Right in the centre - Words are hard


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

think it’s time to re-visit some definitions. They are open to debate and that is welcomed.

What you are reading right now is a column, sometimes called an editorial. A column is one person’s opinion. An editorial can be one editor’s opinion, but often, it depicts or describes a collective opinion of an editorial board and is therefore classed as the editorial stance of a newspaper. I have always had a problem with that process, as I believe a person should attach their name to an opinion; a newspaper isn’t a person, so it can’t really have an opinion. In my view, editorials written by an editorial board and posted as the opinion of the newspaper is not a very good idea. Opinions need to be traceable to one person, to an accountable source.

Letters to the editor also need to be traceable to a person. The 21st century equivalent to letters to the editor is the flood of comments on a website. Many newspapers run websites and allow unidentified comments to be posted there. They invest a fair amount of time and money into “monitoring” the comments, which I think is a waste of both time and money. I have often asked why a newspaper would even allow an unidentified comment on their website, but would never think of allowing an anonymous letter to the editor to appear in print.

Another definition that needs to be re-visited is racism. The word has been so adapted and adopted that I doubt many will agree with me, but it’s my opinion that racism is the wrong word to describe the horrible social ill that we call racism. Here’s why I believe that the word racism or racist is an incorrect use of the English language. There is only one race, the human race. If, in fact, there were many races, they could not genetically mingle. Every nation or group of human beings on earth are genetically capable of propagating with every nation or group other human beings.

That all said, the horrible social ill that we call racism, should be called prejudice. It is a much better definition. I will be the first to admit that, on occasion, I have fallen into prejudice. I doubt there is any person who hasn’t. It’s wrong and needs to be dealt with. It can be only dealt with by working through it and overcoming it. Working through means getting to know other people, other cultures and other beliefs. Working through can involve learning from peaceful demonstrations, but it must never involve looting, burning or destroying private or public property. It can’t involve religion based intolerance, regardless of which religion the intolerance stems from.

If I don’t agree with someone, I try my best to get to know them, to become familiar with what they believe. Life is all about relationships. Skin colour means nothing to me. It doesn’t mean anything to God, either, as can be best summed up in the song lyrics, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are all precious in God’s sight.”

It is not prejudice to assess people’s actions. The actions that most need assessment in our minds is the actions we ourselves take. Beyond that, it’s important to, based on facts, research and observation, assess other people’s actions. Has a particular action made life better or worse? That’s the basic criteria. Actions might be words, they might be work or they might be any number of social interactions. Assessment of what we and others do is an ongoing, life-long process. Good actions should be supported, bad actions need to be discouraged. It’s pretty simple. It seems that the words we use to describe ourselves and our society have slipped badly, become sloppy and ill-informed.

There is, perhaps, no more important human task than to carefully choose our words and our actions.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.