And, here we go again. Seriously, do we have to talk about this? Really, another racist debate here at our "wonderful" university? OUr university? "Oh my God, I can't believe it," said nobody ever. After the Sigma Alpha Epsilon incident in 2015, and the Tri-Delta blackface event last year, you get desensitized to all of this. As of now, Feb. 13, 2020, if you type the "n-word" into Google, we literally fill the top stories of the page again. I mean, after spending so much time, effort, and money (not that we have a lot, but okay) on diversity training, we might have expected for the campus to be at least a little bit more aware. NOPE. But hey, at least it wasn't the students' fault (this time). Now, I'm not going through news you can Google for, but hey, let's have an honest discussion:
Is calling someone a "boomer" equivalent to calling someone the "n-word"?
Nope. No ageism here. Look, people have been taking jabs at the older generation for generations, mainly due to the difference in attitudes on certain aspects of life. Take music for example; over the recent century, there has been so much stigma against those who listen to all kinds of hits, especially between the youth and the older. People thought that classical music was outdated. People thought that punk rock was the devil's music. People thought that disco was for party goers and drug-doers. People thought that psychedelic rock was "the hippie's muse." People thought that rap was a gateway to criminal activity. And last but not least, people think today's pop is too "mainstream." Everyone has their own taste in music, and as such, are entitled to their own opinion. Calling someone's taste is "old-fashioned" or "new-fangled" does not mean its ageist — it's rude, but not ageist.
What would be ageist (and I'm using a hyperbole) would be saying that "boomers are too senile and old for society, and they should be placed in nursing homes." The same goes for saying something like "millennials are useless because they're obsessed with social media and lattes from Starbucks." Hiring a 26-year-old over a 51-year-old because the former is believed to be more "into today's norms" would be ageist.
"Ok, boomer" is rude, but not ageist. The original context of "Ok, boomer" was to combat the discriminatory attitude of those who were older. It judges those who are baby boomers — and by extension, those who are significantly older than the younger person who insults — but definitely does not signify a form of oppression. It's just how those who are older call today's teen or adolescent (for example, let's say someone born around 2000) "millennial." In context, you can view "millennial" an insult for the youth as the same as "Ok, boomer." Is that ageism? No, just a personal insult to the youth by itself, but not really ageist. It can be deemed as immature, but calling the youth "millennial" would be doing the same exact thing.
Ok, with that out of the way, let's talk about the bigger issue: the n-word.
So, here's another appropriate, nonnegotiable, non-racist, no-nonsense easy-to-spell-out-to-make-a-point 'n-word': NO.
"But Matt! It's a right to exercise free speech!" Right, people have the right to speak their opinions under the 1st Amendment. People have the right to say "boomer." People have the right to call people "ignorant." And yes (unfortunately), people have the right to say the "n-word." But are you justified — are you "right" — to use a slur that has been rooted in our country's controversial history? A word that has been used by white men and women to justify, demonize, and terrorize black slaves in the horrible past? The word that was said to discriminate and segregate the dominant white culture over the minority black community? The word that threatens the millions of black men and women across this country today? It's 2020, shouldn't we know this already? I'm not going to give a super-detailed history over a slur, because: (1) this is an article, not a textbook and (2) it's common sense.
The n-word should have no place in anyone's dictionary.
"But Matt! I use the n-word that ends with '-igga' so that's not racist! I can use that, right?" For this specific topic, I conversed with a very intelligent person who is a member of the Black Student Association, as well as an HR-major. As we all know, the n-word with the hard "r" has been rooted in American history concerning racism, segregation, and discrimination. At the time, the n-word ending with an "a" was used by black people who sought to reclaim it, and use it as a form of empowerment. It was used as a form of solidarity and combat against racial prejudice. Today, however, some people (including her) do not like any form of the word, because they feel that the word still has negative connotations behind it. However, some black people may disagree. People, ESPECIALLY white people should not use it, because it originates from an oppressive and racist word. However, black people can use it because it was used against them, and they reclaimed it for themselves. Some black people do not believe that it should not be used at all. However, it should definitely not be used by ANY person who is not black. Including other people of color.
So, relaying to the main topic at hand: Is calling someone the word boomer the equivalent to calling someone the n-word? An offhand comment versus a racist stain on our history. The answer should be as crystal-clear as a cocktail made of water, vodka, and vinegar. NOPE. If there's a motto that I can attribute about this, it would be this:
Swear (when appropriate); don't slur.