Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Now my hopes with this post are not to fan the flames of bigotry but to navigate the reader safely through its flames. I have heard this term used in a variety of settings and I think it is proper time to define its definition.

For people unfamiliar with this word, a "swack" is a word to describe a white woman who believes she is black or who only dates African American men. I believe this is a Midwestern derogatory slang word as I have not encountered its usages outside of the Midwest.

Its connotation is similar to that of Chav instead of Wigger in the sense that wigger has a negative connotation where the term Chav has been embraced by the culture to that which its meaning has been implied.

Now there is some debate over how this word was originated several contenders' any one which could be accurate.

Single White Black = Swack
Slutty White Black = Swack
Suburban White Black = Swack
She's White Black = Swack

And probably many other variations. Although I can not prove it I am also certain that its phonic sounding to the slang term wack is no accident.

Is it derogatory?

This question is fairly difficult to answer but I would say that it is derogatory to the person who it is applied.

On the surface if we look at the two parts of the definition of a swack we see that it is a white woman who believes she is black or dates only black men. I do not believe it would be derogatory if it only applied to the second part of the definition since it is merely a label for a preference in who a person likes to date. However the inclusion of the first part of the definition makes it derogatory since it is communicated in a negative way. The derogatory usage is found in the demeaning and racist way that it is applied to people. (Which is really what makes any term demeaning)

However just like the term chav the term swack has been embraced by the subculture to whom the label applies.

Now this is where the conversation begins and the road became murky for me. I was sitting and discussing this matter over a drink with friends. I leveraged the view point that I understood why white people should not use the N-Word but why I understood that it was ok for black people to use it with each other. Reason being is that white peoples history of abuse and oppression mean when white people use the term it is coming from a negative source of power. I also argued that the use of swack and wigger did not enjoy the same cultural exclusivity clause that the N-Word does among Africans since while they are usually exchanged between two white people and directed at white people its connotation and use is direct assault on blacks even if they are not part of the conversation.

Is this overly sensitive? Should you be able to use a derogatory word if it is not considered to be derogatory to the group that you are using it?

A counter points that was raised was the use of the word punk for a long time considered to be derogatory and belittling it is now a badge of honor and an entire genre of music and culture. (but then punk doesn't have the history and the racial overtones to it to contend with so I argued that it was a poor example but maybe it isn't maybe we are just too sensitive about race in this country)

Any thoughts?


dawnmarie said...

The n-word should be stricken from existence. Every single black person I know would have to physically restrain themselves from harming someone who used it, black or white. Black people, White people, any people,. no one should use that term. EVER. You will never convince me it's ok for some people to use it. Black people who do use are typically uneducated and unaware of the origins of the word and what the word really means. NONONONONONO.


Mags said...

My thought is that almost any word can be used as a derogatory word. Case in point, my Nana tells a story about when she was little and she got into a fight with one of her little friends. She stood up to her and sneered,

"'re just a Protestant!"

Her friend was mortified and ran away crying.

And also, I don't think any word used in America should be stricken from existence. We have the freedom of speech here and to start taking words away because people are offended would be like burning certain books because people don't like them.

Instead, I think it would best if we try to educate more people and try to teach and practice acceptance of other cultures and people.

Give peace a chance. ;)

Thomas said...

I know a Chinese guy whose favorite singer is Snoop (Chigger).

the108 said...

I used the term Wigger in high school and thought nothing of it. I used it in the same way that I used jock, prep, goth,etc. I don't know yet if it's offensive because I've never heard anyone get upset by being called that but could understand if they did.

I think this is a difficult subject because so much of it boils down to respect. I would NEVER call someone a Nigger but this is mainly because I understand that it is disrespectful and very offensive to most and don't have any desire to hurt someone in that way. I also don't use the term because I don't personally believe that such a thing exists.

On the other hand, I think that people should handle things on an individual basis as well and find personal strength. If someone is ignorant enough to call someone such a thing, then I pity them because it must be a pretty disgusting thing to live with such hate for other people.

A few months ago, the kids at school started calling Matthew a faggot and although he didn't like to be called names, he wasn't offended by it because he has no issues with homosexuals. I asked him if it upset him to be called that and he said, "Whatever. If I were upset then that would mean that I had an issue with gay people and I don't." He saw it as nonsense because he wouldn't be ashamed to be gay. To him, it was like if someone had called him a vegetarian. Although he isn't one, he doesn't see anything wrong with people who are so why would he be upset to be classified as such a thing?

In this way, Matthew brings up an interesting point. Perhaps the degree of offense you take to something has more to do with your own opinions about certain people. Why would you be offended to be called a nigger if you yourself saw nothing wrong with being black? Why would you be offended by being called gay unless you harbored issues with gays? If you didn't, you'd be indifferent. If you're a guy and someone calls you a girlie or a woman and you're upset about it, then obviously you see something wrong with women and don't wish to be classified as such.

I don't get offended if people disrespect me in that way but I understand that certain terms are very offensive to others and for the same reason I don't get upset by having them used on me, I don't use them on others. I see nothing wrong with being anyone at all.

supermodel said...

since it is quite obviously impossible to strike a word from existence, I had hoped people would take it as hyperbole, which is how it was intended, and not think that I'm ignorant enought to want free speech taken away.

Brian, this is why I don't comment on here anymore.

Brian in Mpls said...

I had to look up that I know what it is I am going to use that word all the time it sounds cool.

You should comment more it is good for discussion....

the108 said...

Supermodel: I don't think you said a damned thing wrong.You're right... some of these terms should be stricken from existance as they are nothing but negative hate words. They won't be but I hope that over time, laguage evolves past them or that people straighten up and stop using them. You should never feel like you can't comment!!

Jess said...

I've never heard the term "swack" before. Fila girls? Yes. Gray girls? Yes. Not swack, though.

I learned something new today.

Little Sis said...

Brian, I think you are right, it must be a midwestern derogatory word. I've never heard "swack" down here. Although, I live in a very racially sensative state. If you drop any kind of racial slur down here, you better pray no one noticed you said it!

I never heard it while I was living in the midwest either..hmm

Anyway, the N word, swack, wigger, etc are all derogatory words. I don't think they should be stricken from the language, but hopefully people will take their heads out of their butts and stop using them. No matter who you're saying any of them to, they're all still derogatory in my opinion..=)

Anonymous said...

Words only have the power one gives them, period.

It is not the spelling of the word that matters, it is the meaning.

So if people started to say "krookie" instead of the "N" word would it have less impact?

Is "Frickin" any different from "fuckin"?

The meaning and intent of speech reamins, regardles of the word you use.

Of course certain words carry more power because we as a culture have given certain spelled owrds power.

As Brain said in our conversation, "punk" used to be derogatory until that culture embraced that word and used it pridefully and gave it their own meaning.

I agree that using words like the "N" word is inaapropriate, but on the other hand you/we control the power of the word.

Rocketstar said...

that was me above.