Sunday, 26 January 2014
Using disabilist slurs as slurs:
Or why social justice still has a problem with disabled people.
Earlier tonight I had a long and very boring set to with a person who insisted that it was okay to use "crazy" to describe privileged folks . This isn't the first time I've encountered people who basically use disabilist slurs as their go to terms when talking about bigot. Moron and other IQ related terms are also commonly used when talking about bigots.
Here's why this sort of thing is a problem.
The use of "crazy" or similar terms as a slur reinforces that they are a slur and, and thereby that being 'crazy' or having the disability referenced is a bad thing that makes people bad people for having it. Reclaiming crazy or similar terms to use them as a term of affection or even jokingly at each other is one thing, grabbing them to use as a weapon against privileged folks? No. You cannot use them that way without doubling down on everything they are. None of those terms are at the point of reclamation where they can be used that way yet and I'm not sure any of them will ever be a word we can use that way.
For two, (if you're a PoC referring to racist white folks using such terms):
Congratulations, you just reinforced the privilege all the white folks have to assume that we can't be racist shits because racism is what 'those' people do, not us. Describing racist white folks as crazy? Feeds the idea that 'sane' white folks aren't responsible for racism and the structural discrimination against people of color that results from racism. It's all those 'crazy' white folks who are racist, not the nice 'normal sane' white folks when racists are deemed crazy. It lets us pretend that it's a fringe of crazy folks that are the problem, not us. Same goes for any IQ related term, after all the average white person doesn't think they're 'stupid', 'a moron', 'a imbecile' ex cetra.
Of course what inevitably happens when you point out that yes, these terms are still problematic used in that way? Is that folks get defensive, and use these arguments.
1. That's tone policing.
No, tone policing would be telling you that you're being too angry/too incoherent to be taken seriously, it would be dismissing what you're saying because of how you said it. Objecting to the use of disabilist slurs as insults? Doesn't mean I'm dismissing what you're saying. It means I'm objecting to the use of them that way. It's not your tone that is the issue, it's the oppressive word you used in an oppressive way. I might agree with everything else you say but I'm still going to say something if you start basically pissing on my minority while saying it.
There is a limit, the freedom to be angry, to say insulting things about those who oppress you? Does not translate into a license to never have anyone tell you that you said some hella problematic shit while being angry or expressing how fed up with privileged folks you are.
2. But I use *insert racial slur* all the time! (from PoC)
That's nice, but I doubt any person of color would be impressed if I used a racial slur to refer to a disabilist PoC and then defended it with "but I use slurs that affect me all the time" as if that magically translates into an ability to ignore the impact of using racial slurs in a way that harms PoC.
3. You hate people like me.
That's nice. Are we back in kindergarten when the logic of "you asked me not to do something that hurts others, so therefore you hate me" still works?
4. You're a bigot.
That's nice, but you still reinforced oppression against other groups.
Seriously, if you are angry about someone being racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, classist or any other kind of bigot? Call them a shitlord, a fucktrumpet, a shitty person, a bigot, an anus munching rugpolisher, or whatever other insults you can think of that are not a slur. Don't be lazy, go for something other than 'crazy' or moron'. Thank you.