Words matter

I swear I did not want to write anymore posts associated in anyway with the online blitz No Wedding, No Womb. At this point it seems to me it was a good idea that went terribly wrong, make no mistake there is some work that needs to be done in the Black community, yet I am not sure an online campaign is the most effective way to affect the change that the organizers and many involved want.

However last night while relaxing with a glass of wine and chilling on Twitter, I ran across a blog post that was tweeted by the NWNW organizer and my blood pressure shot up. Frankly in the last two weeks since this campaign has started I have read many things that made me shake my head but as someone who goes online to relax, I have kept my thoughts to myself. This post was just over the top but it made me think about something few people ever truly want to talk about and that is that words matter. The words you choose to speak or write are powerful.

If there is any doubt to the power of words ask anyone who has suffered abuse, physical abuse is horrible yet in most cases the physical pain goes away. However to anyone who has ever been verbally abused, the words never quite go away, they live in continuous loop in the back of our minds coming out at low points to remind us that we aren’t shit, etc. It can take years to erase negative words that dehumanize us…I know because I have been there personally and I have seen it with the families and youth I work with. Tell someone they are a little shithead and watch how they grow. If there are no positive words going in, eventually that little shithead becomes a shithead.

I realize that many that read this blog are not Christian but as a Christian myself I have always been struck by the fact that even the bible addresses the power of our words. In the book of James Chapter 3 there are many verses that attest to the power of the tongue. Verse 6, and the tongue is a fire, a world of inequity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. Verses 8 and 9 read “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God”. This Chapter goes on talking about what the tongue can do. Yikes, the potential to do damage is great when we do not mind our words.

Which going back to this campaign to address the issue of out of wedlock births in the Black community, how is it effective if we use language that tears people down? Referring to children as bastards and illegitimate? Yes, once upon a time a few decades ago such language may have been the norm but it’s not anymore. Once upon a time it was kosher for white folks to call Black folks nigger but most white folks understand that in 2010 if you call a Black person a nigger it will be bad for your chances of long term survival. The only white folks that walk around calling Black folks niggers these days are ones that wish to dehumanize Black folks. Even those white folks don’t walk around yelling it in areas filled with Black folks because they understand it’s not socially acceptable. And in most cases they have a strong survival instinct to boot!

To help people we must understand where they are coming from, in my line of work I have seen what happens when well meaning ill informed folks pop into volunteer and it’s not pretty. To be frank it creates more drama than the so called help gives. That’s what I feel is going on when we have groups of Black women calling other Black women lower class and hoodrats. By the same token it’s no good when we start having to go below the belt and using words such as bitch, cunt, and sell-out and so on.

Language is often used to dehumanize people, I imagine that while my ancestors hundreds of years ago were dragged to this country in shackles and didn’t know what was being said about them, its safe to say they could figure out it was not good. I know many will discount what I just said after all that was so long ago, but I still believe there are pockets of the Black community still impacted by the scars from so long ago and yes language mattered then as it does now.

However the issue of language being used to dehumanize others goes far beyond Black women and our struggles. It seems that bullying of our youth is on the rise, when I was a kid you got bullied at school but at least you got to go home and catch a break. Now thanks to the advent of social media, kids can be tormenting at home as well as at school, at school a kid may be facing physical threats but when a kid is bullied in cyber space that kid is being abused with words. Carelessly tossed around words have created situations where we are seeing kids some not even in junior high school taking their own lives.

Words and the way we choose to use them hold power and if we use our words for the collective well being of all we have the ability to affect change on a grand scale yet when we use words for our own personal gain we do so on the backs and psyches of others. So as we start a new week, I challenge you to be mindful of the words you are using.

20 thoughts on “Words matter

  1. Just want to give a great big co-sign to this post and a hearty “amen” (spiritual or secular, your choice, folks).

    I also want to bring up a point you made last night talking to me but didn’t include here…that blog post that riled you up had some valid points in it, but the problem is that this woman judged the other woman personally.

    She makes out in the post like she’s supportive of fellow women of all stripes, but it seems to me that she’s already simply chosen to tear down this woman based on how she dresses and how she arrived.

    As you noted, this woman might be escaping abuse or who knows what else. She might be rough around the edges but be a dedicated mom. But she is dismissed out of hand.

    And I love the way the writer says this:

    “I can’t imagine going to another neighborhood and seeing Becky Sue driving her own U-Haul and unloading herself all day long.”

    As you and I both know, there are plenty of white “Becky Sues” in the world…and we’ve seen them…who have to do just that. And who look just as “rough”

    And who, in some cases, don’t even happen to be on Section 8.

    Social support systems are flawed in this nation, but Black in the Baystate in her blog post sounds to me too much like the Ayn Rand fans who worship at the alter of Objectivism.

    • I’m not going to get into a back-and-forth, because this is my wife’s blog, not mine…so while there are many points I disagree with you on, I’m only going to make this one reply, to clarify.

      Your own words were that you “can’t imagine…”

      Ergo, you can’t see how a “Becky Sue” (and we both know you’re talking about a generic white woman) would be in this situation because she’s better protected (of course she is…you don’t judge the white woman nearly as quickly or as harshly, showing how pervasive and powerful white privilege is, and how even blacks can reinforce it)…yet you can easily and automatically visualize this woman who moved in near you as a problem with a hoodrat child.

      That’s it. I’ve got nothing else to say. Your own words show your prejudices here.

  2. and as much as words matter, being nice a politically correct has gotten us no where as a people. the white liberals have protected our feeling while condoning our mediocre behavior. yet they all live far away from the crime and violence they created with their social policies. they move to the areas that have the lowest concentration of section 8 (since every neighborhood has a quota) while they continue to advocate for more projects to be built in middle class neighborhood.

    http://bibssince1985.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/how-white-liberalism-is-killing-the-black-community/

    protecting us instead of giving us the tools to succeed has crippled black people in america keeping us in a constant childlike state and depending on the gov to play daddy. i am advocating against that.

  3. and if you don’t think black people are just afraid to get off the gvt teet, look at what they focused on: the title of my post. while i put another valid more sensible post within 30mns, it was completely ignored because they couldn’t argue with it. they had to pick on the only entry they felt made the entire NWNW movement “not credible”.

    the one entry that has evidence to support NWNW is being ignored
    http://bibssince1985.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/fatherless-homes-a-personal-story/

    why isn’t anyone talking about that? because it will force them to take a look inwards. it will also force them to think about how their kids might suffer in the long run because of their bad decisions. but that would be taking responsibility. can’t have that. let’s make a straw argument and tear down the person who’s telling it like it is.

    • One of the biggest myths you CONTINUE to perpetuate no matter what anyone says, Christelyn, is that “nobody is saying or doing anything”. Either you are completely out of touch with the Sunday sermons of every Black church in America or you are far away from the youth groups, recreation centers and afterschool programs where Black youth spend their time, especially in urban communities.

      Not only is it a lie but it’s a consistent idea spread by white supremacists also—they don’t care, that’s THEIR norm, that’s why they don’t do anything.

      It’s a lie. A complete lie and a dangerous one.

      This is why NWNW is an epic failure because your primary goal is for media attention and sponsorship, not real change.

      Now, block that.

  4. Baystate, I am not a huge fan of being PC. I have been blogging for several years and I am known for being blunt. Yet there is a fine line between choosing to not being PC and being plain hateful. I think you leaned more towards hateful. I love to tell a story using real life examples the problem is in your story, there are too many unknowns.

    In your comment section on your blog you stated you could not stop and help/talk to this woman because you had to go to work. Well my work the one that helps pay the bills is helping people and that is perspective I am coming from. The truth is we bring our own baggage with us no matter where we go.

    You sound like a young woman who means well, but your approach is off. Yes, people do need to look inward and make better choices. I see it daily in my work but the approach you and some of the NWNW crowd want to take in the end is not going to help anyone.

    • The post was was MEAN, cruel, judgmental, classist, elitist, callous and crass. Sadly, it is a common theme for the major NWNW spokespersons (especially on Twitter) and it was passive-aggressively RT’d by the NWNW organizer, Christelyn. That’s how she’s been communicating, unless there’s’ a media opportunity, then she will surely speak (poorly) for herself.

      Well, I am speaking up because that sister in the UHAUL had and HAS no idea how she’s being talked about by these callous, ignoramuses.

      So, consider it divine intervention if I say something to you about it and now you feel “attacked” or think some of us are being “mean”. NO, calling somebody a hoodrat is dehumanizing and mean.

      We’re here to call you on it.

  5. Yes, words have considerable power. And, dare I say that I believe the original poster KNEW the power in the inflammatory words that they were writing. I’m on the fence regarding the NWNW day, which is why I chose not to participate. I understand the sentiments behind it, but it felt much more judgmental rather than a movement (of inclusion) with a plan.

  6. I pledge No Way, No Way to the movement specifically for what you have written here. Words have incredible power to harm and/or heal. I simply can not justify going against the natural order of the Universe as a means to help build community.

    Treat others as you wish to be treated, and all that…

    Thank you for this reminder.

  7. i’m not hateful. i am pissed. i’m fed up with watching people’s surprised looks when i tell them what i do for a livning. i hate being asked if i have kids (plural! at 24!). i hate being told “you’re so articulate!” (read, “you don’t sound fluent in ebonics.”) i hate being the good black implying all other blacks are bad.

    sure you will say: “then blame the white racists!” i do blame them. but i also blame us for giving them ammunition. you don’t think i put white people in their place? but here’s what i get as a response: “well… all stereotypes are based in truth. *shrug*” then i realized… before we can tell them to stop talking, we need to stop giving them sh!t to talk about.

    • Why can’t we acknowledge that Bay has a point? How is it that people can be so hateful to me, calling me bitch and c*nt, and no one is up in arms about THAT?

      I don’t like seeing it on Twitter from so-called ‘sisters’ (term used about a loose as my five-year old’s tooth). It hurts. It’s unfair. But it’s the First Amendment. We have to be fair. Free speach for all, or free speach for none.

      With respect.

      • I did mention that in this piece. “By the same token it’s no good when we start having to go below the belt and using words such as bitch, cunt, and sell-out and so on”

        I don’t agree with the people who have called you or your family out of your names, the language is heated on both sides and frankly it sucks.

        I think that Bay might have a point but as someone with 15 years experience working with low income families and adults I have issues with blanket judgments.

        Some of what Bay said reminds me of when I was younger and felt like I had to be the model negro…I’m almost 40 I don’t need to be that person anymore. I don’t represent all that is Black, if some other Black person is a fuck up, that’s on them. White people by and large don’t feel the need to carry the weight of whiteness on their shoulders, why should we? She states that she wrote from a place of frustration yet in some ways she has decided to use the masters tools to dismantle his house and as Audre Lord stated they don’t work.

        I think what you and NWNW are trying to do is good but the problem is there are too many voices involved. It’s like cooking in a kitchen with too many cooks, the food gets fucked up. You have been respectful in my space so I offer this advice for what its worth, take a few days and relax with your family. Unplug the computer and let some of the current heat die down and then regroup and take control of your message. Only you know what is in your heart and what your motives are, but I think the current path of NWNW is harmful to what your overall desires are as far as bettering the lives of Black women and children.

      • And just as I suspected and have seen, more of this is about internalized racism and the inability to counter the system of white supremacy. In my city, Black people with a suit get stared at. You think I go around blaming peeps in the hood? Really? SMH…

        Christelyn, I don’t support people calling you out of your name (at least not publicly) but your behavior has caused even me to think of some unfavorable terms that I shouldn’t use as a womanist. I have also witnessed you lying and engaging in other unsavory behavior, so despite the fact that I gave you the benefit of the doubt, you have lost my respect.

        Still, I won’t call you those names and wouldn’t encourage others to do so. You have postured yourself as as elitist, lying, classist, a media whore and ineffective, though.

  8. Goodness Girl, are we about to a war up in here? I also try not to call folk out their name. I am very mindful of what I say. You can’t take words back. I don’t want to kiss you after you called me a dirty bitch. I just couldn’t do it. I watched Torch Song Trilogy when I was teen and his mother said she never spoke when she was angry lest she say something that she can’t take back. And I’ve been living by those words for almost 20 years.

    I think might have read a bit about the topic on another blog. And I was like meh. If I want to have a baby w/o being married I will. Shit if I knew what pain in the ass my ex would and how stressful divorce was I might’ve opted not to put a ring on it. People are responsible for their actions. When you get to be a certain age, you know right from wrong. So this whole petition is a bunch of malarkey. Now that being said we do need to educate all women. This just ain’t a black problem. I like in Maine with a bunch of white and the majority of them think that getting married and having kids right after HS is the business. That is the culture here. The problems that I see with Black folk we put too much stock in what other say. None of my 5 brothers went to jail. My 3 sisters do not have children. I don’t own none of that shit the media. Do all people so stupid shit yes! Do people other than Blacks have babies out of wedlock? Fuck yeah! I see it here all the time. Fuckery is NOT exclusive to Black people and I just wish we wouldn’t act like we own the brand.

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