Certain words that were once censored, or considered derogatory for their negative connotations against specific groups, are now being challenged and have made their way into mainstream linguistics. Those in the groups affected by the slurs are reclaiming the negative history and proudly using them to diminish their effects. The issue of reclaiming slurs, however, lies in the party that wants to use them and challenge the status quo.
A word that is reclaimed or appropriated, is one that is now acceptable to use by those who were once afflicted by it, eventually allowing the word to be spread and used by the general public. Yet these words often hold a large amount of suffering and pain within them, bringing to question whether those not a part of the group, or who do not know the history, should be allowed to use them. Words like “sl*t,” “c*nt” or “queer” are words that the feminine and gay community often say freely and directly towards themselves or others, but when a cis man uses one of these words there is often a different connotation; one that stems from a place of disrespect.
Reclaiming a slur is meant to take back some of the power lost through its derogatory use by those oppressed. While people from all backgrounds may use certain slurs in a decolonized way today, inclusivity within these groups has commonly been an issue especially in the United States. Activism for the feminine and gay communities often prioritized wealthy white Americans by gaining rights and acceptance for them first, then worrying about those marginalized after. These words were used against the most marginalized populations, often people of color, who were excluded from their own groups for fitting into multiple oppressed groups instead of just one.
Although the slurs already mentioned above are now commonly accepted, the word “queer” is one that has seen a recent rise in popularity amongst younger generations. It is now considered a more acceptable and inclusive term for the LGBTQ+ community who do not all feel represented by this acronym created by lawmakers to put them into a box. Those who are uncomfortable and want to police others for using the term should stop and take a step back by looking into the significance of the word today. On the other hand, older generations may not feel as comfortable using “queer” because they remember the pain inflicted from it, but repurposing it is a way to show acceptance of oneself and community while giving a big middle finger to the system used to oppress.
The power that reclaiming and appropriating a slur has for those oppressed by it should not be taken away or diminished due to censorship. Certain slurs that are now common language should still be used with caution by those not from the group. Cultural slurs are also still considered off limits by outsiders due to the racial climate and history that the U.S. has faced. Whether someone feels comfortable using and hearing these words or not, the feelings and historical significance of them need to be taken into consideration to understand why reclaiming and repurposing them is so significant.