Do you think that one's view that words "cannot hurt" may have something to do with one's experience with them?
Yes. I do not mean to suggest that pain or suffering cannot be caused by words, or that it is unreasonable to experience. What I meant to suggest was that in having that experience we have some
amount of choice in whether or not we allow others to have that kind of power over our state of mind. A personal example would be "trailer trash," because I grew up in a single-wide. People use this phrase all the time and at times in the past it's "hurt" me. I don't think my experience was unreasonable, but I also believe part of that emotional pain came from how I actively responded to it. I'm pretty sure my love of "intellectual" efforts was, in part, negatively reinforced from the stereotype I was subjected to...as well as other good and/or bad character traits. To be clear, I came to these ideas after experiencing how they could
For the sake of conversations and interpersonal interactions/relationships I tend to think it's more important for people to speak considerately of others rather than bluntly, but I also believe in not allowing what might be considered "lesser" thoughts/words to affect my quality of living. I was the "omega wolf" growing up so I believe I do have a valid appreciation for these questions.
Do you suppose that the perception of the power of words is different for someone who has never been targeted with racism, sexism, homophobia, or other forms of hate speech, than for someone for whom it is an inescapable lifelong experience?
Yes, although I doubt anyone has "never" experienced hate speech. Still, this is part of why I suggested perhaps the more important issue is in how much we strive to reconcile the gap in perceptions. We cannot know the full effect our words will have until we've been told about them. I believe all people should try to respect the negative experience even innocently intended remarks might cause; we should all respect the fact that other people have other perceptions than our own, all of which are based on individual experiences; even if we don't think they're rational or they otherwise make no sense to us.
...So it seems to me, at any rate.