Have you heard these words: fag, dyke, slut, whore, idiot, moron, and dummy? Ever been called one of them or others like them? Or perhaps you have had a racial, religious, or sexist slur directed to you? If so, how did you feel? Names give us a sense of identity, but they can also lead us to form preconceptions about others. We need to take a closer look at the language we use because words can hurt other people, and as an openly gay male, I know just how hurtful they can be.
Names can leave mental and emotional scars that are painful. Think about this for a minute: what do fag, dyke, slut, whore, idiot, moron, and dummy mean any way? We have all said these things to or about someone, but why? Probably because it was easy, we were angry, or commonly “we were just playing around.” Words can hurt a person, and they can hurt deeply. They lower the individual’s self esteem and self worth, making them feel lonely and depressed. Trust me-- I know. We seem to carelessly call people names without ever stopping to think, “I wonder how that person feels”, or “I wonder what that person has been through?” I’m willing to bet though, that if we did think about it, then we wouldn’t consider using insulting words. Words are like pebbles in a pond. As you throw the pebble into the water, the water churns and the ripples grow and spread outward. The same holds true for your words. A word of negativity will produce ripples of negativity and how far these ripples will travel, no one knows, but the opposite is true for kind words. Names and insults can break and hurt, words of compassion and kindness can heal.
If we take a closer look at these injustices, we see that they all have a specific language associated with them. They each carry their own words and phrases that help deliver their messages of discrimination, bigotry, and hate. If we wish to stop the hate then we must first look at the language we use. It may be easy for us to stand on the sidelines and say, “I agree, we should stop this” but what does that mean? It is easy for us to look at racism, sexism, and homophobia and say that we do not agree with them. We can tell our friends and colleagues that such bigotry and prejudices are wrong. But is this enough? If there is one thing that I have learned it is that we can not simply stand around and disagree with an injustice. To stand on the sidelines and disapprove of something isn’t enough to change it. So this then leaves us with a calling, a calling to stand up and make a stand against words that would harm others.
We need to stop being human beings, and become human doings. One way to do this is through education, by learning about diversity we grow in understanding. With understanding, we can reach out to other people and help them. When we help others, we find that we feel better about ourselves. We need to step out of the sidelines and get involved in the world we live in. We must try to erase hate, and silence the tongues that seek to harm others by using words, names, and insults. This is what I am asking, no…challenging you to do. Madonna said it best in her song “Frozen”: “You only see what your eyes want to see. How can life be what you want it to be? You’re frozen, when you heart’s not open. You’re so consumed with how much you get. You waste your time with hate and regret. You’re broken when your heart’s not open.” The next time you are faced with the choice of insulting someone think: “How would I like to be treated?”---Go and do the same.