How much power is truly in a word? If you aren’t on the receiving end of derogatory language, or if your past experiences dictate that the intent isn’t in any way physically dangerous to you, your response might be “not very much”. As it stands, a slur that serves as a constant reminder to the slave trade, will not have the same effect on young, white men such as Pewdiepie (Felix) as it does on African-Americans. That fact is indisputable.
Pewdiepie, also known as Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg is a YouTube sensation with over 57 million followers.
However, there are arguments that discuss how a word does not have the power to hurt you. You can choose not to listen. You can choose to focus on the positives, rather than the negatives. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to hear what people are saying when it’s your identity and self-worth that is under fire. Opening yourself up to criticism means that you hear both the constructive, and the demeaning words that come out of other people’s mouths. To listen to others is to improve but you can’t pick and choose what makes its way into your life. That’s not how it works.
Words, whether it’s a popular fact or not, have power. They are powerful when used systematically in legal documents, or political speeches and they are just as powerful in everyday life. Denying the effect that they have is a misguided conclusion. Words are even more powerful when others see them as a way to define you. Words can take power away from those who they are aimed towards, in this case it’s an entire race.
Boogie, a YouTuber with over 4.2 million subscribers, elaborates on the power behind slurs such as the N word.
It is also disappointing that perhaps he and others do not fully understand the weight those kind of words carry and the damage they can do.
— Boogie2988 (@Boogie2988) September 11, 2017
In the live stream, it’s evident that Pewdiepie (Felix) realises the connotations of this word as he quickly corrects himself and channels his anger into calling his aggravator ‘assh*le’ instead of the N word. That doesn’t change the fact that his aim was to degrade. Through the casual use of the N word, Pewdiepie is endorsing it for all of his viewers.
What’s important to note about this word, is that it isn’t something on par to calling another person a ‘d*ck’ or an ‘ash*le’. Those are general terms. In contrast, the N word is a slur specific to people of black or dark-skin. It will never be used to describe a white person, except in the case of comparing them to a black person – and this will never be in a positive way. It’s called a slur for a reason. The word is a way for people to look down upon another for having a darker skin tone and it will, at this moment, never have any other valid connotations.
As a result of his 57 million followers, he is one of the biggest names on the platform and so Pewdiepie represents the YouTube community. Despite hastily changing his diction in the knowledge that he had said something wrong, the fact that he used it in a moment of emotion indicates that he’s most likely fine with using it in real life. This sends a bad message to the impressionable children who are watching him. It tells them that using slurs, words that they may not fully understand the connotations of, is okay. That degrading a race for another word to insult their friends with, is okay.
The casual degradation of people should never be okay.