The ethics problem with the use of “nigger,” or “bitch,” or “fag,” or any of the other culturally disapproved denigrating labels for human beings belonging to particular groups, is not that they are insulting—adults should be able to handle mere insults—but that they unfairly diminish the status of individuals, their character, opinions and deeds before they have had the opportunity to be judged on their merits. It isn’t the words, but the effect, in essence sticking a foot out to trip a runner at the beginning of the race—and the race may be a job, an election, a debate, an argument, or policy deliberations.
The No-Labels movement focuses on characterizations and civility, but these are far too vague as concepts to enforce culturally, and subject to easy manipulation for political ends. John Avlon, a leader of No-Labels, still calls politicians he disagrees with “wingnuts.” Why? Because, well, they are wingnuts! Just ask John. Niggerizing, however, goes well beyond labels, and fair people should reject it from either side of the political spectrum. It is a bully tactic, and it is a dishonest debating technique, completely delegitimizing an adversary before addressing his arguments, or giving them an objective hearing. Continue reading