The whole affair with Sandra Fluke and the rapidly collapsing Limbaugh franchise is that it illustrates the root of white power and supremacy in America. We white men are often heard to ask, how come I can’t use derogatory terms for Blacks, Hispanics, Women or________(insert minority here)? I honestly believe that Limbaugh was shocked at the reaction such words evoked, particularly from women. I think he believed the whole thing would just go away, but now he has lost 36 large advertisers and 2 radio stations, so far.
And why would he believe that after a brief storm through which he could steal political capital, increase his steadily declining listenership? Because there are no insults that can be levelled against a white male that carries the same hate, underscores the historic imbalance of power, seeks to affirm that imbalance, or calls to mind a long history of protectionist abuses of that imbalance by white men, such as the lynching of Blacks for much of the nation’s history, for “crimes” as egregious as insulting or even speaking to a white woman-evidence: Emmett Till. Well, maybe there is one insult, but I’ll get to that ina minute.
The use of the word Nigger by white men recalls and reasserts slavery, the 3/5 rule in the Constitution, lynching, segregation, children murdered in a bombing, and a continuing deeply veiled racism still alive and active in this society. The word underscores a suspicion that this country tolerates but doesn’t fully accept its Black citizens and neighbors. The word is about power. It is about white power and the differential in that power still in this society. Through the prism of our individual humanity, that power differential either uplifts or degrades a person. If that word, such as the one above, was meant to historically support a system of degradation of a race of people, it seems fundamental that it would evoke the most intimate and powerful reactions.
Calling a white guy a “cracker,” or whatever, does not reaffirm any historic degradation of the white race. It doesn’t carry with it the legally sanctioned and enforced discrimination against white men. there are no open wounds to white folks about mass injustice and murder against crackers, nor does it hold the all too recent memory of dogs and firehoses being turned on white folks for the audacity of insisting on drinking from Blacks Only fountains, or sitting at the counter of a Blacks only diner. It doesn’t.
Slut and prostitute, the words Limbaugh believed he could render with strategic advantage, are no different. They degrade women to the status of objects to be used for the benefit of men. There is implied power in that, a power differential which certainly does not favor women, like attitudes of women being subservient to men, the property of their husbands created to maintain their homes and bear the man’s legacy.
There is one word that stabs at the heart of (straight) white men in much the same way. Not exactly, but one that assails the power center of the straight white male. Faggot. Men are their sexuality, wrapped in pious egotism and exalted unrealities. Whether they choose or are able to admit that is quite another thing, but we are. We are.
Some men come to terms with that tumultuous mix, but others defend their inate inconsistencies by looking inward, wrapping themselves in religiosity, pretend morality and subjective ethics around a core of sexual and personal angst( and sometimes their own issues with power-hence the word emasculated). It is easy to dismiss that reality or confuse it in the illusion and constructs of society , but we white men must ask ourselves deeper questions on the nature of these words and why each of them resonates as deep and powerfully as they do against those we would fing them. Look to your history and how this society treated all of its citizens and ask why, then ask what is the remaining legacy of that history? Now ask yourself why the word Faggot offends you so deeply and I think you will find the answer.