Blog: Claiming Danger and its Context

Claiming Danger and its Context
Claiming Danger and its Context
Date: 2018-Feb-10 20:43:07 EST

On LinkedIn, a former contact posted a product their company makes that seems to have unfortunate specifics and phrasing to me. Although I don't think there's any actual racist intent there, so it's at least morally clear by my book. As a general principle I believe that intent is how we should view the permutation of somebody speaking and their speech (and I think this delicate phrasing makes it work out ok with the idea of "Death of the Author"). And that if there's no ill intent, then no matter what symbols are accidentally used, it's ok. But this reminds me of something in my upbringing that I heard to temper this slightly, with this caution being something that I believe in passing on alongside the general comfort with talking as one pleases:

So, I'm not saying what you said was racist, and in fact knowing you I believe it was not. I don't claim you shouldn't've said it or that it was wrong to say, or even that you should avoid saying it in the future, but rather letting you know that some people will possibly misunderstand what you said because those words or things like them have on occasion been used to say things very different than what you meant, and they're unable to understand them outside that context. Many of them are legit crazy and even if you explain your meaning they'll still find ways to come after you because they're trained like a pavlovian dog. If you want to push through all that and weaken these associations, I wish you luck as you'd be trailblazing a path for more careful thinking, but I want you to know what kind of thing you're signing up for.

(substitute sexist or whatever other word is appropriate for the word racist, and dumb it down for young audiences)

I think this kind of warning is something only people of specific political persuasions would give; it's a cultural marker of politics like mine on these issues. But I've heard people give other people warnings like these, so I believe it's not a tiny part of the population that's so careful about belief and speech. More broadly I'd tie it to the idea of some parts of our culture placing a lot of importance to living a creed (whether that's a religious one or not, and I know a lot of individualist religious folk really don't get spoonfed their creeds so much as treat it as a character-building adventure over one's early life).