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OK Boomer: A Quick Guide to Offensive Terms by Chris Thompson
There seems to be confusion over what can and cannot be legitimately compared to the n-word. Earlier this week, local conservative talking head posited on Twitter that the term “boomer” is equivalent to the n-word, but for ageism. He was thoroughly dragged internationally for his statement (by Dictionary.com even!), but to be honest, I would expect nothing less of Bob Lonsberry. He once compared a former black mayor to an orangutan. He regularly documents his “fitness runs” around the city, often taking pictures of poor areas and urban squalor, fueling a bonfire of dog whistles for his followers. He often speaks of the Puerto Rican Festival as if it is as debaucherous and violent as a Caligulan senate orgy, except for the one time he went to the PR Fest and reported on it as if he were Jane Goodall studying gorillas in the Congo. For that, for treating Puerto Rican people as if they are apes to be studied, he was given praise. His twitter feed is a cornucopia of blind adulation of law enforcement and complaining about how dangerous it is to be a straight white man nowadays. So, I completely expect him to say that “boomer” is the new n-word.
The problem is that he is not the only person to compare words that describe a certain part of the majority population with the n-word. Along with “boomer”, I’ve seen people claim that “cisgender”, “goyim”, “straight”, and even “white” are derisive terms. With exception of “goyim”, all these words were ascribed to people by the very members of the groups. Even “boomer” was coined by boomers, short for “baby boomers”, to describe the population explosion after the end of World War II. It is almost braggadocious, as it pretty much says that their parents were doin’ it all the time. “Cisgender”, “straight”, and “white” are all terms coined by scientists and philosophers, both real and pseudo. “Goyim” the term for non-Jewish people, translates to “people”. It just means that: non-Jewish people. There is no malice intended in it.
There is a disconnect as to what is truly a slur and what is just a descriptor for people. So here is a quick 3-step guide to clear up what CAN be compared to the n-word and what CANNOT [WARNING: Some offensive terms will be spelling out in the next few sentences]:
- Did the group of people described coin the term themselves? This is the easiest and most obvious clue that a term may be offensive. Developmentally disabled people didn’t create the term “idiot”, “moron”, “stupid”, or “retarded”. Women didn’t start calling themselves “bitch”. LGBTQ+ folks didn’t coin the term “faggot”. Indigenous people didn’t create “redskin”, “injun”, or “eskimo”. Asian folks did not invent the word “jap”, “chink”, “flip” or “gook”. Black folks didn’t coin the term “nigger”. How these people used these terms amongst themselves to usurp the power of them is irrelevant. If they didn’t coin the term themselves, it is probably offensive.
- Have you seen the word spray painted on a house, rec center or car? A few years ago, a lesbian woman from Syracuse went outside to see that her Volkswagen Beetle had “Fagbug” scrawled across it on the windshield and door. In defiance, she detailed her car in rainbows with “Fagbug” proudly emblazoned on the side of it and took a road trip. Recently, a bunch of cars were vandalized with the “niggers” painted on their hoods and doors. Hell, my car was keyed one time, but the assailant only got to “nig-” before they gave up. The fact is that in all these cases, plus synagogue and mosque vandalization, A word for the people have been drawn or scratched or painted prominently, usually followed by “go away” or “go home” or just “die”. There is no “White-a-bago” traveling the country having talks about the mountains of hate afforded them every day, so chances are it’s not the same thing.
- Have there been laws that restrict the group’s rights farther the general public’s? Women have suffered lack of rights over property, citizenship, and even their own bodies. LGBTQ+ folks have had restrictions on their rights to marry, to adopt, and to live. Indigenous folks have been forcibly migrated, miseducated, and slaughtered at the behest of the government. Black folks…well…SLAVERY. And then Jim Crow, biased penal codes, redlining, etc. The first immigration laws were explicit about their disdain for Chinese and Asian people, and there was an actual government policy called “Operation Wetback” that authorized law enforcement and the National guard to round up Mexican Americans and move them to Mexico, whether they were citizens or not. No such laws can be found for white men or boomers or straight folks.
Has the word you don’t like coming from people’s mouths met any one of these criteria? If not, then don’t expect to be taken seriously when you claim it is “offensive”. In summation, “boomer” is not, nor has it ever been a derogatory term, and definitely not on the level of the n-word. The fact that most people say “n-word” and not “b-word” in polite conversation should have tipped you off to that. If you think “boomer” is such an offensive term, just admit that you don’t like that younger people and people affected by your old train of thought are using it. After all, you had the power to coin the term yourself.
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About Chris Thompson
Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog , he currently writes the Chronicles of Nonsense segment for the Almost Tuesday show on WAYO-FM 104.3, and regularly posts and writes on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon.Additionally , Chris is a Food Writer for Rochester City Newspaper. His blog is www.chroniclesofnonesense.com