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"Failure"--An Emotive Word

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Black Americans react very strongly to certain words--particularly those of an epithet nature. In racial matters epithets express derision or hatred, with the "N" word stimulating the most volatile reactions. The intensity of these reactions to such emotive words depends upon who says it and in what tone. But equally as important is not so much the denotation of the word itself but rather the meaning (connotation) one brings when one meets that epithet and what part of that individual's Selfhood is affected. Other emotive words include "Failure," "Racism," "snakes," and when I was a boy, "Dogs." Ancient Greek Sophists called Emotive Language "Loaded Language" or "High-Inference Language" or "Expressive Language." This was because of their power to influence listeners or readers by appealing to their emotions and thereby prey on their human weakness for acting immediately, based simply upon an emotional response and without considered judgment. "Failure" for Black people is an Emotive Word because more than being a matter of beliefs and values (its denotation), what is associated with it (its connotations) is the direct and indirect effects of the evil and sadistic deeds of White racists and their "sheep-like" followers since the beginning of slavery. One of their worst--intended to permanently intimidate and hollow out the spirits of the Enslaved if they "Failed" to "stay in their place" (the place and its caste rules White people laid out for them)--is as follows:

Instead of saying: "We will kill any Slave who gets out of his/her place"--a denotative concept--the Emotive version was visibly demonstrated by having all the Enslaved witness a vivid situation of the most spirited Slave male being killed. What was done consisted of tying each arm and each leg to a horse facing different directions. They would set the victim on fire and strike each horse so that the four horses galloped off in different directions and thereby pulling the victim apart. Then the dead man's body parts were chopped up. Situations such as these--often with the use of "Negro Attack Dogs"--were commonly used to reinforce what would happen to the Slaves if they "Failed" to do this and that. Thereafter, "Failed" as an emotive concept--with its impactful connotations overflowing with negative emotions--has been culturally transmitted into "Failure Syndromes" seen today. The reality of this was evident to me as a physican. I frequently saw Black People who, because of their "deathly fear" of dogs, reacted in such a manner as to cause the dogs to bite them.

An "Emotive" word picks the "ballpark" (its denotative meaning) of what the subject is about. But past experiences have colored that word with emotions--i.e. "Sentiments"--possessing the power to attract out of ones memory all emotions of a similar nature and together they form a "mental movie". Emotive Words like "Failure" can motivate Black Americans to do or not do something positive or negative causing a chain-reaction. Or, all the psycho-traumatic events (personal happening as well as those of family members, friends, and African American Slave and ex-Slave Ancestors) that have been layered on their minds may be in the form of a collage (without pattern) of what constitutes "Failure." The power of this mindset of "Failure"--despite being in ones subawareness (not conscious and not unconscious)-- is great enough to form a pattern of "Failure Self-Talk" which in turn designs ones patterns of behaviors into a compulsive vicious cycle of "failure." By being a "mental open sore," one has an overwhelming desire to reverse the pain of these self-inflicted traumatic events through the means of a symbolic "Failure Re-enactment Correction" process. A better way is to use symbolic replacements for this ineffective process--replacements drawn out of the Ancient African Bible and conveyed by Affect Symbolic Imagery as tools to express, inform, share, teach, instruct, educate, persuade, and serve as a call to action (see Bailey, Mentoring Minds of Black Boys for details).