Why are people so miserable and judgmental
In spite of all of my general agreement, I would like to bring some aspects into play, which in my opinion often remain underexposed in the discussion. Some of them could perhaps also help at least in part to explain the situation complained about by Mr Schwarzer. The fact that “explain” is not necessarily the same as “justify” does not (hopefully) need to be further emphasized.
- It is very difficult and, for many people, it also comes across as very forced and cranky to discuss words without naming them. In my opinion, one can rather criticize the fact that such discussions are being conducted at all.
- When words were outlawed in the course of so-called "political correctness", a change in language was and is clearly being carried out, in which words that, according to the general understanding of language, were neutrally denoted and connoted, are now to be considered negatively and taboo. However, this language change does not develop naturally within the language community as a whole, as is usually the case. Rather, it is based on a small minority, primarily intellectuals, and is enforced by them - sometimes with moral pressure. In my opinion, this does not necessarily have to be bad per se, provided that it serves the genuine concerns of a discriminated group. However, it can certainly lead to at least some people not fully understanding why certain forms of language that were once learned and which were considered neutral at the time are now supposed to be "toxic" recently. (Note: I use the expression "politically correct language" here strictly neutrally, which is why I put it in quotation marks and sometimes put a "so-called" in front of it.)
- It ultimately remains unclear what the “typical” black people actually think about words themselves. Representative surveys on the topic are at least unknown to me (I couldn't find anything in either English or German). I do not doubt that the “Initiative Black People in Germany (ISD)” pursues rather worthwhile goals. But whether she represents the majority of blacks here in Germany more than Alice Schwarzer and Emma the majority of women in this country? No idea.
- The request to invite a black activist may in itself make sense. One should also realize here that activists by no means always speak for the majority of a discriminated group or present their wishes. A Gallup organization found in 19969, for example, that the “N-word” was by far the designation preferred by blacks themselves, twice as popular as the second-placed “Blacks” (38% vs. 19%). Nevertheless, Gallup avoided this word two years later - most likely because one wanted to follow the will of activists, who began to ostracize the N-word around the same time, rather than the will of the majority of the "simple" victims. With all due respect to activists: It is by no means certain whether a black activist would have represented the majority of blacks in this country more than the actress Annabelle Mandeng. (The problem could of course have been solved by inviting Mandeng AND an activist.)
- In this context, the way Mr Schwarzer devalues Annabelle Mandeng's contribution is rather negative. Without any real evidence and on the basis of pure speculation, he insinuates that the views expressed by Mandeg presumably do not express a genuine and freely formed opinion, but are based on adaptation. Of course he could be right - but it is at least as plausible that there are also black people who in fact and truth simply have a different opinion than Mr. Schwarzer; that there are black people whom he does not represent and for whom he does not speak. I wonder whether Mr Schwarzer might not tend (unconsciously, of course) to explain away the points of view of other blacks that do not agree with his rather quickly, instead of simply accepting them for the time being. There is perhaps a general danger here for committed activists who stand up for a certain group and are firmly convinced of their own position and represent it with passion.
- The fight for the so-called “politically correct language” (including the fight against the N-word) was and is in part led with arguments of selected absurdity, which are certainly suitable to discredit the actual concern itself. Such arguments are based in part on an apparent ignorance of fundamental semiotic and linguistic relationships. It is suggested over and over again that a word (like the N-word) could have something like a “true” or “inherent” meaning (denotation or connotation) that could exist independently of the general usage, or even that of the general usage could be directly opposite. For example, it is asserted that a word like the N-word, which according to the general understanding of language is “neutral” or at least was “neutral”, “in truth” has always been derogatory, and it was just not “recognized”. Furthermore, some people seem to fail to understand the difference between a word with negative connotations and a neutral word used for a socially ostracized group - they do not seem to understand that the devaluation is a function of language only in the first case, im second but not.
- Some arguments are too radical - facts that do not fit into the picture are simply ignored. In the fight against the “N word”, for example, the same is repeatedly portrayed as the epitome of the devaluation of black people; as a word that was invented by slave traders and then always had negative connotations (see, for example, the German Wikipedia entry). However, this does not match, for example, the description of the English-language Wikipedia, which works with many documents, according to which the word was coined centuries before slavery and was considered a completely neutral name for itself and others for a considerable time:
"Ne [...] superseded colored as the most polite word for African Americans at a time when black was considered more offensive.  … The American Ne […] Academy was founded in 1897, to support liberal arts education. Marcus Garvey used the word in the names of black nationalist and pan-Africanist organizations such as the Universal Ne […] Improvement Association (founded 1914), the Ne […] World (1918), the Ne […] Factories Corporation (1919 ), and the Declaration of the Rights of the Ne […] Peoples of the World (1920). W. E. B. Du Bois and Dr. Carter G. Woodson used it in the titles of their non-fiction books, The Ne […] (1915) and The Mis-Education of the Ne […] (1933) respectively. 'Ne […]' was accepted as normal, both as exonym and endonym, until the late 1960s, after the later Civil Rights Movement. One well-known example is the identification by Martin Luther King, Jr. of his own race as' Ne […] 'in his famous' I Have a Dream "speech of 1963."
According to the same source, the American statistical agency used the N-word in 2010 among other words as a designation for black people because - according to the head of the agency - "many" older blacks identify with it.
- With all this, I certainly do not deny that the word is probably rejected by most blacks nowadays (as I said, I couldn't find surveys), and that it should of course be avoided for reasons of respect until proven otherwise. However, an argument based on half-truths and abbreviations or on fundamental linguistic misunderstandings certainly does not serve a good cause well. Even if many people do not explicitly recognize such weaknesses, some are likely to suspect them.
- In view of the historical connections just discussed, I also ask myself whether the EXTENT to which the N-word is partially ostracized - after all, it was the generally accepted self-designation of blacks for a long time - is not somewhat ahistorical and exaggerated. It should be remembered again that a word - which in itself is nothing but a sequence of sounds or signs - is never "inherently" good or bad, but that a meaning and its overtones are entirely determined by the current language usage. This can also differ depending on the location and milieu. The, in my opinion, pleasantly factual and unexcited English-language Wikipedia article holds in relation to the USA and the local use of the N-word: “The term can be constructed as offensive, inoffensive or completely neutral, largely depending on the region where it is used. "
- Before the “argument” comes up that I want to “prescribe” to other people (even those who are still affected!) Which words they perceive as “offensive” and to what extent: No, I don't want that. But not every personal evaluation can always be unreservedly normative for society. Rather, intersubjectively comprehensible arguments should also be taken into account in a social understanding. And as I said, it's not about whether you should use the N-word or not - I'm just about the degree of its ostracism.
- I can understand that one is bothered by a discussion like the one at Maischberger. Basically, however, I consider a factual (!) And sophisticated (!) Debate about the so-called “politically correct language” to be generally right and necessary. Fundamental questions such as who should decide in which situations about how language changes, which shifts in meaning there should be and how which words should be connoted, should, in my opinion, be openly discussed and clarified. As I said, I advocate taking into account the wishes of discriminated minorities in this context. How should one proceed, for example, in cases in which it is not at all clear whether (new) propagated changes to the language correspond to the will of a discriminated minority at all, and whether they actually benefit it - but where there is still considerable pressure "from above" the language community as a whole is exercised to carry out a language change? (Such pressure can consist, for example, in the fact that the published opinion portrays everyone as inconsiderate or worse, who refuses to go along with a certain language change.) If such questions - which are ultimately also questions of power - are not even problematized, then this speaks in my opinion also for a certain questionable attitude of elites towards the rest of the language community.
I remember an earlier discussion where Mr Schwarzer interpreted opinions that differed significantly from his in some points as expressions of white privileges. This then leads to the following unpleasant situation: Either you don't express yourself as a white person, or you completely agree with Mr. Schwarzer on all important points and renounce any critical perspective.
In the hope that Mr Schwarzer would like an open and critical discussion in which whites can also participate, I have decided to write this comment. I would like to point out again that I share Mr Schwarzer's views on most of the important points: I am firmly against the use of the N-word, and I also do not like Mr Hahne. I also have great respect for Mr Schwarzer's fight against discrimination.
If I nevertheless take critical positions on some points, I hope that these will be respected and, if necessary, criticized on an objective basis.
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