There was a successful media campaign a few years ago to officially banish the “r" word. People that used to be called “r”d are now to be known as intellectually disabled. (From here on out I will refer to them as ID people because I’m really fucking lazy. Besides, I’m not being paid by the word so fuck it.)
But often, when words are forced into exile like that, they make a limited comeback. Things evolve and some people who used to be called by the banished word move to reclaim it.
Lord knows I do that with the word cripple. I call myself and lots of other cripples cripple all the time. I don’t call every cripple I know cripple. Only the ones who can take it. I even let some people who aren’t crippled call me cripple sometimes. I call these people my honorary cripples. They’re people I’ve decided are cool enough to call me cripple. But the most important thing to remember about this distinction is that it’s not transferable. If I make you an honorary cripple and you go call another cripple a cripple and they get pissed, you can’t get out of it by saying I said it was okay. No, the title of honorary cripple must be repeatedly and individually earned, one cripple at a time.
The “n” word seems to have undergone a similar reclamation. Lots of black people call themselves and others that often. But I don’t think there’s such a thing as an honorary “n".
Nobody’s ever told me it’s okay to call them "n". Maybe I’m just not cool enough.
But I don’t think any reclamation like that has happened yet with the “r” word. I’ve heard black people say stuff to each other like, “What’s up, my ‘n’?” But I’ve never heard one ID person say to another, “What’s up, my ‘r’?”
Too soon? I don't know. But maybe someday some stuff like that will happen. Maybe someday I’ll be cool enough for an ID person to make me an honorary “r”. I’d be so proud.
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