Brainpower is more useful than a ban

The Daily Kent Stater

editorial staff

They told you not to rot your teeth with sugar —ÿyou ate a pack of Oreos for lunch.

They told you to stay on the sidewalk — you, of course, walked in the grass.

They told you to use inside voices — you screamed at the top of your lungs.

Authority tells people not to do certain things or there will be consequences, but human nature leads us to question. So what happens when that authority changes the sidewalk and the inside voices to discriminatory language? Would you still challenge it?

New York City symbolically banned the use of the n-word at the end of February. Granted, the state has no real authority to enforce the ban, encouraging today’s younger generation to directly face the offensiveness of such words is a good goal to have.

Similarly, some high schools across the country are beginning to punish students for using the phrase, “That’s so gay,” when they want to say something is “wrong” or “stupid” in an attempt to increase tolerance.

But there’s something missing: the reason why. Without this explanation, these attempts to stop the prejudices instigated and will fall short.

There is so much emphasis on rule and punishment that everyone seems to forget the missing link to stop discriminating speech — education. Without educating people why the n-word is so hurtful or why saying, “That’s so gay” is completely ignorant, they will never fully understand why they should never say such things in the first place.

Calling someone the n-word, in its original meaning, is the equivalent of saying he or she isn’t human. That person is a being of lesser intelligence and importance. Not exactly something you’d want to call your best friend, is it?

The definition, depending on how it’s used, has changed somewhat. It can mean friend or brother — if the right person says it, that is. Trying to take away the hurt and pain a word can cause is one thing, but throwing it around like it has no cultural and historical significance is another.

As for calling something gay, that just defies all logic. First of all, gay does not mean stupid. It means being happy and carefree. It became a term for homosexuality in the early 1900s only in that it referred to someone who was carefree and uninhibited in relation to the current societal norms.

So, by calling something or someone gay and meaning he or she is stupid, that only shows the true ignorance and bigotry of that person.

Words only have power if you give them power. Banning them only adds to the hurt they can cause. If there is anything we’ve learned, telling someone not to do something only makes him or her want to do it more. There needs to be more education about these issues so people can better understand these words.

Once we learn the reasoning behind the rules, there would be less emphasis on the punishment because people will know why they need to follow them. The n-word dehumanizes people. Using gay in a derogatory manner degrades the legitimacy of the LGBT community.

We pride ourselves on being a nation of intelligent, accepting people. If we continue to say the n-word, “That’s so gay” and other ignorant words and terms, we’re only fooling ourselves. It shouldn’t take a ban to get us to stop.

The above column is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.