Boykin, Solmonese All Up On Paula Zahn
Apparently Paula Zahn‘s news show wasn’t doing so well, because CNN’s now made her their resident discrimination expert. Each night, Zahn and her guests take a look at hate crimes, prejudice and other ugly bits that haunt America’s collective consciousness. Of course, just because she’s not reporting the news, doesn’t mean she’s not exploring the news, including the whole Isaiah Washington scandal.

This here’s the video from Monday’s episode on which Keith Boykin and Human Rights President Joe Solmonese appeared to discuss the use of the word “faggot” in America. We’ll let you guys do the commenting, because, really, there’s so much here.

We will say, however, that CNN made the right choice in giving Zahn this role: ain’t nobody in America who knows about discrimination more than a pretty white lady. Also, she’s apparently classier than Glenn Beck (or, rather, listens more closely to producers), because she won’t say “faggot” on the air. She prefers “six letter derogatory term for homosexual”. A bit lengthy, but it’s the thought that counts.

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  • Threnody

    Can’t watch the video because I’m soundcardless at work.

    Anyways, once upon a time the word faggot sent shivers down my spine, as an angry, repressed, closeted high-schooler.

    These days I use it more than I hear it, in a playful way. Especially when I intentionally wear super-gay shirts that are tighter than even most gay men wear anymore. In a way I feel like I’m standing up against homophobia by saying “this word doesn’t hurt me anymore.”

    The last time I heard people say it as I walked by (a long time ago) I turned and blew the bastards kisses :-D

  • Eric S

    I totally agree with Threnody… and by my accepting the word, it has caused it to have less harmful effects…. As a student of Communications, I was educated on “semantics”… or the meaning we give words…. With that concept in mind, I developed a theory that if I could take the word and change its inherent meaning within my own conscious mind, it would lose its sting. When people use the word, which I have heard many times living in rural Alabama [the true buckle of the Bible Belt], they expect a response. However, when not given that response [going back to Pavlov’s Conditioned Response Theory], they will be less likely to use the word…. and every time that they are confronted with an alternate response, their want to use that specific word lessens….
    So, jsut as Threnody, when the bastards call u that out of complete malice… turn around and blow the kisses!! Totally screw with their own mental capacities!!

  • justaguynatl

    I couldn’t agree more with this the previous comments. I’m a faggot and I love being a faggot. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Oh, and, by the way, that’s MR. FAGGOT to you!

  • BeeDee

    These three with Zahn are jackasses, especially Keith “I’ve never been called faggot” Boykin.

    At least the guy from HRC made the real point: when you’re at school or at work, where you have to co-exist with people you don’t want to be around – but have to, there needs to be zero-tolerance for potentially hate filled expressions. There’s just no discussion for me on this point. Washington must be fired for what he REPEATEDLY brought into the workplace.

    Once again, however, I have to wonder where the totally useless GLAAD reps are…

  • james

    I subscribe to the “devil I know” philosopy… i would rather have someone scream faggot at me and know what kind of narrow-minded asshole I am dealing with, than have to hear 6 year olds saying “that’s so gay” to each other while their parents look on in admiration… even after confronting these so-called liberal parents about the term “so gay” they refuse to see how insidious those words can be and the long time effect it can have on kids who are questioning their sexuality…

  • Threnody

    I completely agree with you James. When I go visit the family in the sticks it hurts a lot more to hear my cousins use gay as a generic adjective for bad or lame than it would if someone yelled fag at me from across the street (not that that’s happened).

    It’s easier to dismiss blind hate because it’s full of ignorance and usually comes from strangers. But the little things that come from people you trust really hit home.

  • Donnie

    The need to show the difference between the Rosie-China issue and Washington’s use of the “Faggot” word. When Washington used it, he used the word out of hate and indifference. When Rosie used “Ching-chong-chang” in explaining how people even in China knew about things that were happening on The View, it was not out of hate, maybe out of ignorance since Rosie doesn’t know Chinese and opted to instead use what she thought was Chinese… but in no way was it hateful. It wasn’t like she called Hasselbeck a honky or something….

  • David M

    I think the root of words matters when we ask about our reactions to them. The word faggot meant bundle of wood. People called gays faggots because they saw an analogy in burning gays tied up together, and in burning bundles of kindling. Even if we don’t know these details directly, we still feel the vibe.

    Faggot hurts the most because it’s a reminder how heteros think we’re worthless and expendable like bundles of fire wood.

  • Martini-boy

    Eric S, a correction for you:

    The psychological case you’re thinking of has nothing to do with Pavlov’s dog; it has everything to do with Thorndike’s Operational (or Instrumental) Conditioning.

    Pavlov’s dog never sought a reaction from a situation it incited (as a hater would by yelling out the word ‘faggot’); it merely reacted towards a stimulus to which it was exposed (more like the way a gay man would blow kissed upon hearing the word ‘faggot’).

    Just a little something something you should know.

  • poodle

    kiss my grits, i am a faggot and a poodle!

  • Leland

    Christ of the Andes! Based on most of these comments, I now formally declare January 31st as annual “Tard Day,” as in RETARDED. And Threnody and Eric go to the top, or bottom, as it were, of the class—someone has DEFINITELY “screwed with their mental capacities.”

    Such deluded drool derives from the nonsense about reclaiming negative words like queer and faggot. Sorry, Spam for Brains, but it doesn’t work that way, no matter how many people with degrees and an invitation to pontificate in multiple gay media outlets such as “the Rev. Irene Monroe” think it does. Anyone who thinks that is living in a Gay Ghetto, even if it exists only in his/her own mind.

    Eric, kisses, you might recall that the world wasn’t enrolled in your classes about semantics. You can think really hard in your own mind while scrunching up your face really hard like the Japanese guy on “Heroes,” click your heels together three times times, pound your pud until it’s raw, or tighten your old dirt road and grunt until you soil yourself, and our enemies would still hurl hate speech at us, often along with their fists, baseball bats, knives, etc., just as viciously. We had all that Queer Nation nonsense and Matthew Shepard was still beaten to death. Ya see, people like his killers, Focus on the Family, the American Taliban in general, Isaiah Washington— THEY’RE NOT ON YOUR DISTRIBUTION LIST, or that of HRC or the “B.A.R.” or “The Advocate” or Carson Can I Please Suck Your Cock Kressley or any other org or rag or media whore that flops the word queer around like low-hanging balls at the Folsom Street Fair, confusing linguistic chic with social change.

    They, and you, are only seeing the world through your own myopic eyes, and, as such, are are a part of the problem not the solution for the majority of people, particularly young gays who live in a different world.

    I quote from the ESPN article about the life and recent death of Anthony Castro, thrown out by his mother at 16 when he came out, and then predictably terrorized at school, on his road to triumph:

    ‘He caught a lot of crap over the first six to nine months after coming out,’ says Phil Takacs, a Banning High counselor. “Sometimes he would come to my office and ask if he could just spend the rest of the day there. He would say that he couldn’t take being called ‘faggot’ any more today and just needed a break. He even thought about quitting sports. But over time, Anthony just got tired of the other kids making him feel bad for who he was.”

  • werdna

    Goodness gracious, someone’s got a bee in her bonnet (and will probably be further offended that I just used the feminine pronoun in such a stereotypically queer fashion)! Miss Leland doesn’t like to hear that kind of talk at all!

    One thing that seems lacking from these sorts of discussions, most often about the word “nigger” but in this case about “faggot,” is any sensible grasp of the importance of context and intent. Words aren’t magic. They only have power and meaning because we invest them with such.

    If someone calls someone else a “faggot” what does it mean? We really only know if we know the context: who is referring to whom, what are they trying to communicate? Sometimes it’s okay, like when my bf and I call each other faggot or homo or queen or whatever. Sometimes it’s not okay, like when someone yells it out of a car window accompanied by an empty bottle hurled at someone’s head. Sometimes it can be hard to tell–I know it was ages ago but remember Donnie Davies? As James pointed out, even the preferred “acceptable” word “gay” can be used as an insult. It’s all about context…

    Now some people just can’t ever stand to hear certain words, and that’s understandable. Lots of black folks call each other “nigger” (or “nigga” if you prefer) but lots of other black folks can’t stand to hear that word in any context. Same with homos and “faggot” or “queer.” These words have been used so negatively that some people can’t take it. Personally, I’m pretty immune to the magic of words. Which is not to say I don’t take offense when it is given, just that I’m pretty good at taking things in context.

    What’s really crazy is the way people are afraid to say these “bad” words, even when they’re directly discussing their meanings, usages, and significance. “The new f-word?” Jesus christ, it’s like a South Park episode… Just say the frickin’ word, stop mystifying it, you’re just adding to its power.

    Leland isn’t totally off the mark in suggesting that mere semantic intervention will not change society, but he really underestimates the symbolic value of “reclaiming” words like “faggot” and “queer.” It goes much further back than Queer Nation, of course, and it’s been dividing queer communities for a long time too. Before I go off on a tangent, let me just recommend a book I’m actually in the middle of but which I highly recommend: Didier Eribon’s “Insult and the Making of the Gay Self.” It’s a very accessible, insightful and quite entertaining investigation of the development of gay identity in the west. It has a lot to say about just the kind of things we’re touching on in this thread. Even you, dear Leland, might enjoy it.

  • nystudman

    Using the word “faggot” to be cool is so gay.

  • Mike

    I agree with Werdna mostly – especially in terms of context being more important than the usage of the word. I notice that I see “faggot” or “fag” in just about every post on this website – and I have never once been offended. However, I was horribly offended by the whole Isaiah Washington thing and I wasn’t even involved.

    It was completely a contextual offense. As hateful as the word nigger can be when used in the right(wrong) context, I think faggot even goes one step further. After all, you would never call a white person a nigger. Faggot, however, has no race. Faggot is a word used when you really want to make someone feel like a piece of shit. It is a word you call someone because it is the worst possible insult you can think of. It goes further than a mere implication that gay and stupid/lame are synonymous. It is calling someone you hate something you believe to be the most dehumanizing and hurtful name you know. THAT is why it is so offensive, because it is meant to be the ultimate. Regardless of the witch-hunting origin of the word, regardless of the surface connotation of homosexuality, it is the sheer hate that underlies and universalizes the word that makes it so horrible.

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