Dehumanizing Others Through Racial Slurs: Interview with Adam Croom


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It's Important to Feel a Part of the Group ~ Image by Janet Cameron

Prohibition on Slurs is Inappropriate, says Adam Croom

Adam Croom explains: “My main point here is just that to simply assume… that all uses of slurs across the board are derogatory and that, as a result, there should be a ban imposed on all uses, simply disregards out of hand the perspective of a vast range of competent and bona fide language users claim to feel comfortable exchanging slurs between each other non-offensively.”

For this reason, Croom would not suggest there should be a prohibition on the use of slurs in general, because, in certain in-groups, the use of slurs between group members is very positive.  “I have not attempted to legislate who should and shouldn’t use particular linguistic expressions and who should and shouldn’t take offense at their use,” says Croom, pointing out that this approach is no different from that of chemists, whose purpose is only to characterize and understand, not to “police the phenomena.”

At the same time, it is desirable to grasp the fact that even if we are not racist, we need to take care not to risk being interpreted as using racial slurs in a derogatory way.  For example: where A is white and B is black, A does not share a sufficient set of relevant characteristics with B, A has not established an enduring or intimate relationship with B, and A is not conversing with B in a cultural context where the slurring term is more readily accepted, in a context where A is very different from B, with no common ground and with no history, “…conditions would presumably be too weak between “A” and “B” to support an in-group use of slurs between them, and resultantly, in such cases, “B” may become more sensitive and likely to interpret A’s use of the slur as derogatory.”

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