So somebody has been vandalizing cars in the driveway of an African-American family across the bay from where I live for four months now. Eggs thrown, sugar in the gas tank, paint thrown, and now--as if the message had somehow been missed--spray-painting "KKK" and "nigger" down the side of a late model car in front of the home of the only Black family in this "upscale" neighborhood. And the next door neighbor still says she "can't imagine someone doing this." Really.
The television newscaster called it the "N-word." We're SO sensitive about not saying the term out loud (me included). But the behavior still continues and some European-Americans can't imagine why. I've finally started asking myself and other people--especially "White" people--why maintain a pretense of respect by not saying the word if we're not going to adequately attack the underlying values that produce such behavior as writing the word on a car? Just because European-Americans don't all vandalize cars doesn't mean that institutionalized racism hasn't remained an inherent part of our socialization from the past right into the present.
African-Americans (and other people of color, as a matter of fact) don't need their cars spray-painted with ugly words to experience the manifestations of White-held power and White privilege and White disrespect in their daily lives. Ask them. And then believe what they tell you for a change. Until we change our world view in the United States and the value system based on it, delicately using language isn't going to fix anything. How about getting real for a hot minute?
Can we say the O-word? (You know: "Oppression".)