“I would like to know what it means to have ownership of a word, and also why it is inappropriate for people to use said word if they do not own it.”
I received this question and wanted to address it publicly. The first thing that needs to be explained is the word, “ownership.”
When someone talks about ownership they don’t own it the way a person would own a car. They are talking about an ethical or moral ownership.
Words have meaning.
You wouldn’t think this would be an outlandish statement but to many, it is. How often do you hear, “It’s just a word?” Words are the number one form of human communication. There is no such thing as “Just a word.” With that said, lets move on to what it means to “own” a word.
Owning a word usually means, “Taking it back” or “reclaiming” it. When a word is designated for a specific hate fueled use toward a specific group of people, it is those specific people that “own” that word.
I’ll be using the word n*gger as an example. This word has a very specific target and a very specific purpose. It was/is 100% negative and it was/is used to be a dehumanizing term toward one specific group of people. When Black people “reclaimed” the word, it was then taken to be used in a positive and jovial manner. They being the sole target, they could also be the sole reclaimer.
When a non-Black person uses this particular word, your intent may be anything but racism. However, the purpose of this word is racist. There is literally no other purpose. The sole reason it is not racist when a Black person uses it is because Black people are the sole target. The fact that Black people have taken this word and made it a common use of Black language, doesn’t change the fact that it has always had, does have and will always have negative and hate fueled racist connotations connected to it.
This is why it would be inappropriate for a non-Black person to use this particular word.
The only, absolute ONLY thing that doesn’t make this racist when a Black person says it, is that Black people are the specific target. With all this said, not all Black people say this word or want to be called this word by other Black people. None the less, it can not have the same connotations when coming from a Black person as from a non-Black person. Even when said in anger.
Racial slurs are usually a very different type of word simply based on history. For example, the word f*ggot is a word that once had a different meaning but now means something very specific (within the USA) the N-Word is very specific to it’s terminology. There was never a “Different meaning” to it.
None the less, with the word f*ggot (within the USA) it’s usage has a specific meaning. Only a gay person can/should use this word.
For the bigots: Yes, I know. You have freedom of speech and no one can stop you from saying a word. Yes, you are quite the bad ass and we’re all scared. No really. We totally are. Anyhoo, if you’ll scroll back to the top you’ll see that I made it clear that the “ownership” in question was an ethical/moral ownership. Meaning, you can run around using your freedom of speech to say all the bigoted things you’d like. Just don’t forget that ethical people have the same freedom. When they call you a racist, a homophobe, a sexist, etc. They are utilizing the same freedoms that you are. You CAN but SHOULD you?