Similar Words, Different Meanings

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words have power

I'm looking for two six-letter words, they both start with "I" and end with "T" but what's in the middle couldn't be more different than night and day.

If you guessed any of these, according to similar words, you're good:

idlest, illest, imaret, impart, import, impost, incant,
incent, incept, incest, incult, indent, indict, induct, indult,
infant, infect, infest, ingest, inject, inkjet, inkpot, inmost,
insect, insert, insist, insult, intact, intort, intuit,
invent, invert, invest, irrupt

But the two I'm looking for are Intent vs. Impact. There's a terrific example of the difference in Everyday Feminism.

Frisbee in the park

Imagine for a moment that you’re standing with your friends in a park, enjoying a nice summer day.

You don’t know me, but I walk right up to you holding a Frisbee. I wind up – and throw the disc right into your face.

Understandably, you are indignant. Through a bloody nose, you use a few choice words to ask me what the hell I thought I was doing.

And my response? “Oh, I didn’t mean to hit you! That was never my intent! I was simply trying to throw the Frisbee to my friend over there!”

Visibly upset, you demand an apology. But I refuse. Or worse, I offer an apology that sounds like “I’m sorry your face got in the way of my Frisbee! I never intended to hit you.”

Now think Paula Dean. Think Michael Richards. Think Alec Baldwin. After they went on their unthinkable tirades or rants, they said they were  really sorry. Of were they really saying, they were sorry... "your face got in the way?"

Micheal Richards "N" word rant, Paula Dean's similar utterances and comments, and even Alec Baldwin's anti-gay slurs were most likely not uttered with the intent to hurt. But their impact was felt by many.

From Paula Deen to Alec Baldwin to your annoying, bigoted uncle or friend, we hear it over and over again: “I never meant any harm…” “It was never my intent…” “I am not a racist…” “I am not a homophobe…” “I’m not a sexist…”

I cannot tell you how often I’ve seen people attempt to deflect criticism about their oppressive language or actions by making the conversation about their intent.

At what point does the “intent” conversation stop mattering so that we can step back and look at impact?

After all, in the end, what does the intent of our action really matter if our actions have the impact of furthering the marginalization or oppression of those around us?

We have an obligation to be more careful in how we treat and reflect upon others. It's not okay to just say something and then apologize. You have to mean it. Paula Dean found that out. Sponsors dropped her. Michael Richards all but disappeared from the comedy scene. And over time they will be forgiven.

But it doesn't hurt to think before you speak, and pay attention to what you say. Sexist. Racist. Homophobic. It doesn't matter. They are all grave ills and we would be better served to start thinking accordingly. I'm sorry at some point just isn't going to cut it. So cut it out.

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  • judi

    Paula Dean's case was an attempt at extortion, that is all it was.