By CHRIS CHAE
You’ve all heard the saying: “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” That childhood proverb could not be more wrong. Words have power, they always have and always will. Words allow us to communicate, as they are one of the most clear and direct forms of conversation available to us. Sadly, this gift sometimes becomes a curse when we use the wrong words at the wrong time and wrong place.
You see these words in text messages between friends. These words evade the conscious and slip out of the tongue into characters on your phone without a second thought. Maybe they’re thrown around at school, sometimes followed by a short hesitation with wary eyes looking around to see if it’s okay to laugh. More commonly these insults are said through voice calls, when playing games, or in the heat of the moment.
I’m not talking about curse words. As useless curse words may be compared to real expressions, I won’t argue on the usage of that type of obscene language. For many it has just become a habit, while others are just trying to act tougher than they actually are. The world will move on, and someday you will mature with it once you realize that those words just make it sound like you have anger issues and a very small vocabulary pool.
The insults that need to be reevaluated are the ones that degrade other groups of people. You know what I’m talking about: the ones that reference suicide, mental illness, racial slurs, sexist comments. We’ve all heard a version of these phrases at some point. They may sneak into conversation, with those who say them defending their rights to “free speech,” claiming that it’s just a word and means no harm. They play the victim and ask why you’re getting so defensive. To them, they see nothing wrong with it. But these words have power.
In a credible poll in a study of American teenagers from The Associated Press, there’s three reasons why people use slurs and derogatory language.
The first and most prevalent reason: to be funny. To an extent, I believe dark humor is hilarious. That feeling of laughing at something that shouldn’t be laughed at, that little spark of going against the rules is exciting, no doubt. But there’s a time and place for everything.
Most importantly, you have to know your audience. In a setting where jokes are allowed to go overboard, deciding to push the limit and can make people laugh, if they understand that it’s just a joke, and that you don’t mean to be insulting. But in any situation, you must have enough tact to avoid sensitive topics. That’s where it crosses the line from a joke to ignorance.
And there are a few topics that are more often than not, too sensitive to joke about so brazenly. These jokes have the potential to be executed terribly and are often just unfunny. Do you think anybody really thinks calling someone a derogatory slur is humorous every single time? With poor execution and too much repetition, it turns boring and lame, making you the joke instead.
Especially in a climate where mental illnesses are rising rapidly for teenagers, there are much better ways of making jokes than by putting people down or isolating others .
The next reason: to be cool. There is this misconception among teenagers that the only way for them to ascend the “social ladder” is by stepping on other people. But in reality, you aren’t cool for being a bully, and nobody wants to be around people who make them feel bad about themselves.
Look at the world- who do you admire? Did the legends of each respective field earn their respect by cursing and putting down other people? No. They used skill, talent, hard work, compassion, care, and kindness. If you truly want to be respected like them, follow in their footsteps.
The final and weakest reason teenagers resort to slurs and derogatory language: because they harbor hate towards certain groups of people. Honestly it’s not surprising. With the current President at the forefront of putting down people, it’s easy to ape that behavior and view themselves as “politically incorrect” because they use words that many would shy away from.
Hate breeds more hate. Don’t fall victim to the easy route of curses and ignorant insults. Let’s be creative. There are so many fun ways you can joke and banter that don’t involve active bullying. You’re better than that. Joke and insult people – but better.