I was a having a conversation with some friends over dinner the other night and the subject of “judgment” happened to be the topic. Depending on your stance about this word and the context that it’s utilized in, it could definitely hold a punch that could ruin dinner altogether and send people running for the hills.
Being the open-minded adults that we are, the conversation continued to grow and manifest into something beyond my own understanding of how we use certain words. As the dinner dialogue lingered on, I found myself intrigued by the structure of meaning with words, how we choose to utilize them and how they can both positively and adversely affect us.
In our society, there are certain things that we have been taught on what we should or shouldn’t say in the presence of other people. For example, we shouldn’t say the word “nigger” or call a white person a “cracker” or a Hispanic person “beaner.”
These are words; a composition of 2 or 3 morphemes, grammatical units of a language whose principal carrier of the meaning was distinguished by us. Yes, these words are derogatory and it hurt, but it is also a grouping of letters placed together and given power by placing “meaning” around it and introducing it to the world to use at their will.
But, remember the old adage, “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?”
Often these words do hurt and it can bring a person down pretty quickly. But, I believe that there is a way to overcome such negativity and abolish these words from ever hurting us or others again. If these words hurt us and the feelings of other human beings, then doesn’t that simply mean we and every other person who are hurt by these words “identify” themselves with it? And how about those that are delivering the words? If they are utilizing them to hurt or describe another human being in a derogatory manner, then they too are identifying with the words that they are choosing to use.
It is unfortunate that we have created language that has been meant to demean another human being. But, what would happen if we had the capacity to de-identify ourselves from these words that cause us pain or pain of others, and abolish the opportunity to perpetuate the negative context and the power that these words possess? I believe that there would be a paramount manifestation of how we construct meaning of the words that we choose to identify with, and a greater systemic change would evolve.
I may be caught up in what is known as the Utopia Syndrome, which means that there is a definitive, total solution to the problem of de-identifying ourselves with words that we’ve learned. I don’t think there is a “total” solution, but I do believe that we have hope to work towards small changes that will cascade to larger changes. Yes, it’ll take a great shift in paradigm and how we think about others and the words that we use, but most importantly it is how we feel about ourselves.