Words are powerful. Although intangible they have the power to construct and destroy hopes, dreams, ambitions, plans, even countries (think Truman and the atom bomb). The simple fact is that for the vast majority of us, our words will be the most powerful weapons we ever yield. That being said we must realize, as the oft quoted line from Spiderman states, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Recently in an attempt to make the public more responsible for its words several well-meaning parties including that of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of LeanIn.org, an organization dedicated to empowering and encouraging girls as well as John Wooten, former professional football player and head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance have each launched separate attempts to have words they consider to be offensive banned. Sandberg, has initiated a campaign to, “ban bossy” believing that the word “bossy” is a harmful label that discourages young girls from taking leadership positions. Meanwhile, Wooten desires that the NFL ban players from using the “N-word” and incur fines and punishments on players who insist on using the word.
While I must admit that both individuals (and those supporting them) have their hearts in the right place, attempting to make the world a better place by ensuring that all individuals can assert themselves and pursue their ideals without fear of retaliation, I disagree with their methods. I believe that all words have a place in the world, even the ugly ones. Nigger, whore, bitch, retard. While all are equally unpleasant ( to say the least) I would not dare want to infringe on a person’s right to use them. Banning words is not the way to progress our society. I believe that if we truly want to empower ourselves and our posterity, instead of constantly trying to insulate ourselves from the harshness of reality we need to face it unabashedly. The world can be a ugly place sometimes, full of ugly people who say hateful things, but not all people are like this. For all the evil in the world there is some good, and I think if and when we wake up everyday and resolve to be a part of the solution, that is how we’ll make progress. Lets choose to use our words to combat the ignorance that creates stereotypes and place in its stead respect for all people. Sticks and stones may break our bones, words may cut us to the core, but scars heal with time. Right now, we have the opportunity to be agents of healing.