Wording Our Way to a New Level of Hell

It’s odd. A few months ago, I made a prediction that Donald Trump would bring the “n-word” back into public use by the end of this year, or next year at the latest. At the time, I thought it would play out like this: some right-wing figure would use the insult, and Trump would come to his defense, e.g. “Bad word choice by X, but it’s just a word. He’s no racist, he’s a great guy, loves all Americans. No need for this lynching by the PC brigade!”

And then we’d see “serious” discussions in the “serious” media about whether the use of the word should automatically banish someone from public discourse or get them fired, or if there is “perhaps some room for nuance and context on this issue.” No doubt there’d be a somber think piece in the NYT: “Is it Time to Speak the Unspeakable?” Maybe it would be Ross Douthat or David Brooks weighing in, or perhaps Bari Weiss would commission one of her “dark web intellectuals” to write it; Jordan Peterson, for example. I can see it now: “What if, as Trump says, the n-word really is ‘just a word?’ For as we know, any word or object or ritual that is placed under a taboo acquires immense power in a culture. Perhaps it’s time to strip this crude pejorative of the power we have given it, by ending the knee-jerk hysteria that ensues every time it’s used.”

That’s how I thought it would go, following the pattern we’ve seen over and over in recent years, with so many tropes of white…

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