Street Prophets Coffee Hour: Words and Bigotry

Note: I usually don’t cross-post my Coffee Hour pieces here, but since this one is based on my Anishinabe worldview, I thought it would be appropriate here.

Welcome to the Street Prophets Coffee Hour. This is an open thread where we can share our thoughts and comments about the day. There seems to have been a lot of concern recently about bigotry, name calling, and other negative activities over on the Great Orange Satan (AKA Daily Kos). So let’s talk about how to deal with bigotry.  

Let’s start by talking about words. As some of you may know, I’m Anishinabe (in Canada we are generally known as Ojibwa and here in the United States we are often called Chippewa). In the traditional Anishinabe world-view we consider words to be living things. The fact that words live long after they are spoken is readily apparent: it is easy for all of us to recall with complete emotional clarity words which hurt us many years ago. The words live even though the original speaker may be dead.

The Anishinabe focus is on harmony, and thus we talk about speaking words which will promote harmony, words which bring us together. We prefer to avoid those words which divide us: usually words which reflect racism, sexism, homophobia, agism, and so on. Words which are spoken in anger also serve as barriers to communication, barriers to the harmony needed for community.

And now about bigotry. When we respond to bigotry we must choose our words carefully as they will live long and prosper. Name-calling, labeling, use of profanity-none of these, in my experience, are of any good use in combating bigotry. These words live and continue to cause pain long after they are spoken. Yet silence only encourages bigotry. So what is the solution?

This is an open thread. I look forward to your answers.