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The Moral Status of the Reclamation of Slurs

In: Organon F, vol. 28, no. 3
Bianca Cepollaro


Year, pages: 2021, 672 - 688
Language: eng
Hate speech; polarity reversal; reclamation; reverse racism; reverse sexism; slurs.
Article type: Research Article
About article:
While prototypical uses of slurs express contempt for targets, some reclaimed uses are associated with positive evaluations. This practice may raise concerns. I anticipate this criticism in what I dub the Warrant Argument (WA) and then defend the legitimacy of this kind of reclamation. For the WA, standard pejorative uses of slurs are problematic for assuming unwarranted connections between descriptive properties (e.g., being gay) and value judgements (e.g., being worthy of contempt). When reclaimed uses of slurs express a positive evaluation of their targets—the WA goes—reclamation fails to challenge the unwarranted link between descriptive properties and value judgements, and merely reverses the evaluation polarity from negative to positive. So, the WA concludes, reclaimed uses of slurs evaluating targets positively for belonging to a certain group make a similar moral error as derogatory uses of slurs (sections 2-3). The WA could lead us to condemn reclamation. To resist this conclusion, I draw a parallel with affirmative action, arguing that it can be morally permissible to balance an existing form of injustice by temporarily introducing a countervailing mechanism that prima facie seems to violate the norm of equality: even if the WA were right, it wouldn’t constitute an argument against the moral permissibility of reclamation in the case of most slurs (section 4). This line of argument in defense of pride reclamation may also serve to debunk the myths of reverse racism and reverse sexism (section 5).
How to cite:
ISO 690:
Cepollaro, B. 2021. The Moral Status of the Reclamation of Slurs. In Organon F, vol. 28, no.3, pp. 672-688. 1335-0668. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31577/orgf.2021.28309

Cepollaro, B. (2021). The Moral Status of the Reclamation of Slurs. Organon F, 28(3), 672-688. 1335-0668. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31577/orgf.2021.28309
About edition:
Publisher: Filozofický ústav SAV, Filosofický ústav AVČR
Published: 30. 8. 2021
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0)