The problem with using slurs in friend groups
Using derogatory terms at the expense of marginalised groups is never okay, no matter what the context may be. However, it is disturbingly commonplace for people to justify the use of slurs between friends, brushing it off as harmless jokes or banter between pals.
Many claim that it is perfectly fine and within your rights to call your friend names as long as they are not personally offended. This rationalisation is flimsy, since the consequence of casually throwing around these damaging pejoratives contributes to the normalisation of this kind of conduct.
Over time, you become desensitised to the harmful language and when these words are used by people with actual malicious intent, you may fail to identify it as an issue.
The idea that just because one member of a community grants you a supposed "get out of jail free card" to use an abusive epithet, you are now allowed to make it your own without any repercussions, is absurd. This is because the implications of certain words always remain the same, regardless of the way you may mean it.
The role that peer pressure plays in perpetuating this culture of using slurs in friend groups must also be taken into account. More often than not, those who are on the receiving end of these demeaning slurs do not have a say in whether they find these terms to be disrespectful. They are simply expected to be a good sport and play along. Speaking up or protesting is never a viable option for them, because the moment they voice a concern, they will be accused of being petty or worse still, be officially pronounced a "snowflake" who "can't take a joke". In that instance, staying mum can feel like the easier way to go about it. One can't blame them of course.
That is not to say that the rest of us can also keep turning a blind eye to this practice when we see it happening around us, especially in our own circle of peers. Calling out your friends on their ignorance and letting them know when they are in the wrong is always a wise thing to do, even if it means you have to burn a few bridges along the way.
At the end of the day, however, none of us can dictate how others behave but we do have full control over our own actions. So, making sure that we ourselves refrain from using slurs that may potentially hurt a community of people, even as an alleged joke, is key.
Nahian Nawar is a slow reader and a fast eater. Teach her how to change her ways by reaching out at [email protected]