What’s a lavender word for lynch?”
Now, let me say I actually really love this professor. On most occasions I appreciate her ability to give feedback that will strengthen arguments despite her own disposition about a topic; I think that takes a special kind of talent.
I say all of that to say this: I don't believe it was the term that was the problem, but rather her discomfort with my word choice.
Herein lies the issue.
Our society likes to sugarcoat language. We like to pretend that if we don’t call a thing by it’s name then that somehow makes the situation better. Rather than talking about the decades of institutional racism in the educational system as the reason for disparities between racial groups, we label some kids “at risk” as if they are the problem. Instead of dealing with the reality that the American educational institution was never created to set anyone free, we chant “knowledge is power” and condemn those who we perceive as being unintelligent for not chasing their education. However, I think Andre 3000 may have put it most poignantly when he said, “roses really smell like poo-poo-oo.”
Our tendency to smooth out sentences so they are more palatable to those listening is simply a tool of White supremacy used to silence truth. People in power manipulate language so as not to relinquish power. The goal is to get us to think “If we don’t call out inequalities, perhaps our discussion of them will go away. Perhaps no one will have any questions. Perhaps they will be less likely to demand justice.” So we smile and nod politely when policymakers talk about “at risk” youth or when a pastor declares that “knowledge is power.” We’re tricked into believing that these things are true and fail to ever question why that is the only language we use.
The issue, however, is that when we dance around a problem with frilly language on our tongues, we never begin to engage in discourse that would help us solve it. Instead, we continue to harp on the perceived problem. In an effort to pacify the offender, we focus on the victim and not on the culprit. If we are to move towards true justice, we’ve got to be willing to call oppression what it is despite who may be offended.
There is no lavender word for lynch. And I refuse to pretend that there is.