June 20, 2013

Sticks and stones may break bones but names ...

PLATTSBURGH — Dr. J. W. Wiley’s debut book is a fulcrum for elevating one’s consciousness or others.

Printed by Stylus Publishing, “The Nigger in You: Challenging Dysfunctional Language, Engaging Leadership Moments” unpacks hurtful language used daily, knowing and unknowingly, in American society that marginalizes diverse groups.

Wiley utilizes his reality as a black man in the United States as a starting point, which he riffs off by challenging readers to reflect on the retard, bitch, fag, girl, trailer trash, cracker, etc. in them.

“As an academic, I heard over and over again that the word ‘nigger’ is the penultimate insult,” said Wiley, who is director of the Center for Diversity, Pluralism and Inclusion at SUNY Plattsburgh.

“It’s the worst word in the English language. Logically, it doesn’t make sense to me. Black people are 13 percent of the population. Let’s just say all black people are offended by that word, and there are 10 percent of white people who are offended by that word. How can it be a worse word than bitch? Women are 50 percent of the population. Most men love the women in their lives.

“In terms of sheer numbers, it’s hard to say if (the worst is) bitch or fag or whatever.”

The problematic n-word is one all Americans need awareness of to historically contextualize and have conversations about, Wiley said.

“Calling it the worst word is problematic,” Wiley said. “As a black man, it’s the worst word for me. It makes sense for me to frame my book by the word that affects me the most and that I know the most and lived with the most. These words have been visited upon me from time to time.”

The n-word’s toll, destruction, stress and pain allows him to imagine its parallel to bitch for a woman, fag for a gay person or retard for a mentally disabled person.

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