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D. Sugar Kopplin Easley

Professor John Davis
English 400
22 September 2015

The Effect of Transgenerational Words

Go on a journey with me to 1791, when the First Amendment was formulated stating that
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people
peaceable to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. (White, Bay
& Martin Freedom on my Mind, 2013, A10 - A13). Was that Amendment for everyone? Because
if so, there were a lot of individuals that DID NOT get the memo. African Americans aka Blacks
did not share those same right because it was during Chattel Slavery that it was written. There
was no such thing as Freedom of Speech for a slave without being whipped by the masters hand
of his choosing. The very words that others were allowed to freely be spoken were not to be
uttered if you were a person of color, but especially if you were a slave, or carried a darker
pigmentation or hue. For centuries African American could not speak their minds. During Chattle
Slavery, most African Americans could not read, write or speak up or defend themselves for it
was written into law. If they did show any form of intelligence, there would be some form of
terrible repercussion, or even worse, death. Even though most feel that where African Americans
are today is a far cry from where they started, they are nowhere closer to the freedoms afforded
our lighter hued white privileged counterparts. Its evident and all over the news.

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So when we speak of how words might affect someone when speaking to them, I must
reflect back to multigenerations of individuals that were stolen, beaten, broken, raped, spat upon,
lynched, decapitated, murdered and fried. These people heard nothing but hurtful, degrading,
hateful, spiteful words, all while a crime was being committed against them. These words
changed the lives of millions of people and changed their lives transgenerationally which can
still be felt today.
When Tannen wrote about the word bossy I thought, try shiftless, nigger, darky, ape,
gorilla, baboon, sambo, boy, spook, or any number of names that have been called out to African
Americans who hold down jobs (in the customer service field alone). I am appalled with what
people feel they can say to an individual. I believe morals, at some point, should kick in, but,
unfortunately they do not always and some individuals end up faced with having to deal with
someones opinion. For this reason, as Tannen discusses the word bossy, she brings to light the
negativity of words sometimes used to separate homo sapien gender interpretation and meaning
as well. Women tend to soften their words to be better received. However, if women/girls dont
fit into that mold, they are considered more aggressive, maybe even a little more testosterone
than the average female. I dont necessarily agree that a woman has to be softer in their approach
when it comes to business, but when raising a child, male or female, this character trait can help
to structure an individual. It is much easier to catch a fly with honey, than with salt! Maybe the
Washington Redskins should consult with a woman on the name change, and maybe even an
image upgrade.

I also agree with Greg Nasif and his opinion that the Washington Redskins name should
be changed. How many more decades are we, as Americans, going to stand for this type of
behavior? If everyone who supported the Redskins believed that the name should be changed,

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a boycott of the team would send a direct message to the owner saying We arent going to
support this type of behavior. This would send a direct message, and a direct hit, to the owner(s)
of this team. As Americans, we must fight for what is right and not always what is convenient or
In conclusion, it is important to be conscientious of how the words we use may have an
effect on another, even having a negative effect in their self-esteem. Words could also have a
very positive affect on someone. We must remember to encourage those we love, and tap into
daily. African Americans may still feel that freedom of speech, and being able to say what is on
your mind is a luxury that cannot always be afforded in certain situations. I say, we need to work
together as a whole society to change the views of people so we can all live cohesively on this
earth and make a better place the for the generations to come. Lets take these words and
restructure them to free our minds. We must hope and believe that the rest will follow.

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White, Deborah G, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African
Americans, with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2013. Print.