The TownhallSocial issues

Nuance is the new ‘N-word’

By Adam B. Coleman 

People generally desire to make situations simplistic in order to make it consumable. Too much complexity can be easily viewed as stressful, tedious, and unnecessary. I personally fall into this category of not overcomplicating situations when they don’t need to be. 

However, what happens if we simplify genuinely complex social interactions for our own personal laziness? 

I’ve learned people are complex yet simultaneously predictable, thus the quagmire of human existence. So, when I see people simplifying complex human interactions and social dynamics, I notice how it harms the greater conversation surrounding said situation. 

It destroys the desire to examine these situations further than what the media deems necessary. 

It’s true even on a personal level. When many of us try to talk about tragic events on a deeper level, we’re viewed with disgust because we aren’t overwhelmingly emotional like the rest of them. What is misunderstood about us, the “emotionless” people, is that we want to understand why we should be emotional and if a particular situation requires dramatic levels of emotion in the first place. 

This emotion first, logic second societal standard has created a new word you’re not allowed to say. This word sparks more anger than the situation itself. It is the new n-word that will bring a scowl to any emotionally riddled person’s face when used as a rebuttal. 

This word is ‘nuance’. 

After the death of George Floyd, I watched an entire country remove this word from their vocabulary and replace it with arbitrary terms like ‘systemic racism.’ I watched logically sound people revert to emotional simpletons. But as tragic as it is for someone to die by the state’s hands, to promote this situation as an issue for all black people is too simplistic. 

The media, along with the black ivory tower elites, have allowed the American public to conflate black criminal issues with black issues. And this has been an unspoken tragedy. 

We’ve simplified his death as a knee on the neck, but we aren’t allowed to ask how he ended up on the ground in the first place? Nope, we aren’t allowed to ask nuanced questions about this individual’s character before martyring them. 

Nor can we ask the uncomfortable question of why we’re so outraged at the deaths of immoral black men that destroy the very communities we claim to care about. 

All these questions would require the involvement, or imply the usage, of nuance. Even laying out these few points will be misinterpreted as me not caring about the death of another human being. It will make me appear as a traitor to my own people or ‘cooning’ for some invisible white man that I’m apparently trying to impress. 

These honest inquiries always lead to slander when they are meant to lead to the truth. 

We all assume truth is imperative to any situation, but this assumption is incorrect. There are people more emotionally invested in feeling right than being right. 

It feels right to believe black people are always under constant threat by the police. It feels right to believe any failure a black American experiences was due to a white American’s obstruction. Discussions surrounding these events are always designed to make life feel worse than it is. 

Implying nuance doesn’t have to necessarily erase the emotion of a situation because it’s exactly what it is, nuanced. Nuance is the inclusion of logic along with the emotion, not the supersedure of emotion. 

When nuanced thinking is applied, everything is considered equally. Disregarding the emotional aspect of a situation only presents itself as overly analytical and non-caring, thus not being nuanced. 

Nuance is only a bad word if you lack the understanding of what it means and if you’re not principled enough to use it, even in the most unfortunate of situations. 

I completely understand why certain situations elicit emotional responses. It’s perfectly normal. However, I’ve become too aware of how powerful people use our emotional responses against us to make money, gain notoriety, or mislead us to gain some form of social leverage. 

It is exactly why I wait for more details to be released when something becomes sensationalized. Far too often, the initial story is there to spark an emotional reaction, so you have little interest in the full story later. 

Demonizing nuance and the practice of nuanced thinking have thrown off a desperately needed balanced approach to understanding the world around us. We’ve been trained to lack this balance between nuanced thinking and emotionality within our discussions about race, gender, and politics. We’ve been trained to oversimplify complex matters and emotionalize human existence at every possible turn. 

And we’ve been trained to not notice that we are being trained.

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Adam B. Coleman

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