A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column about a resolution proposed by Westchester County Legislator Greg Young, D-Mount Vernon, to symbolically ban the vile “N” word from common parlance. You might have noticed that similar efforts have cropped up in other places, most recently with the New York City Council.
Here’s an e-mail from one reader who took umbrage with my column and Young’s resolution, which was unaminously passed by the 17-member board.
TO PHIL REISMAN:
“There are many things wrong with America, but it is still by far the best place to live. Fortunately and unfortunately, we must strive to address these problems democratically (not necessarily Democratic-ly).
If this is to be used (and I don’t know why anyone would want to) anywhere, please get prior permission from me so that it is not distorted, twisted, taken out of context, mis-quoted, etc.
I read your piece on Ã¢â‚¬Å“Legislator Bans the N-wordÃ¢â‚¬? with passing interest and then deep concern. Although there is a growing problem with hatred and disrespect, and there are so many feel-good gut reactions to doing something about it, poorly thought out legislative actions, even symbolic ones, can be very dangerous.
In a democratic society, even the thought of banning certain aspect of free speech, no matter how vile or painful to hear, is absolutely unthinkable! Even though we certainly donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want MANY words used in certain places, schools, places of worship, legislatures, etc. they can NOT be banned Ã¢â‚¬â€œ even symbolically. Other than education, NOT brain washing or force or banning, can our society be taught to use logic, truth and honesty to self-reject the use of these terms Ã¢â‚¬â€œ although, just about any word or phrase might be, and probably is, hateful to someone or group.
Now to the actually resolution: Is it not totally racist and bigoted? Why were hateful words like Ã¢â‚¬â€œ kike or sheeny (nouns informally offensive referring to Jewish people Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the K-word and S-word), chink (a noun informally offensive to a Chinese person Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the C-word), wasp (noun directed toward white Protestants in a deriding fashion Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the W-word), honkie (noun deriding of whites in response to the N-word Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the H-word), WOP (noun deriding people of Italian origin Ã¢â‚¬â€œ another W-word), and the many many other derisive words used to offend people Ã¢â‚¬â€œ not included in the ban? All of these words are comparably rooted in ugliness and hatred, disrespectful and offensive to many, but obviously NOT to the author of the ban.
The resolution must be withdrawn (canceled, overturned Ã¢â‚¬â€œ or what ever legislators do to cover up their goofs) not only because it is stupid, impractical, unenforceable, but it is also racist, bigoted, undemocratic, etc. As a professional journalist, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m surprised that you did not explore these issues yourself. We donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t expect intellectual honesty from our legislators but we should from the news media (who enjoy constitutional rights that we mere mortals do not).”