I was thinking about the impact of two little, seemingly innocuous words which, when put together and said in a certain context, are among the most offensive in the English language. The words? “You people”… There are ways in which someone can say those words without them sounding obnoxious. For example, if you are talking to a small group of people, and you want to refer to them as a whole… it is OK to say “you people.” It is when you are speaking to one person and use the words as a generalization (usually negative) when the words become intolerable.
“You people” is one of the rudest, most offensive terms I can think of, aside from the obviously derogatory N-word, B-word, F-word (and I don’t mean fuck), etc. Why is it when a white person disagrees with something a Black person says, they will often generalize using “you people”?
For example, if a Black person makes a comment about a situation being fraught with racism, you will often hear a white person make a comment such as “Why do YOU PEOPLE always think things are about race?” That right there proves the point. Why is a Black person suddenly classified and identified as a representative of their whole race, as if members of a certain race behave and believe as some monolithic entity?
And then there is the close cousin of “you people” — “those people”, as in “Oh, you know how THOSE PEOPLE are…” followed by some kind of racist stereotype.
“You people” as a phrase is at its worst when used to refer to an entire race of individuals. I know how pissed off I used to get when someone used the phrase on the phone with me, referring to the whole company I work for, treating me as some nameless representative of a larger entity. I can only imagine how much worse it feels when it is being used to refer to your whole race.
In general, I try to avoid the use of the two words in combination. If I am referring to a group of my friends for instance, I would rather use “you guys” or the ever popular “y’all muthafuckers”… (I am sad/proud to say that muthafuckers is a regular part of my vocabulary… I curse in damn near every sentence when I am with my friends.)
Anyway, the whole point of this post is to get you all (another good alternative) thinking about the terms that you use and how you use them. Of course, since you are reading this blog, you are probably pretty conscious people and already know the import of the phraseology you chose to use.
Anyway, I hope y’all muthafuckers have a good day!