The (typically quiet) religious Ethiopian Israeli girl in my class was up for talking about her thesis topic and getting suggestions. She began to describe her topic, having to do with religious authorities in Israel discriminating against religious Jewish Ethiopian practices. One student in the class, a (typically argumentative) Ashkenazi secular guy, offered some information on the topic from a book he read.
He began by saying – “Ze dibair al Kushim v’Levanim…” which is the equivalent of saying, “It talks about Niggers and Whites…”
I never saw so much emotion looming across the girl’s face, but she politely – yet sternly – responded, “B’vakasha, Shchorim…” (“Please, Blacks.”)
He didn’t get the message, or didn’t really care, because he gave her a patronizing look and said, “What’s the difference, it’s all linguistics,” and continued talking until the class released an outburst fit for a mediation center.
My point here is this. In America today, most of the time, you just wouldn’t see that happen. People are so polite about words, names, terms, and although there are those who claim all the political correctness dances around the issues, or it’s all a cover for racist feelings anyway, it still shows an element of respect that people stick to these social rules. The fact is, she had a right to correct him and save face, even if it did seem silly to argue over words.
But why should it? Words are what cause and carry on conflicts worldwide.