Change is something bound to happen one way or another, no matter how long it takes. Even though most of the older generation tends to resist and push against it, change will come. Instead of resisting it, embrace it, because this kind of change is one that will bring in a brighter and more accepting future. Language is always evolving, making words that were once okay unacceptable. In a society where we are so diverse and open, slurs should never be said. The evolution of words into slurs is a change everyone needs to accept, especially the older generation.
Throughout the years, there has been and always will be a generational gap. This is where one generation will not fully understand the other because of how things changed from when they grew up. The new generation is often burdened with the mistakes from the previous one, from changes in the economy to how accepting society will be of everyone no matter who they are.
In our present society, the newer generation (Generation Z) is breaking down barriers of demeaning derogatory terms, like slur words the older generation deemed were okay in their time, but refuse to accept or even respect what is not okay in this time. The older generation loves to say things like, “back in my day saying (so and so word) was accepted.” Well, skipper, we are not in your day anymore. The r-slur, the f-slur, or the derogative use of the term “gay” are simply not okay, no matter how you try to justify it.
The r-slur, or mental “retardation,” was a medical term that used to be widely used and accepted to describe individuals with intellectual and mental disabilities, especially among children. Slowly, the term was used to describe someone as stupid, whether that individual did or did not have intellectual disabilities. Turning this word into a negative and offensive term marginalized a community of people that have different intellectual abilities. Former President Barack Obama made sure to change this by signing Rosa’s Law into effect, which replaced the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in health and educational settings. Obama was emphasizing that words can contribute to harmful stereotypes put on a certain community. Labels affect how we treat people, so using words with positive connotations can be beneficial.
The f-slur is used to describe the LGTBQIA2+ community negatively. It is typically used to describe men who do not fit the masculine stereotype deemed as the “norm,” but what is considered the “norm” is just toxic masculinity. Simply being who they are because they choose to paint their nails or even have more of a “feminine” walk, their masculinity is called into question. This term has been historically used to demoralize a human being simply for being who they are, but this term has recently been reclaimed by many in the LGTBQIA2+ community to try and destigmatize it. Using the term “gay” to negatively describe someone, an object, or even a situation can be harmful to those exploring their sexuality. The term “gay,” in accordance with its dictionary definition, describes “one being happy or having a lively mood,” but using it in such a derogatory manner can have horrific repercussions. According to Newport Academy, “LGBTQ teenagers overall are three times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers,” in part due to the derogatory use of the term. If they constantly hear and feel that they are not accepted for who they are, will they ever feel like they have a place in our society?
It has been told time and time again that those words are unacceptable for anyone to use because they have been proven to negatively target a marginalized group, but the older generation never seems to truly grasp that concept. The older generations just need to get with the times; it is no one’s responsibility to educate them. Take the initiative to educate yourself about the times you are now living in. These are times when every human being should be treated as such, a human being. In an open-minded and accepting society we don’t use degrading and stigmatizing slurs against already targeted groups because they may look, act, or choose to love someone different from you. To be frank, how is it any of our business to judge anyone based on any of those things, when they are just living their own lives as best as they can, just like you?
The icon that is Harry Styles got it right with his hit song, “Sign of the Times,” especially with the first verse: “Just stop your crying. It's a sign of the times. Welcome to the final show. Hope you’re wearing your best clothes. You can't bribe the door on your way to the sky. You look pretty good down here. But you ain’t really good.” The older generations should truly focus on this strong message. Whether they like it or not, our society is changing. It is changing slowly, but surely, into a more open-minded community where people know that respect is deserved by the simple fact that we are all humans trying to coexist peacefully on the same planet. We see this mostly from the older generation, and we also see this from younger ones. For change to fully happen, in order for these negative beliefs to stop cycling over, older generations need to accept that these derogatory terms are what they are: derogatory. No matter which generation you come from, young or old, is that too much to ask for? Is it too much to get with the times?
Najla Alexander is the features editor, staff writer, and crime beat reporter for Marymount’s student run newspaper, The Monitor. Her passion is putting the truth out there for people who have been wronged by the justice system. She hopes one day to be a criminal justice reporter. If you can't tell, she’s a True Crime junkie!