Monday, September 23, 2013

Why Nazi is a bad word and other stuff

I apologize for the heavy nature of this post.  I have to get this off my chest.

I think I first started to be mindful of the way I treated and thought about people during my junior year of college.  I had to read a book penned by one of the sociology professors about how racist NIU students behaved.  The book is called 'Racetalk: Racism Hiding in Plain Sight' by Kristen A. Myers.  I will never forget it.  I made sure I never took any of her classes after reading it because I was convinced she hated college students.  I'm not kidding, the pages seemed to ooze judgment and seethe with hatred.

But the book was effective because most people were causally saying racist things without a second thought.   It doesn't end there.  People are classist, sexist, sizeist, misogynistic, ageist, and homophobic.  We can discriminate based on a person's nationality, religion, ethnicity, region, language, employment, diet, marital status and what kind of pop culture they like to consume.    

People don't like to talk about it because it's awkward, depressing and it makes them feel bad.  I have been told to lighten up and not take everything so seriously by many people.  But I won't.  This kind of thing is important and it doesn't get discussed enough.

It's easy to see bad behavior in other people but a lot harder to see it in yourself.  After reading the book I thought about all the things I had said and my friends had said that were probably really, really offensive.  I stopped using the word 'gay' to describe things I didn't like.  I got on the long road to trying to become a better person one lost discriminatory epithet at a time.  I'm still nowhere near where I'd like to be.  I took a sociological survey a few months ago that let me know I have moderately negative views towards obese people.  At first I refused to believe it but lately I'm starting to notice some things that make me think, yeah that survey is probably right.  I need to work on that.

Living in Germany has helped me with my goals to stop acting like a jerk.  I still remember one of my first trips to Dresden, sitting in a bar with a bunch of expats, I causally used the word 'Nazi'.  Everyone freaked out.  One guy said to me in pig Latin 'ixnay azinay!'  And then because they were stand up guys they explained to me how in Germany it is a bad word.  A word that stereotyped, a caricature, synonymous with saying that all Germans are bad people.  Something clicked into place.  I started wondering how Germans felt when they watched Indiana Jones movies.  How did it feel to be the 'bad guys'?  How did that make little German kids feel?  Probably not very good.  Would I want my daughter to watch something like that?  No, of course not.  Since then I  have seen a lot of offensive stereotypes of Germans on tv.  So far my favorite is that they are nudists with horrible accents.  Funny?  Maybe.  Offensive?  Very.  For the record very few Germans have thick German accents.  They learn foreign languages in school and tend to speak them well.   And the nudist thing, well it's mostly a gross exaggeration.  They're just less uptight about bodies and that's a good thing.

I can't begin to tell you how many tv shows, music, movies are pretty much ruined for me.  Remember that episode of Seinfeld with the Soup Nazi?  I would never be able to watch that now.  I'd feel compelled to turn off the tv.  And don't even get me started on all the racist stuff on 'Two Broke Girls' or my Facebook news feed.  Facebook is the worst.  Yikes.  Some days it's depressing salad with animal cruelty dressing.   You know who you are people posting pictures of abused animals!

So anyway, I'm on this personal crusade to turn into someone who has empathy for people different from myself.   I'm trying to cultivate respect for my fellow human, for their beliefs and values.  In doing this I have made myself sensitive to other people's discrimination.  To the point where I don't want to hang out with women who body snark or read men's misogynistic comments on Facebook.   If someone makes fun of a religion or sexual orientation or mocks a culture I can't have it.  Because it rubs off and if it rubs off on me it's going to rub off on my daughter.   I don't want my kid to spend her whole life trying to stamp out these bad things.  I want her to have a better start than I did.  

I know that I can't raise her in a bubble but for now I can influence how much exposer she has to the worst things in life.  So I don't want her to hear women calling themselves or others fat.  I don't want her to hear someone's mocking religion or sexual orientation.  I don't want to explain the thousand of racist slurs out there.  Those are bad words to me.   Those words are poison that make us into bad people with bad attitudes. 

 On the other hand I'm 100% fine with the word 'fuck'.  As far as I can tell that word doesn't hurt anyone.  Feel free to say fuck as much as you want around us, I'm mothertrucking cool with it. 



  1. Love, love, love this post. It's really making me think. I'm not sure there is anyway around the exposure to it all, but we can choose who we are and aren't friends with. The last part is pretty awesome too. Lol

  2. I used the word Nazi as an exaggeration for quite a while before my German husband finally told me how upset it made him. I had to even take it a step further and explain that to my friends and family because shortly theraftere I realized I was hearing it everywhere. I totally agree with you on everything you said. Additionally, when people use racial, ethnic or general discriminatory slurs I think it really makes them sound stupid.

  3. I adore you. As a person, as a mother, as a friend. I am so lucky to have someone in my life that I genuinely look up to. This post is just a part of why I adore you, but it is a big part :)

    1. Awwww! Thank you! I respect you too! I miss you guys so much!

  4. On the other hand I believe we should also educate our kids what the word means and where it comes from. There is a painful history behind it and it shouldn't be forgotten because we want to protect them. People in Germany (and other aggressors) would happily forget about the past and make it a taboo. The only way to make a world a better place is to learn from the mistakes, acknowledged them, say sorry (did they?) and remember those who suffered.