Thursday, January 29, 2009

So many thoughts, so little time

In class last night we briefly discussed the ongoing debate regarding insider and outsider. It was suggested that if someone of a specific race makes a stereotypical comment about themselves it is more acceptable because they are an "insider". On the contrary, if an individual outside of that race made a similar comment, they would most likely be looked at negatively as a stereotyper. I have specifically studied this debate in prior English classes that I have taken and still remain on the fence. In one sense, I think that the discrepancy that exists between comments that an insider is "allowed" to make vs. that of an outsider is perfectly acceptable. For example, several rap and urban hip hop artists of African descent tend to use the N word repeatedly in the lyrics of their music. However, Caucasian artists such as Eminem have been criticized when engaging in the same technique. While some may see this inconsistency as being unfair and illogical, I would have to argue quite the opposite. African Americans have a shared history; one emblematic of extreme pain and suffering. It is BECAUSE of this shared past, cultural history, and identity that enables individuals of this race to engage in the use of this word. Historically, within the black community, this term was used in exchange for the word "friend" or "buddy". As depicted in many novels such as The Piano Lesson by August Wilson, this term was utilized between the black community as one of endearment. Individuals of other races, however, have drastically altered this meaning and associated horrific connotations and stereotypes with this specific word. Because we, as non-African Americans, could never truly understand the meaning of this word and have assigned such horrific, painful, and emotional undertones to it, we are not titled to the usage of it in any way, shape or form. We are the outsiders.

To play devils advocate and argue in opposition of what I have just said, the usage of such a word, even within the black community, most importantly within the media, could absolutely been seen as further perpetuating stereotypes and desensitizing future generations of the cruel and unusual connotations coinciding with its usage. This is why many African Americans, though insiders themselves, are in strong opposition to the usage of the word even within the constraints of their own race.

I think the subject of insider vs. outsider is extremely tricky and does not offer a cut and dry solution as to when it is acceptable to make stereotypical comments (perhaps for comedic effect) and who it is acceptable for. It truly could be looked at from both angles, establishing positives and negatives for each argument. I hope to discuss topic in more depth in future classes and gain more insight into this critical debate.

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