Yesterday, Representative Peter King used the ethnic slur “Japs” when discussing Donald Trump’s views on national security.
His use of this derogatory term is yet another example of how corrosive and divisive our political dialogue has become, and it is clearly unacceptable.
His defense of it has been even worse.
This entire incident epitomizes what’s wrong with the political discourse today. Representative King inexcusably defends his comments because he was “quoting the guy at the end of the bar.” First of all, he wasn’t quoting an actual person. But even if he was, as an elected official, he has a responsibility not to repeat such divisive, offensive terms. He can still stand by the merits of his statement without needlessly offending others. Why is such an offensive word necessary to make his point?
More and more often, people dismiss legitimate concerns about the use of derogatory language as “politically correct” and “overly sensitive.” Just because Representative King would not be offended if someone used an ethic slur to describe Irish Americans does not mean that he speaks for all Irish Americans–nor does it give him license to use inflammatory words to describe other communities. Maybe it’s this sense of entitlement–I’m not offended if it happens to me, so you shouldn’t be offended if I do it to you–that is leading our political debate into the gutter.
Words matter. And insisting that they don’t leads to greater acceptance of the xenophobic and anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals that divide our nation and undermine our very ideals.
I am very disappointed that Representative King insists that he would continue to use this word, rather than simply apologize. Recognizing when you have offended others and apologizing is a sign of strength–of growth and reflection–that we need to see more of in our elected officials, not less.
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