LOOK, IT'S SIMPLE: INTRA-GROUP INSULTS ARE NOT INSULTS
There was a silly non-story going around yesterday, but I want to make a serious point about it. Matthew Continetti's Washington Free Beacon built this non-story out of six-year-old Facebook photos posted by a young Democratic aide:
The Democratic Party's newly appointed Jewish outreach liaison is pictured on Facebook in a series of provocative photos with her friends holding dollar bills and referring to themselves as "Jewbags" and the "Jew cash money team."
Dani Gilbert, who has been a staffer in the office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), was recently appointed as the Democratic National Committee’s Jewish outreach liaison, according to her Twitter feed.
... In one photo, Gilbert is seen kissing paper currency of undetermined denomination. The caption at the bottom of the photo reads "JEWBAGS." A comment left on the posting refers to Gilbert and a coterie of female companions as the "Jew cash money team." ...
A preserved screen shot from the Facebook page is below. The images have now been taken down.
Here's the thing. I grew up in an overwhelmingly Italian-American world. My parents' friends were mostly Italian-American. A lot of people my father worked with were Italian-American. (I'm guessing that Mr. Continetti didn't have a similar experience.)
When I was a kid, in my world, it was not unusual to hear Italian-Americans refer to one another as "that guinea" and "that greaseball." These weren't necessarily insults -- sometimes these terms were used affectionately. The rules may be counterintuitive, but they were clear: within the group, you get to use insulting words about the group. It doesn't mean anyone else does -- I don't think the adults back then would have taken kindly to hearing the same words from a non-Italian.
These rules apply to the N-word as well -- blacks can use it, sometimes proudly, but we white people can't without being insulting. Don't like that? Deal with it. This is why I don't give a crap what Trayvon Martin's name on Twitter was. There's a word in there he gets to use and I don't, and that's just the way people are, as long as life still sorts us into groups with group identities.
And it's my sense that this also applies to people with a host of conditions such as dwarfism, Tourette's, and quadraplegia: we have insults for people with these conditions, and those insults are insulting coming from us, but within the community people use the insults and they're not being insulting.
It's not that confusing. Just accept it and stop trying to generate controversy out of nothing.