Tolerance and respect camp
Today opinions about public language vary tremendously. They range from one recent letter-to-the-editor writing against racist language and for civility and respect to statements that any language is permissible if it honestly reflects an opinion.
I am in the tolerance and respect camp. Hostile words inflame us; respectful discourse can inform us. Hateful language directed at individuals or groups is downright dangerous. In Columbus last month a speaker from the Southern Poverty Law Center reported evidence that a person or group labeled with contemptuous language is extremely likely to be the target of more insults, exclusion, and even violence.
Hateful speech often leads to hateful action. One local example is sad. Immediately after the presidential election a few Absarokee students chanted “build a wall” while closing a gate to keep a classmate of Hispanic heritage from entering the school grounds. I believe that students who were present that day will look back with pride if they stood up for the person being ostracized or even just apologized for remaining silent.
I sometimes turn the air blue when my dogs misbehave or my computer defies me. Directing my nasty words at people, however, is off limits. We can learn from each other if we resolve to speak and listen respectfully, even to those with whom we disagree.
And we must stand up to racist and other hateful language designed to marginalize people and tear us apart.