Is It Racist? How Words Shape Your World

Just like Seinfeld's comedic line, "Not that there's anything wrong with that," when referring to homosexual behavior, "Is it racist," has become the new tagline to uncomfortable words ushered between people.
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I'll admit it. Deep down, this week's headlines left me questioning whether I know something's racist or not. Or, how can I tell if someone's insane? Even saints are in question. This week's headlines focused on the American Sniper trial, Solange Knowles' hair and Mother Teresa's intentions.

Do intentions or the results of one's actions matter to what's considered racist, insane or just? I'm going to explore this with you. First some reflections from my own life.

Last year I was on a cruise with friends and the guy sitting two rows up on the ferry boat to the island had a woman's hose wrapped around his stellar dreadlocks. At first, I couldn't tell what was wrapping his hair. But when I sat behind him, there was no doubt. It was the little white diamond ubiquitous in all women's undergarments. I elbowed my companions to surreptitiously look.

"It's a woman's panty hose." I tapped my bestie's arm and snickered. Overhearing me, my husband turned sharply and in Tosh.O humor asked me, "Is it racist?"

I was embarrassed. Just like Seinfeld's comedic line, "Not that there's anything wrong with that," when referring to homosexual behavior, "Is it racist," has become the new tagline to uncomfortable words ushered between people.

But, was it racist? Or was I pointing out interesting fashion to my cruise ship gal pal?

I've been reflecting on this moment in my life as I watch the heat surround Fashion Police. Everyone is voicing their very strong opinions on whether or not Giuliana Rancic's comment, "She looks like she smells like patchouli oil... or weed" is racist or not.

First of all. Racist card aside, talking about women's hair is always a downward spiral. Is it not? It's like talking about women's age. Just don't. Mama always taught you that's not polite.

This whole conversation comes during the week after the Academy Awards issued Oscars to deserving artists last Sunday. Many of us feel deeply connected to the process because we've fallen in love with the movies and the people bringing them to us. As a human race, we've always loved our entertainers and through the centuries people in the public eye help us make sense of our lives.

One such artist, Patricia Arquette, made an impassioned plea for wage equality after winning best supporting actress. Later she was slammed for not including other minorities. The bravery of these public people help the rest of us make sense about our own human experience.

I treasure this intersection of public and private stories in our society. It's why I chose to become a publicist. The stories we share both privately and publicly form the world we live in. Words do matter. Words do make something racist or not. Insane or not. Just or not.

Words make us human.

Another movie in the Oscar limelight is American Sniper and while it reportedly 'misfired' at the Oscars, it's a fan-favorite partly because we're all glued to our news feeds wondering if the man who killed our beloved hero, Chris Kyle, was actually insane or not. A jury chose this week to convict of murder, publicly saying Kyle's killer, Eddie Ray Routh, knew right from wrong. The troubled ex-Marine was sentenced to life.

Think about how many times in your life you or a friend of yours casually uttered, "That's insane." Was it really insane? Or were they just words?

My aha moment this week is about how my words shape my world. I am reflecting on my words. A lot. I know I am committed to a healthy world, free from as much insanity as possible. A world where racism is abolished. A world where saintly deeds are received in gratitude regardless of the person's intentions. What fueled Mother Teresa was love. Did her religious motives negate that?

Giuliana Rancic's apologies are filled with messaging around "intentions" versus "results" clarifying that while her intentions were never meant to be racist, people heard it that way. That's the biggest aha of the week, my friends. Your words create a world in the people listening to you. What world are you creating? Is it racist? Is it insane? Is it just? My dad, may he rest in peace, always said, "Michelle, think before you speak." Now, he was just praying that I had some common sense thinking behind my words. Dad, I'm upping the ante. Before speaking, I want to consider the world I'm creating as my audience listens. Maybe you will too now.

Aha! How do you create your art of aha? Tell me here.

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