Megan McArdle misses the point

Megan has a series of posts up about use of the “n word” (in response to this post by Ta-Nehisi Coates). They both claim that it’s ok for blacks to use the word, and not ok for whites. I find this kind of funny, at least in Megan’s case, since her immediately following post is about symbols and their abuse.

It’s at least as wrong for a “good Catholic” to spit or piss on a consecrated host, as it is for an atheist to do it. Being a member of the group doesn’t give you special privileges in this case, it gives you extra responsibilities. The same goes for racial epithets. If it is wrong for white guy to call someone a n!gger, sp!c, or b!tch, then it is equally wrong for a black, hispanic, or female individual to call someone those things.

And, make no mistake about it, in our society it not merely “rude”, it is wrong to do those things. Consider the response among a random selection of onlookers to a white calling a black a “n!gger”. Now, consider the response of that same group to a black calling a white a “honky”. Or “white trash”. Compare the response to a man calling a woman a “b!tch”, vs. a woman calling a man a “dick”.

This is America. There are no privileged classes, there is no aristocracy. If it’s wrong for others to do it to you, it’s equally wrong for you to do it to others. If you wish for society to cast it’s opprobrium on people who engage in a behavior, then don’t do it yourself.

This is, in fact, a lot like the “Affirmative Action” debate. Once you decide it’s ok to judge people based on the color of their skin, you’ve forfeited all right to complain about others doing the same. Having a different skin color from the majority of Americans doesn’t give you special rights, thinking it does marks you as just as racist as the creators and enforcers of Jim Crow.

You can have issues of right and wrong, or you can have questions about “whose ox is getting gored?” Once you’ve switched over to the latter, you’ve forfeited any special claim on the rest of us, any claim to special consideration. Because when it comes down to “whose ox is getting gored?”, my ox is just as valuable is yours. Actually, it’s more valuable, because it’s mine.

Now, am I going to go out tomorrow and call a black guy a “n!gger” just because other black people do it? No.

But am I going to waste much care, concern, or consideration when some other person does that? No. Why should I? It’s merely a question of whose ox is getting gored, and I don’t have an ox in that fight.

Finally, would I like to live in a society where people don’t use racial epithets? Absolutely. But according to Megan and Ta-Nehisi, not only is that not going to happen, but I’m wrong for even wanting it to happen. So long as that remains the case, it’s not worth my time to care.  And that’s why it’s wrong for blacks to use the “n word”.  Because every time they do it, they tell the rest of us that using it is no big deal.

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