Author Topic: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words  (Read 342 times)

Riev

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Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« on: August 02, 2017, 09:20:05 AM »
I was going to write this in the Slant eye thread but thought to put it here to keep it on topic.

In college, I was in a "Language, Thought, and Culture" class (hippies everywhere) and there were 2 black people in the class. One from an upper-middle class area outside of Vegas, and another I don't know (he was an older gentleman) who taught basketball to the local youth. We got to talking about the use of the word, the response between the two was staggering. One couldn't talk about it without crying, the other said "Let people be ignorant". The one that was crying said that even hearing the word brought up feelings of 'their ancestors' and almost had to leave the room. It shut down the class, and nobody was able to talk about other pejoratives because "they aren't as bad as that word".

Of course, me taking the class into perspective, thought the idea was to generate discussion, so I eventually brought it around to finding out that person had 'never been called that to their face', and I mentioned that for some of us, we had words that WERE said to our face that had similar effects. Geek. Nerd. Fag. Things were said to people's faces, daily, in high school, and made people to be felt like less than they were.

You would have thought I dropped the N-Bomb myself, with how everyone disagreed that 'nothing is like that word designed only for hate'. As though any American has ever used "fag" to mean cigarette, and even then, how calling someone a cigarette even makes sense.

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valeria

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2017, 10:16:11 AM »
This article may be relevant to your interests. As far as I know, there is only a single word that has been found "severe" enough that one use can create a hostile work environment in America. You say other offensive terms have similar effects, and I'd agree that all slurs are going to have similar effects. But no other word has as long and storied of a history in America that it is so viscerally offensive.

Lizzie

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2017, 10:18:45 AM »
This article may be relevant to your interests. As far as I know, there is only a single word that has been found "severe" enough that one use can create a hostile work environment in America. You say other offensive terms have similar effects, and I'd agree that all slurs are going to have similar effects. But no other word has as long and storied of a history in America that it is so viscerally offensive.

There are others - but they have thankfully fallen into relative obscurity.
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Riev

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2017, 10:23:36 AM »
This article may be relevant to your interests. As far as I know, there is only a single word that has been found "severe" enough that one use can create a hostile work environment in America. You say other offensive terms have similar effects, and I'd agree that all slurs are going to have similar effects. But no other word has as long and storied of a history in America that it is so viscerally offensive.

An interesting read. For those unwilling to click, it outlines the fact that in the past, there needed to basically be "repetitive' utterances of a pejorative in order for there to be any sort of action taken, and lately there was a precendent that disregarded this inconsistency.

I'm not suggesting, by the way, that "fag" is 'as bad' a word, but that the intention behind it is just as hateful and ignorant and causes people to feel less than.
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Melkor

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2017, 01:21:47 PM »
What ever happened to "Sticks and stones..?"
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Refugee

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2017, 01:23:09 PM »
You know....like all old people I like to talk about the past.  I'm not trying to be offensive, just ruminating over how it was.

When I was a very young child, in the early sixties, the N word was just a word /in my limited existence/.  The polite word to use was "Colored", which polite youth used, and young adults; the polite word before that was "Negro" and that's what the polite mature adults used.  People over, say, 30.  Great Depression people.

I was taught to use the bad word in three instances.  One was as the name of a certain kind of candy, which I learned later were bonbons, with white cream in the middle and covered with chocolate.  They were called "N... toes" by everyone I knew.  My grandma had them every Christmas and I never heard them called anything else until I actively started asking for a better name.

The second was the name of a certain kind of geode rock, which were called N...head rocks because of the shape which was kind of like an afro.  Not a very good one.  Basically smooth and round but with dips here and there.

The last was in the eenie meenie miney mo poem children played with each other.  You caught a N... by the toe, not a tiger or a turtle.  This is where I found out that it was a bad word, when I was five or six and I innocently chanted it in a group of children and they let me know that it was bad.  So by '64 or '65, it had dribbled down even to the small children that this was a bad word and I for one, and most the kids I ever knew, stopped using it.

And the word "Colored" was starting to phase out too, we learned to use "Black".  I didn't know any black people.  I never went to a school with any black people or had much interaction with any until boot camp.  My generation, as a generalization, believed that the goal was to stop thinking about skin color and just think about people.  Which still seems to be a good idea to me but not what's in style anymore.  I mean, we really went to a lot of trouble.  Marches and sit-ins and TV shows.  Not just about racism but sexism too.  So many changes were made in the 60s and 70s, and so many ideas about making things better.  Equal.

Now "Black" is kind of starting to be looked down upon, which is surprising to me, because the black youth of my generation were so very proud of it, and refused to accept anything else.  "Colored" is definitely offensive, and you don't call anyone "Negro".  But there was a time when that was preferred, and what the nice people used.

Now I think...this is very illuminating.  I won't be around to see it, but remember when you're my age and see if I'm not right.

I bet the young folks will rail against whatever they come up with now out of all this turmoil, and whatever this generation decides is proper and fair and good will be ridiculed as racist and sexist and evil.  Just like all the times before.

Cause...that's just the way it goes.

Riev

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2017, 01:32:07 PM »
Related, Refugee:

You mention that historically, people were proud to be black, they were only black, they wouldn't accept anything else. It was about having a label, something that is yours, something that belongs to you. Over time, we tried to stop seeing color and race, and just seeing people. We tried to remove labels.

When I was growing up in the 80s/90s, we were still very much trying to avoid labels. You're not "dating", you're not even "seeing each other". You just 'like to hang out'. Labels were something bad, and giving something a label was to diminish it somehow (I blame you, Neverending Story!).

Now it seems we're back to wanting a label on EVERYTHING. From gender, to skin color, to the unique way you smize at people (wtf is smizing, Tyra? Get off my screen). Wanting to label everything, to me, seems to be leading us back to the "don't assume" and "see people for what they are" cycle, but we're still clinging hard on pronouns and what is/isn't considered 'normal'.

For that matter, I still, because I'm a bit of an asshole, call a temporary quick fix "afro engineering". It used to be jerry rigging, then it was n--- rigging.. and back when I was growing up, that's what dad and brother said. "I've got it working again, but I had to n--- rig it"
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chrisdcoulombe

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2017, 01:51:43 PM »
You have to be able to describe each other.   Whos that, Oh, you know the cute Asian girl or you know the big black guy Ron...He is notorious as fuck.   Miguel the chubby Mexican that lives by Mindy.   Whatever, you get my point.   Its fine I guess, but descriptors are not racist at all.   We have to have them.  I find it appalling that adults still get offended over words.

I think its to gain position to create or control a problem, I highly doubt people arbitrarily take offence to words.

That being said I do get it if people are being harassed physically or socially.  I can understand that words can be used to offend and therefore become offensive if used to be offensive.  The majority of the time in my experience that is not the case.
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BadSkeelz

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2017, 02:32:42 PM »
What ever happened to "Sticks and stones..?"

"Sticks and stones may break their bones, but the right word to the right person can illicit a traumatic-enough reaction without leaving you legally liable so long as you're not also their employer."

Words are weapons. Use them sparingly and carefully.
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WithSprinkles

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2017, 08:15:12 PM »
I don't particularly care to talk entirely about racist words at the moment.

I probably wouldn't be posting at all if Refugee weren't being so candid in his responses. I don't have the breadth of his experience and I haven't seen or witnessed all that he has and its interesting to hear that perspective.

I grew up mostly in a suburbs in a predominantly white neighborhood. The other children made it clear that I was different pretty early. The jibes were infrequent, but pointed, and even though the teachers discouraged outright hostility, I wasn't really included in social activities. Eventually I simply tuned the others out and sunk into books, and though that didn't solve things, unless they got physical, I just brushed it off. When my mother noted escalation to the point where I needed to defend myself, she got me self defense lessons, and that largely ended that. I got teased by the other black children because I 'talked funny' or sounded stuck up. Sometimes I had to defend myself on that front too, but with less frequency.

When I joined the military, I met people who changed my world perspective. I seemed to change theirs in some cases, too. I was young and kind of a spoiled brat, so I'm not gonna lie and say always for the better!  ;D I met a woman who told me that she had never interacted with a black person before and we became such close friends that people used to say that if you wanted to find one of us, you just had to look for the other. I had a seething friendship/rivalry with a white man from Africa who used to love to tease me mercilessly and we would grin nicely at each other and exchange insults (my favorite was when he asked me if when I combed my hair, did my snakes bite me.. ).

I also ended up in a screaming match with a big man from Texas with a huge Confederate belt buckle because he used the n-word in my presence. It's been well over a decade and I still mourn his loss as if he had been my flesh and blood brother.. weird as that may be to imagine going THERE from where we started. And yes, I had another friend who once referred to Brazil Nuts as n-..er toes and I wearily told him to refrain, but he just shrugged at me as he was only informing me of a fact of what he had been raised calling them at the time, so it didn't end up becoming an argument. These are the some of the guys who, if I was ever in physical danger, would no question help, and I'm not talking about combat, but simple day to day troubles. They treated me like a sister.. a kid sister who wasn't allowed to date, but I'll just roll my eyes and not go into that bit of irritation.

Those were were confusing and frustrating times. I got yelled at because of the people I chose to spend my time with. Folks would just walk up to me and start screaming that I needed to be with people of my own race when all I was doing was casually beating some random guy's ass at Soul Caliber in the arcade. Every once in a while, if I was out with a friend, people would make snide comments or posture in ways meant to intimidate. Generally not a problem, but still.. really? I tend to not really pay attention to the color of the person I'm with and handle them on a personality basis, so it's always jarring when that's the first thing people latch onto. Things like that don't matter much in my world, but if I make a basic Star Wars reference and you stare blankly at me, I'm not sure how it's going to work out. #geekfacts

Taking this back to the main topic of racial slurs, I recall having a teacher in my high school who thought he was a 'cool guy' for allowing his students to say what they wanted in his classroom. When I turned to the others in class and said that I didn't think it was right and that we shouldn't say certain things, I was told that I was "attacking my own kind".

It doesn't matter if a derogatory term applies to you. If someone is saying something disrespectful to someone else, everyone should be paying attention. I mean, look at this story here: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/portland-mourns-two-men-killed-defending-teens-from-racist.html I'm not talking about sensitivity, I'm talking about basic human decency. I may sound like a naive optimist, but I think that something as simple as that will go a long way. Not everyone is going to agree. That's fine. Some people will say it's their right to say what they want. That's also fine.

I believe that if you say something, you'd should be prepared to deal with the consequences of it and not hide behind the fact that you had the right to say it. If what you said caused someone harm, you might face prosecution for it. If what you say is a lie, you might be found guilty of perjury or fraud under certain circumstances.

A person can be held accountable for the words they choose to use. I know that I used extreme examples that might raise people's hackles. We're on the topic of racial slurs and in this discussion, my last point doesn't have that much context, but people have said this a LOT when I've talked to them about it:

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SuchDragonWow

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2017, 12:32:21 AM »
Edited because I just can't, newp.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2017, 12:39:00 AM by SuchDragonWow »
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Synthesis

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2017, 04:33:51 AM »
Most of my extended family is from what was (is?) a really, really racist part of the American South.  One of my earliest memories is my grandpa taking me out to the shed where he kept his ammunition stockpile and him telling me "this is for when the n--s come and try to take my land."  This would've been around the mid-to-late 80s.  As far as I know, folks around there still casually throw around the N word as a derogatory epithet.  Everything bad around town or in society at large generally is blamed to a greater or lesser extent on the n--s or the liberals--usually both.  Fortunately, I didn't grow up around there, we just visited over the holidays.
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LucildaHunta

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2017, 07:06:31 AM »
I'm not going to get into racial backgrounds or being from a different country, coming here and feeling how absolutely withering that word is. It's not that far and I'm not that differnt anyway.

I will talk about language though. There aren't many words that mean the same thing no matter where you go, no matter what language you speak. The only one that comes close is possibly "No", but that one does, possibly close to a global scale. That's saying something.

Most words evolve, change...don't quite mean what they meant 100 years ago. That one hasn't. It means the exact same thing it meant 300 years ago. If I jumped in a time machine and went back to 1763 it would be just as derogatory as it is now. There aren't many words that have that kind of persistent strength. That's saying something. A word like fag or geek, while offensive doesnt mean the same thing it meant 50 years ago or even if you hop on a plane and go to a country where the same language is spoken.

So while I get the idea of "mah freedomz....its a slippery slope" I also get how triggering that word can be, even if you change some letters around but use it in the same context. It's just one of those words that has that kind of power. That's something we should all keep in mind.
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Refugee

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2017, 11:49:30 AM »
Very nice post, WithSprinkles.  Informative.  I didn't know you were a Vet like me.  We could have some good talks about this, I sense, because we can both talk about it without throwing out denigrating insults which seems to be the main way people want to talk about it.

One thing that clicked from your post for me is that it's never seemed to me that nerds are given to the same prejudices that "normal" people seem to be.  Geeks now (when I grew up geek meant something else).

Not that we don't have our prejudices, just as virulent as any I guess.  But I've often thought that because we are as a group often ostracized for being smart/weird/different, we tend to sort people along those lines instead of the lines other people use.  We sort ourselves too...you got the Star Wars guys and the Star Trek guys, the Batman guys and the Superman guys...is Pluto a planet or not dammit...can you code or not?  and people can get pretty heated about it sometimes.  We couldn't muster a good riot but we might muster a DOS attack, I dunno...

Maybe it's tribalism and it's in our DNA to sort ourselves into us and them. 

I remember having this discussion in college, in some stupid waste of time class I was forced to take in some stupid part of the campus that wasn't where the math and physics classes were.  In an effort to make me well rounded and screw up my 4.0 average.

Psychology.  That's it.  Ugh.

Anyway, we threw around a bunch of ideas about prejudices for an hour and I thought everyone there was probably dumb as rocks, including the teacher (poking some fun at myself here in case that doesn't come across).  I was never the shy quiet young nerd sort, I was the "dammit I'm right and I'll out-logic all of you, loudly" young nerd sort.  And I was arguing that people will always sort themselves in stupid ways (Yankees or Red Sox?) and that it was probably programmed into us through selection for survival in tribes.  Then I told them, just wait until the aliens land and then humans will all suddenly see we're the same thing, but until then nothing will really change.

That's pretty much what I think.



WithSprinkles

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2017, 02:38:51 PM »
"Ronald remember, when you are out walking, you walk past a sneetch of that sort without talking."  -Dr. Seuss

(grins) If the troubles in society could be ended by people plastering cute stickers all over their faces and behinds and then realizing how silly they looked, and that underneath we're the same.. yeah, maybe things would end up okay. Or Refugee's idea about aliens would help people get the point faster!  ;)

I would guess that people like to know what they perceive and be able to quickly shuffle that information and move on. Closer evaluation may get folk to re-categorize the world around them, but at its base, survival instinct would be to take things at a glance, assess and in a tense situation, react. So. Labels. It's when we start being disrespectful that there is an issue.

The OP's classroom example.. Hrm. I keep having to delete what I'm saying, so I'll just say.. I'd have had some things to contribute to that discussion. What I WILL say is, I'll never agree that any one derogatory term is more powerful or hurtful than another. It's not okay for ANYONE to be subjected to that, no matter who they are or who they identify as.

I've sat and heard some inventive cursing that has made a whole room of people turn around and glance at a closed doorway where someone was passing by and searing the air with profanity. That man had all our eyebrows trying to crawl up into our hairlines and not a BIT of it was a slur against a person's race, gender, religion or sexuality. If you want to insult someone, get on THAT level. I think I lost a year off the end of my life after he was done.

It's about personal perspective, too. Geek's been sort of a badge for me. It wasn't often that it was posed in the negative and if it was, I just absently nodded and kept reading. I don't know what other connotations the word might have had? I'd love to chat more about Vet stuff anytime, Refugee. PM me or give me a tap in Discord.

Sorry folks if I rambled a bit this post and last. I tend to meander.
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Refugee

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2017, 05:09:38 PM »
I remember that Sneetch story!  It came in the mail in the summer between first and second grade, so 1966, it was in a big Seuss book called Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories.  Not the little 1' tall ones like Fox in Socks, but the, what, 16" tall ones?  It was like one of those deals where you get the first book free and then if you don't cancel you get one every month.  We had to cancel the subscription because we couldn't afford it, but I had that one and I read it over and over and over.  Good old Yertle the Turtle, I hadn't thought of him for decades, or the Sneetches and the way they spelled thars which confused the hell out of my proto-nerd brain.

Anyway, I pulled up that Vet Like Me thing because it makes us a tribe, one of the strongest tribes I've ever belonged to which trumps almost any other affiliation.  We're also part of the nerd tribe.  And the tiny little Mudder tribe (which likes to eat its own members for the least little reason which seems counterintuitive).  It's like overlapping Venn diagrams, in my mind.

I don't know why we need to hurt people who aren't in our tribe.  Man, I've seen people be seriously cruel to someone in another branch of the service and then stand together when someone who never served got involved.  Is it like being brothers?  You can beat up your brother but nobody else had better do it.

When I was in boot, my first friend was black.  It was also my first black friend, and the first black person I ever did more than play basketball against.  We shared a rack, I was in the top bunk and they were in the bottom.  We had to help each other with our housekeeping tasks on the rack and the locker we shared, so we became friends right away.  Then we were all issued billet numbers in a few days, and sorted into sections and we no longer shared a rack, but we stayed friends.  Once I saw my friend with a group of other blacks and I bounced up and waved and said hi, and my friend said something assholeish and called me a Honky, and they all walked away laughing at me.  Of course I now understand the pressures my friend must have felt, but at 18 and so inexperienced in the dynamics of racial interactions, it hurt me a lot and I did not understand at all.  Friend, or not-friend.  I guess I had a digital brain.







Synthesis

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2017, 11:23:37 AM »
I wouldn't go as far as saying human beings are "all the same."  It's just that the differences that matter have nothing to do with relative epidermal melanin concentration.  Also, the folks that are significantly different in dangerous ways often are really good at faking being normal, and most of us aren't attuned to spotting the difference.

Basic understanding of cluster B personality disorders should be part of a standard education in modern society.
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Refugee

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Re: Off-Topic discussion about Racist words
« Reply #17 on: August 06, 2017, 11:46:20 AM »
Not a bad idea.  Throw it in with high school Health.  Does everyone still have to take one health/hygiene/STD course sometime in high school?