I got taken to school today. My 20 year old son took exception to my use of the word "thug". Actually, he took exception to my purchasing Thug Kitchen, a cookbook I actually hoped he would use and enjoy. He was offended by the title, and by its use by two white authors from California. After an hour of arguing back and forth, I have to admit he's right.
"Thug" is a label, and as such, once you have pinned it on someone, it dismisses any hope of seeing that person as human, as an individual. The kiddo pointed out that labeling someone is counter to my values, and inconsistent with my world view. Score one for the kiddo -- he is absolutely, painfully, correct.
His other argument was a little harder to deal with. He feels that the word is increasingly used as a nice way of avoiding the "N' word, while still getting the point across. In his view, it is racism, but of a more socially acceptable flavor. I argued vehemently, because, you know "I'm not a racist". But. In doing a little uncomfortable introspection, I've gotta say I've come to use the word the same way Fox News uses it -- to group people who look and act a certain way, and say that they are trouble. It is a subtler variation of the old "good" blacks vs "bad" blacks labeling of the civil rights era. It is scary how easy it is to fall into this way of thinking. It was wrong then. It is wrong now. And I had no idea it had crept into my thinking.
It is hard for me as the mom, to have my kid pointing out my flaws. It is painful to have my behavior scrutinized. But it is also wonderful. My kid is his own person. He thinks about things. He can spot hypocrisy a mile away. He speaks his mind. And I can learn from him, just like he did from me.