Not sure if I've talked about this before, but when I came to the realization that white people today view the term "racist" as the functional equivalent of the word "nigger", it was something of an Oprah A-ha moment.
To many white people today, particularly young white people, being called a racist has the same impact and effect that being called a nigger has on black people. At first, when I talked to friends; saw comments on blogs; and observed white peoples' horror at being labeled racist, I thought, "What's the big deal? They called you racist. It's not that deep. Just ask them why they think you're racist, explain why you're not, and keep it movin'."
But, after seeing how distraught some people became at being lableled racist and the seriousness with which they considered the charge, it occurred to me that the label racist, works in almost the same way as the label nigger. Both terms label the person in question and obscure any other characteristic that the person in question might have. Once I call you a racist, you are nothing else. You are not brave, or funny, or caring, quirky, talented, or thoughtful. You're just a racist. Same thing with the n-word: the label destroys any other characteristic of individuality that you hold. You are nothing but a nigger. You are nothing but a racist.
There are of course important differences. The term racist is generally meant to draw awareness to something done or said that has a negative racial impact on others. If I'm calling you racist, it's because you did something that i think is wrong and I don't want you to do it again. I'm actually trying to help you. Not the case with the n-word. The n-word is deployed to make another person feel that they are less than. It's sole purpose is to maintain white supremacy.
The long and the short of it is, I tend to be more careful now about how I deploy the r-word and who I call racist. Perhaps my fellow liberals should follow suit.
read more: N-word = Racist