Coded Language

02 May

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A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on my blog about the word mad and how it’s coded language. Coded in that it is used to describe a person or group of people in order to dehumanize what that person or persons is actually attempting to convey.

A prime example is what’s happening in Baltimore right now, and before I go any further, when I wrote that piece, it was when Ferguson was in full swing and had captured the attention of the entire world. Many times, the word mad has been used to describe protestors. What should be used, and note, this is a word often used by right wing political pundits on major news networks and often times is used by any news reporter because it’s become so ingrained in our language, what should be used is angry. These people are angry. They are angry that their neighbours are being killed by police. They are angry that there is no justice in sight for them. They are angry that racism has evolved into something that has become more tolerable just by using certain words.

But mad, no. No they aren’t mad. Mad is a word that is coined for madness, which is equated to insanity, which can be equated to rabid, which can be equated to dogs. See how we got there? With just a few words, we can see how political pundits view protestors in places like Baltimore and Ferguson. Like dogs.

We’ve also got a new N-word. The word thug has been tossed about with wild abandon by many a sportscaster and news broadcaster, often to describe young, black men. The first big usage that I began to notice was in the 2014 Super Bowl, when Richard Sherman a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, was called a thug. Now, the word has been used to describe any young black man, from Sherman all the way to Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and hundreds more. Literally hundreds more.

Thug is just the new way racists feel they can get away with saying the N-word. Because they’ve been told that the N-word is a racist word and they don’t want to be caught using it, therefore being branded as a racist. Because, let’s face it, open bigots will use the N-word without any hesitation whatsoever. They don’t care about sensitivity and such things.

There’s also coded language in how things are reported. For many, the actions in Baltimore and Ferguson and many other cities in the United States that relate to the murder of young black men, are protests. They are protests by those in the black community who are fed up with the double standard that is the justice system. By a new form of slavery, one might say. That new form of slavery happens to be the for profit jails in the United States.

Of course, those protests are not being called protests. They’re being called riots. Let’s not forget, however, the original Gay Pride Parade? That was also called the Stonewall Riots.

Many are also saying that classism is the new racism. Unfortunately, this is also coded language to attempt to make some white people feel better. Sort of. Maybe it’s a way that white people (and I include myself there sometimes) can empathize with those in the black community. But classism is not racism. African Americans and African Canadians (and First Nation people) can feel the affect of classism and racism. White people can only feel the affect of classism.

I hear you in the back saying that racism can be affected against white people, that a black person called you a cracker just fifteen minutes ago. That’s just name calling, no worse than me calling someone a dick head. Racism is an institutional thing, whereby laws are set in place to ensure that marginalized people cannot get ahead. Often, and especially in North America, this racism makes sure that white, European decedents have a better chance than people of colour. From there, it’s the language the oppressors used against the marginalized people. And there’s a lot.

Classism is whereby the wealthy attempt to put in place laws that those who cannot afford certain privileges, then they can’t get ahead.

There’s an interesting history lesson I heard a while ago, which told where the divide between poor white people and poor black people really began. At one time, blacks and poor whites had a common affliction. They weren’t getting any money, they were treated like shit by the wealthy, and they faced hundreds of obstacles in order to get ahead. Keep in mind, this was when slavery was still legal in the Southern United States (and what eventually became the Confederacy). The wealthy saw what was happening. They saw there was an aspect of empathy, albeit a small aspect, between poor white farmers and workers in the South and black slaves. Poor people couldn’t get money, blacks were mistreated as slaves. So the wealthy sort of gave poor whites a club card of sorts. If there weren’t any slaves, then there would be more jobs for the poor in the South.

Sounds a little far fetched, sure, but it’s happening right now in the form of immigration and discussions surrounding illegal aliens getting work in the United States. The cry is that Mexicans are stealing jobs, but in fact many companies that deal in day labour are hiring Mexicans who manage to jump the border looking for work. The wealthy are always crying about jobs being stolen by day labourers from Mexico, but are too busy shipping jobs to dictatorships that don’t have human rights laws in place.

Mad. Thug. Riot. Classism. Those are just three words of coded language that are often used in ways to dehumanize, vilify, and denounce the actions of those looking to progress on the civil rights front.

There are those who might say that I can’t say that because I’m not an American. I’m a Canadian and therefore I don’t know what it’s like to live in that type of situation. And you’re right, I don’t. But I also am painfully aware that this country, meaning Canada, is far from being perfect. But that’s a discussion for another time.

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Posted by on May 2, 2015 in Podcasts


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