The Problem with the Word “But”

April 14th, 2016 | Categories: Uncategorized

The other day my daughter and son had a fight. Sometimes when kids (and adults) fight it is hard to say who is right and who is wrong. Sometimes both are right. sometimes both are wrong. Sometimes it seems like only one of the two people is always right and sometimes it seems the other one of the two people is always wrong. In other words, there is every combination of right and wrong in an argument.

So my two kids are having a fight.  I intervene and ask them their sides of the story. As I listen, I am trying to demonstrate neutrality and understand the situation from both perspectives. At some point it comes out that my daughter intentionally threw something at my son that hit him in the face. Now up until this point I was siding with my daughter, albeit in my head. This, throwing thing, however, is inappropriate no matter who was right.

Hitting/ throwing/ kicking/ hurting is not okay. No matter what the scenario.

So I stop the entire discussion and make my daughter apologize. I tell her it was not okay to do that. She keeps trying to add the word “but” after her apology. “I am sorry but. . . ” I stop her three times and explain ultimately that regardless of anything else, what she did was wrong and she needs to acknowledge that in itself, on its own merit, for that single reason without qualification.

She understood. She apologized. After that, we settled the argument and moved on with our lives.

We all can take a lesson from this 8 year old girl.

There are some things we might do that are just wrong on their own merit. They are not wrong because x,y,z. they are not kind of wrong. they are not sometimes wrong. they are just wrong.

Overt sexism, racism, ageism, heterosexism, and so forth in the form of slurs or ethnophaulisms, offensive terms all around, are just wrong (so is the more subtle stuff but that’s another blog and, frankly, the topic of my book The Communicated Stereotype).

When someone says a slur they should be told they have done so, made to apologize if they haven’t of there own accord, and then they and everyone else can move on with their lives.

And acknowledgment of these slurs should not be followed with “but” to explain why the slur is said. There is no reason that justifies it. They should not be followed by explanation of defense as to who said it. there is no rational for anyone to say them.

Calling someone a Corporate Democratic Whores is clearly offensive.

Both Dr. Paul Song, who said the statement, and Bernie Sanders said it was an “insensitive” comment. Insensitive is when something is actually true but you use a euphemism to make it sound better because it is a sensitive topic and you don’t want to make someone feel bad or uncomfortable. Calling someone a “whore” does not count in that category. That’s tacking on a “but” to the apology. It’s like saying it was wrong to say, but it’s really true.

Dr. Song said he meant members of congress instead of Hillary. That’s an excuse, another “but” added on to the apology. But the word itself should never have been used in that context at all. No “but.”

Bernie supporters say it wasn’t Bernie who said it and at least he apologized. That’s a day late and a dollar short for me. Saying it wasn’t Bernie who said it is another “but.” It’s like saying yes, that was wrong, but it wasn’t Bernie’s mouth it came out of so it doesn’t really matter.

Using the word “whore” was offensive on its own and invokes ideas of slut shaming that have actual tangible consequences for women psychologically, physically, and emotionally. It’s a stereotype. It’s offensive. It was said to be intentionally hurtful and derogatory. It’s inappropriate. It should never have been said. It certainly should never have been said in front of thousands of people who may never know that an apology was ever made. Thousands of people who cheered when Dr. Song said it.

If my daughter can come to realize that some things deserve to have an apology on their own, without any “but,” then anyone can. The “whore” comment deserved and deserves acknowledgement as an offensive act on its own, not followed by a “but” from anyone.





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