it involves simply “prejudice” and not REAL “racism;” as long as it lacks an “ominous context.” We’re all free to be prejudiced, as long as we’re not racist.
I can’t find anything in this article to disagree with, but find it hard to believe that this is setting an equal standard for whites and non-whites when it comes to racial slurs. The article could have been even shorter. Something like:
“Only white people can be racist.”