In light of the Paula Deen controversy, I’d like to offer the following checklist for everyone to keep handy.
Have you ever used a racially charged word, in public or private? Give yourself four points.
Have you used such a word, in public or private, while quoting someone else? A crazy uncle, perhaps, or a comedian or rapper? Give yourself three points.
Have you ever used such a word while reading aloud from Huckleberry Finn? Or from any period piece that deals with the old South? Did you ever think about such a word, in any way? Did you ever hold a book in which it was printed? Do you ever find yourself whistling ‘Zip-a-dee-doo da, Zip-a-dee-day,’ from Disney’s long banished ‘Song of the South?’ Give yourself two points.
Do you now, or have you ever, lived in the South, by which I mean the area below the Mason Dixon line, stretching from the Atlantic as far west as Texas? (It’s up to you to decide of Florida counts.) If so, give yourself one point. Just on principle.
Have you ever, in public or private, used a judgmental or pejorative word in relation to a member of the opposite sex, or a person of a different sexual orientation? Give yourself four points. (What’s wrong with you?)
At any point, have you quoted the use of such a word? For instance, a member of the opposite sex. Or an actor or actress? Give yourself three points.
Was there a time when you saw a movie, or listened to a piece of music (for instance, rap) in which such words were used? Did you ever walk around San Francisco or New York and find yourself a little confused about people’s gender? Give yourself two points.
Are you male? Give yourself one point. Are you white? Give yourself another point. Really, you should know better.
If you are a progressive, have you ever used an insulting term to describe a political opponent? Like, oh, say ‘tea-bagger’ or ‘redneck?’ Have you used the word ‘right-winger,’ or ‘religious nut?’ If so, give yourself zero points. I mean, come on, why are those people so dang sensitive? They need to grow up. Weirdos. (Probably home-schoolers too. Sheesh.)
Media personality or talk-show host? Lefty pundit or consultant? Have you ever used the term ‘fundamentalist,’ or ‘hick?’ Have you ever called a mentally challenged child a ‘retard?’ (Hat tip to Mr. Maher.) Do you routinely snarl and roll your eyes when you use the term ‘red-stater’ as if it meant ‘syphilitic cretin?’ Give yourself minus 4 points. You never know when you might need to redeem an honest slip of the tongue in the future.
If you are a politician, have you ever lied under oath, misused your office, embezzled, cheated on your spouse or used your position to lever benefits for yourself or your family? Give yourself a big fat zero. You’re a politician for heaven’s sake! What do people expect? (At least you didn’t use a racially charged word, did you? What? Take a zero anyway. Nobody’s perfect.)
Now, score yourself. If you scored between sixteen and twenty, immediately call a talk show for your mandated and cathartic emotional breakdown and explanation of that thing you think you might have done 20-25 years ago. And remember, your career and social standing are now over. But it’s what we expected. In all likelihood, you’re a white, male, conservative. Or might as well be. Oh for the days of the impromptu gallows!
If you scored between ten and fifteen, you’re probably on a list anyway so watch your mouth. A little self-flagellation, a little ‘mea culpa’ on a chat room, on a blog or Facebook page would be nice. (Be careful not to actually use the words you’re accusing yourself of having used…it’s too hard to score and involves Calculus.) You need some serious re-education. What, were you raised by wolves?
If you scored between five and ten, we’re still disappointed. However, you may be able to avoid embarrassment. Please begin to keep a notebook logging all of your sins, of omission and commission, in the use of insulting, hurtful, judgmental, hateful words that make people feel sad. If you’re a good boy or girl, we may let you burn it in public someday as an atonement. And then we’ll ridicule you for good measure.
Now, should your score have been between zero and five, we can only say this, dear citizen. You’re a liar who hasn’t done nearly enough soul searching. (Or a politician, progressive, celebrity or card-carrying member of an oppressed group, in which case, no worries.)
I hope this helps us all to be a little more conscious of the power of words.
Words like hypocrisy, stupidity, inconsistency, irrationality, drama and tyranny.