How does one own a definition of a word, whether connotation or denotation? And how does one force ownership of a definition of a word on someone else? I ask this because I was reading an article on Slate, about the fact that a delegate for Donald Trump from Illinois by the name of Lori Gayne uses the Twitter handle "whitepride." The Slate article, while avoiding an outright accusation, pretty strongly hints that the owner of the handle is a White Supremacist. But it also gives her rationale in her own words, thus:
With all the racism going on today, I'm very proud to be white. Just like black people are proud to be black and now, as white people, whenever we say something critical we're punished as if we're racists. I'm tired of it. I'm very proud.There are different meanings for the word "pride." On the one hand, it can refer to a feeling of worth and entitlement to a certain level of respect, esteem and positive treatment; from both self and others. On another, it can refer to the understanding that one is intrinsically superior and more valuable - a level of self-regard (and expected regard from others) that rises to the level of conceit. And there are others, such as a feeling of esteem one derives from being associated with some one or some thing. Or a feeling of worth or competency that comes from a particular accomplishment. And there are likely a few others that can be added to the list.
Ms. Gayne notes "black people are proud to be black." Being Black myself, I was taught to celebrate my African heritage (even if I was otherwise completely disconnected from any real understanding of same) and to draw a certain amount of esteem from my belonging to Black American culture*; and there is a tacit understanding of Black pride that expects that it refers directly to the first meaning of pride that I listed above: "a feeling of worth and entitlement to a certain level of respect, esteem and positive treatment; from both self and others." I think that a lot of people, on some level or another, subscribe to this - even people some want to understand as White Supremacists, like Ms. Gayne. Where the conflict arises is in the contention that Black pride be allowed a certain, and somewhat exclusive, degree of ownership of the idea that at the expense of White pride, which must therefore be relegated, by definition to "the understanding that one is intrinsically superior and more valuable - a level of self-regard (and expected regard from others) that rises to the level of conceit." And that's what Ms. Gayne fails to understand - if being proud of one's parentage and ancestral history (because that's what it really comes down to) is an unambiguously positive thing for Black people, why must it necessarily be equated with racism, hatred and some of the worst parts of American history for Whites?
And while many of us understand that pride in being a member of a marginalized group (whether that's a racial or ethnic minority, non-heterosexual, non-Christian, female et cetera)is to merely expect the we can feel good about ourselves and simply expect what we are due from others, the idea that this sort of pride begins and ends there is a stipulation. No-one has done the proof for it other than to claim that since pride in being White, straight, Christian and/or male had typically meant the oppression of others 50 years ago, it must speak to a desire for the same oppression today. Which results in the "mainstream" of American society seeing a positive definition of celebrating and embracing what you are that they aren't allowed to access, due to a logic that often comes across as simply "because reasons." And perhaps worse for them, to the degree that those "reasons" are viewed as manifestly self-evident, any questioning of them is viewed as an assault on the fought-for equality that other people have achieved. Even when their understanding that they're being subjected to a double standard seems perfectly reasonable when viewed from a distance.
I think that it is a worthwhile question to ask why there is an expectation that some people can own a given meaning of a word, and saddle others with other meanings. And no, I don't expect that during the time when being some combination of White, straight, Christian and male conferred distinct social advantages that people who claimed one or more of those labels sought to ask that question of themselves, even thought the question was just as relevant then. But simply putting the shoe on the other foot doesn't represent progress, simply change.
* Which made no sense to me. My understanding of allowable Pride had always been "a feeling of worth or competency that comes from a particular accomplishment," and as near as I could tell, simply having Black parents was not an accomplishment. As I snarked to my parents: "I'm Black because you guys are, not because there's an exam or anything. It's not like there was a chance that the doctor was going to come in and say, 'We've gone over your unborn son's test scores and congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. McLin, you're having a Latino'." While my mother found this hilarious, my father was not amused (even though he was the one who had taught me that pride was something that you earned).