Dehumanizing Others Through Racial Slurs: Interview with Adam Croom


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Being part of an in-group with its own special culture increases positivity. Image by Janet Cameron

 Slurring Cannot be Made Acceptable by Frequency of Use

When considering the above, in terms of whether using slurs more frequently renders them meaningless, Croom says: “The important thing to point out here is that since the meaning of slurs are not determined primarily by frequency, but rather by their use in practical contexts and situations (Wittgenstein, 1953) it would take more to change the meaning of a slur than to simply increase or decrease its frequency of use.”

Even more importantly, as Croom explains, all of this is just a part of a “…whole framework of background behaviour and conditions that support race-based discrimination and that provide racist language with much of its meaning and force.”  In trying to resolve race-based discrimination, it is paramount to keep this larger framework in mind.  “What’s important if we want to dispense with race-based discrimination is that we cleanse it from our lives and our culture as much as possible and not simply fixate on the cleaning of our mouths (or hands, if you’re a signer.)”

Adam Croom first became interested in slurs because he found the topic both sensitive and complex, and therefore, in need of thorough analysis. “I hoped to motivate a serious discussion about slurs that takes into account both in-group and out-group uses, since it seemed to me that previous work on slurs failed to take into account their full range of applications.” Croom says that he hopes others will read his work and improve upon and extend the analysis.  “I hope to have helped people enrich their capacity for using language with greater responsibility and a more refined command.

 “But, of course, the responsibility for what you do with your words is on you.” 


Interview with Adam Croom, February, 2012.

Croom, A. Slurs. (2011). Science Direct. Accessed February 15, 2012.

Leung, R. Chappelle: “An act of freedom”: Comedy Central Comedian talks about using the “N” word in jokes. (2004). 60 Minutes, CBS News. Accessed February 15, 2012.

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