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Avoiding offense in modern society

Last updated on March 16, 2016

By: Mackenzie Border, Layout Manager

In today’s society, it is not uncommon to see a blog post or a news story about an offensive word or piece of imagery.

Usually, the word or image is targeting a specific race or sex, but sometimes the subtext is what is offensive to people.

Whenever this happens, there are usually two main sides to this kind of issue.

One side will look at the word or image and use the history of its use to determine if it is okay or not.

The other side will look at the word or image and only see it at face value to determine if it is offensive or not.

Whether or not the two sides agree on if the word or image is offensive or not is not the big question that a lot of people ask.

The real question is which side is right and which side is wrong in their judgment of the word or image.

To figure out the answer to this question, it is important to consider the pros and cons of each side of the argument.

For the side that looks at the history of the word or image, there is the advantage of knowing the possible reasons that the word or image in question would be considered offensive.

Over the course of history, there have been multiple cases of words and images that have been used in a derogatory way toward specific ethnicities around the world.

These have ranged from the use of the N-word toward African Americans to the swastika, a symbol that was originally sacred to multiple world religions but has now become a symbol of racial purity due to its incorporation into Nazi propaganda in the 1930s.

As the social attitudes toward the use of such words and images have changed with time, it has become an offense to use such things at all without the purpose of historical documentation or academic research.

People have seen a downside to this way of thinking due to the idea that the people who take this side, especially in the event of a derogatory word or image targeted at a specific sex, are considered to be overreacting to the situation and overanalyzing something that others did not find bothersome at all.

For those who take the word or image at face value to determine the possible offenses it could pose, they would only observe how the item was being used instead of looking at the potential symbolism.

The observers would look at the word or image and observe the message that is being sent through the piece of work that uses the word or image, and they would determine the offensiveness from the message rather than the word or image.

This can cause some problems for others, however, as someone could still associate the word or image with an event that took place in their personal past and become uncomfortable because of the personal connection.

Whichever way people decide to look at the topic, it is important to understand the effects that certain words or images might cause, either from personal experiences or social views, and to consider these possibilities when deciding whether or not to use them for whatever the word or image is needed for.

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