When I was a little girl I learned that familiar saying "stick and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you." Then I grew up and learned the power that words really had.
Words are like relationship baggage. They can lose their power over time -- especially when they're used enough -- but they will always trigger the same subconscious response whenever somebody brings them up. They're tricky little suckers whose psychological effects oftentimes sneak up on us when we don't even know it.
There are lots of words we use nowadays that I hate -- I'm still waiting for YOLO to die and awesome-sauce really gets under my skin -- but one word in particular really makes me cringe: rant.
I've seen this ugly little word pop up in news headlines a lot lately. Particularly when someone like Kanye West is talking about classism and inequality, or Richard Sherman screams in a little, blonde white woman's face, or most recently, when Spike Lee candidly educates people about the problems of gentrification.
"Rant" has become our go-to word to describe the inane topics and wordy arguments our ever-shortening attention spans have developed less and less patience for, even when those topics are relevant arguments we should, in fact, be spending more time discussing.
The problem with describing these black men's sentiments as rants is we write off their ideas as unimportant, mundane and imply that they're somewhat mentally unstable. These men are on a tirade. They are loud and uncontrollable, and they have stepped outside the limits of what society deems acceptable behavior for black men -- and we all know what happens when white folks get nervous about black men acting out.
Using the word "rant" has become our way of invalidating opinions, it's our way of ignoring the issues we don't want to see hold power because the word automatically characterizes the argument as unimportant before you even read what the person had to say. And of course, it's not exclusive to its use with black men -- when I see it after Ted Nugent's name, I automatically think fanatical, Tea Party Conservatives, but who wants to hear what they have to say anyway? (kidding)
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying everything that comes out of Kanye West's mouth is comprehensible, but I bet you've missed a few great points he has made because you've written it off as "just another rant." And I know many of you will think that I'm inserting race into something where it didn't exist, but that's the thing about modern-day racism, it's usually a psychological and subconscious perpetration of pejorative language and ideas -- but I digress.
The fact of the matter is words have power we don't always acknowledge, and we might want to start paying attention.