Ruminations on Racism and Racist Speech

I found out about Blog Against Racism Day via Monica Jackson (her contribution can be found here, but I’m not going to touch THAT particular topic with a ten-foot pole). Anyway, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about racism and racist speech and racist intent, none of these thoughts being particularly organized, but you regulars are used to me kind of rambling ‘round and ‘round the point instead of addressing it directly, right? I hope so, because this entry is really rambly.

So here’s my first thought about racism:

Not all racists are evil people, though racist acts are always evil. I also think one does not have to perpetrate racist acts to be a racist; racism is an attitude.

Racism has become a very charged word—accuse somebody of it and images of flaming crosses and lynchings come to mind. Those images aren’t unwarranted, but I think a lot of nuance is also lost. There are racists, and there are racists. It’d be nice if race weren’t an issue, but then it’d also be nice if gender, sexual orientation, social and economic class and religious beliefs (or non-beliefs, as the case may be) weren’t targets for discrimination, either. People are people, and people, for whatever reason, seem to enjoy pissing on others who are different from them in whatever way. I have observed, though, that people who identify themselves as, say, feminist and queer-friendly are also much less likely to be racist, while racists tend to be anti-feminist and homophobic.

My parents are racist. They’re not bad people. Some of my siblings are racist, which they undoubtedly picked up in part from my parents, and some of them aren’t. I like to think I’m not racist, but I also know I’m not the best judge of myself. (I do freely acknowledge that I harbor prejudices, but near as I can tell, none of them have anything to do with race—my bigotry tends to be belief-based, e.g., if you believe Intelligent Design is scientific or that gay people should never be allowed to marry, I’m going to think you’re a moron and/or an asshole, no matter what else you say or do. This goes double if you like Celine Dion or Richard Marx, because I refuse to believe anybody who loves Richard Marx has a soul. Je refuse.)

My parents said racist things and were deeply, deeply uncomfortable when my best friend in middle school was a Malay girl. However, they only ever expressed their displeasure to me and never in any way indicated to my friend that they were less than pleased that we were close. Similarly, they blew a gasket when my sister dated a Kenyan guy in college, but they were courteous when they met him—in fact, my mom was kind of pissed when they broke up because HE WAS GOING TO BE A LAWYER, DAMMIT, and bless her practical Chinese soul, the status and salary more than made up for everything else, up to and including his coal-black skin.

Oops, did I just make a racist comment about my mom? I guess so, but a lot of Chinese people, especially those who live in South-East Asia will tell you: a lot of those jokes about kiasu, mercenary Chinese people hold true. I know it does for a lot of members of my family, and I have to actively repress some of my own kiasu tendencies because I was brought up to be insanely competitive.

Maybe I’m culturalist, not racist? Because I don’t think race determines these attitudes or attributes. I don’t think us chinkies are inherently better at math and the sciences than other races, for example—but I do think that the high value our culture places on education, especially education with high perceived status and extensive practical applications like engineering and medicine, encourages kids to excel in these fields. My mom never got a fair shot at an education—it’s tough to be born a girl in a shitty-poor Chinese ghetto in the late 1930s in Malaysia—and it really burned her ass, which is why she ragged on all of us kids to do well in school.

And oooh, look, I used the word “chink”! I must be racist. And so was a friend of mine when I was telling him about a racist incident at work and he replied with “Goddamn you brown people! You’re taking over America! We need to kick your asses out and make it ours again. It’s time for the round-eye to rule supreme!”

People. It’s known as irony. It’s supposed to poke fun at racist people by caricaturizing them. It takes away some of their power if we’re able to look at them square in the eye and say “You’re ridiculous, the words you use are ridiculous, and we’re going to laugh at you and refuse to let you hurt us. Oh, and the Jews DO run the mass media and the banks, and they ARE out to get you.”

On the other hand, east Asians have had an easier time with assimilation than black people here in the States, plus our history here in the US isn’t quite as traumatic or long-lived, which is probably why the n-word still has the ability to make me flinch.

Two questions:

1. Is it racist if it’s true?

2. Is it racist if it’s employed for the sake of comedy and/or irony?

Shameless relativist that I am, I say: it all depends. Context is important. Racist speech can be used without racist intent—in fact, quite the opposite.

I have to admit that item 1 stymies me, though. You can make claims that are scientific and empirical (e.g. that a certain race tends to score higher or lower in certain areas of study) and then draw racist conclusions that aren’t necessarily supported by the data (that this proves a certain race somehow has superior or inferior reasoning abilities, etc.) which then go on to support racist actions (denying somebody a job, for example, just because you’re convinced that on average, somebody of a certain race is going to do poorly at a certain kind of task). So the latter two are most definitely racist, but is the first racist, too? Hell if I know. What do you think?

For the record, the John McPherson cartoon that got Chris Clarke’s panties in a twist and Sarah Silverman’s chink joke? I don’t think either are racist. The McPherson cartoon is painfully unfunny and depends on inaccurate depictions of cannibals and cannibalism for its joke, but hell, Hagar the Horrible is still running and I don’t hear people boo-hooing about what a travesty to Scandinavian culture that strip is. Dude. It’s a COMIC STRIP. Clarke’s objection seems to be that the cannibals are brown people. My question is: if you want to make fun of cannibals, would making them white make ANY kind of sense? Because really, how many white cultures engaged in ritual cannibalism up until the 20th century? I can’t think of any.

Or is Clarke especially sensitive to misrepresentations of cannibals in comic strips? I admit: I don’t get it. I really don’t. The strip is unfunny, but I don’t get the racist component.

And I thought Silverman’s chink joke was awesomely funny. In my opinion, it pokes fun at people who are desperate to get out of jury duty, if anything, and it strikes me that the people who’d cry “Racist!” at that joke would also be the kind who whine about the use of “niggardly.” But I have to say, the messenger matters just as much as the message. If the joke had been made by, say, the mother of the Gaede twins, that would’ve given the joke a truly unsavory spin.

Man, this was even more unfocused and rambly than usual. My apologies. But these thoughts have been percolating in my head for a few days, and I’m glad to get them out. Hopefully discussing this with you guys in the comments will help me solidify some positions while discarding others as untenable.

I have some other thoughts about non-white protagonists in genre fiction in general and romance novels in particular that also has some bearing to racism, but they’re far too amorphous for me to express at the moment.

So everybody: Happy Blogging Against Racism Day!


Random Musings

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Karen Scott says:

    I have to agree that not all racism is evil, I have caught myself thinking racist thoughts before today, and anybody who says they haven’t are in denial.

    For instance, my sister and I will sometimes laugh about how needy white girsl are when it comes to boys.  A friend of hers had been threatening to kill herself because she’d just been dumped by her boyfriend, and we both agreed that it was such a white girl thing to do.  Totally racist, I know, but we’ve also been known to murmur the words ‘fucking black people’ in exasperation too, if we happen to watch a Jerry Springer show that has a black guy who can’t string a sentence together.  So I guess I’m an equal opportunity racist.

    If I was a white person, I probably would have done my utmost to make the above paragraph more PC, but I’m not, so it’s easier for me to take the subject down to its most basic level.  I detest the ‘n’ word, but I acknowledge that I have more of a right to use it, than a non-black person. That’s just the way it is.

    As for racist jokes being funny, it totally depends on who’s telling them.  Black people will never find a white guy telling a racist joke aimed at black people, truly funny, on the other hand, if you’re Chris Rock, you can tell both black and white racist jokes, and both black and (some)white people will find it funny.

    That’s the beauty of being guilt-free.

  2. 2
    Meljean says:

    You inspired a long ramblingly one at mine, too. Gah! I rambled too much, and yours is said much better.

    Now off to read Monica’s and some of the others.

  3. 3
    StargazerC says:

    I won’t deny it, I’ve had racist moments.  It happens.  Hell, I used to work for a Civil Rights Commission. 

    I will concur, though, that I’ve seen a few stereotypes of Chinese people come to the surface.  While in college/graduate school, I had two professors who were Chinese/Taiwanese.  One was a man, the other a woman.  I noticed some of the same characteristics of both and it baffled me:
    • Neither of them respected women all that much
    • Neither of them appreciated Taiwan, saying that China was so much better.  One professor even went to almost insinuate that China is a greater country than the US (not that I disagree or agree)
    • Both were quite pushy
    • Both expected way more out of their students than should have been

    The male professor was a friend of my former step-uncle, and he seemed to like me a bit more than the only other female student who did better than I in his classes.  Actually, I think I got an A on a test because 1) I participated in Model UN for two semesters (and took his two IR classes) and 2) he was friends with my uncle.  Somehow I ascended past the gender discrimination with him.  Is this an attitude that you agree you have seen?

    As for racist vs. culturalist, I think I agree that you are.  The term “ethnocentrism” is appropriate here.  This concept is when you judge another culture from the view point of your own and form prejudices.  The difference between racism and culturalism/ethnocentrism seems to be this:  racism is usually formed and based on physical attributes.  Hate due to physical differences, i.e. skin color, hair, eyes, stature.  Culturalism is judgement and/or dislike based on that culture or society.  I think, though, that we as Americans have so much stigma attached to racism that culturalism is lumped into it as well.

    And yes, I’m a Sociologist by education, but not necessarily by practice anymore.  When I write long ramblings like this, I remember why I loved it so much.


  4. 4

    I had a couple advance readers tell me I shouldn’t have referred to my native white Floridians as “crackers” in my books, because that’s a perjorative and racist term.  In some locales that may be, but in Florida it’s considered a perfectly reasonable way to describe residents descended from early settlers, just like Key West residents descended from the first white Bahamians who settled there are Conchs.

    I’m not willing to sacrifice historic verisimilitude for someone else’s idea of political correctedness.  That’s one of things that annoys me the most about a lot of the historical romance I read—the author injects her own opinions of the way things ought to be while ignoring the realities of the era she’s writing about.

    But that’s a long rambling rant that can wait for another day…

  5. 5
    SamG says:

    I had to look up the Gaede kids.  AAAHHH
    scary lil bitches, aren’t they???

    I was raised hearing all sorts of racist jokes (against anyone not white).  I still have a hard time knocking inappropriate thoughts out of my head at times.  I do my best to do so, but at times it happens.  Am I really racist because of inner-workings?  Don’t I have to act on the awful thoughts to be truly racist???  If I have them, recongnize them, chastise myself and NOT ACT…aren’t I just someone trying to change my thought process??

    As to is it racist if it is true?  Is it true just because of someones race??  I mean if someone is being lazy and he happens to be black…is he lazy because he’s black…or just because he’s lazy??

    I think the intent has to be bad before something truly becomes racist.  I mean if you tell a joke to make a room full of people laugh, it isn’t racist.  If you tell it to get their dander up so they’ll go hang someone…that is racist.

    Did I just re-state your position…


  6. 6
    Candy says:

    Ethnocentrism! Of course. And there I went with my half-cocked neologisms again.

    Question: What do you call it when a person feels distaste for only very, very specific aspects of the culture as practiced by certain people within that culture, and not the culture as a whole? Ethnocentrism, like racism, implies wholesale dislike with little to no discrimination. So, calling me ethnocentric implies that I, say, dislike all of Arabic culture in general instead of certain aspects of it, like the way certain people who inhabit the culture treat women and homosexuals.

    It’s complicated because people can accept or reject some or all the aspects of the culture they inhabit, and if they migrate from one culture to another, that muddies the picture considerably, too. I know I’ve been accused of being a banana woman more than once….

    As for gender discrimination among Chinese people, especially in an academic setting: can’t say I’ve encountered it too much, mostly because I went to all-girls’ schools in Malaysia, and because the two girls in my family also got the best grades, and my parents, while being somewhat sexist in other areas, never said or did anythign in ANY way that women couldn’t be every bit as smart and capable as men. My dad also preferred daughters to sons, unlike the typical Chinese stereotype, and as a consequence, my sister and I were treated better than our brothers. I didn’t encounter too much rank sexism until I came to America, really.

  7. 7
    Candy says:

    I take that sexism thing back—I’m remembering some of the sex ed talks we had in high school and the rampant, sexist misinformation we were fed about our bodies, reproduction and pre-marital sex.

  8. 8
    Claire says:

    My favorite part is the way that Chris Clarke never did actually explain how that cartoon was racist.  He just expected everyone to sputter indignently along with him and ignore the fact that many Christians would find his use of “Sweet Jesus in a cracker” more than a little offensive.  But I forgot…Christians are a majority in the US, so we don’t have to worry about offending them.  Silly me.

  9. 9
    Stef says:

    My husband and I get into it sometimes, particularly about discrimination against women, but it frequently jumps into racist issues.  I usually wind up in the same old place – How could you, a middle class, Protestant, white male, have a CLUE what it’s like to be in a group that’s denigrated because of gender, race, or religion?  In the pecking order, you’re at the top of the pile, so don’t spout off to me that discrimination isn’t out there to the extent it used to be.  It is – people are just a lot more clever at disguising it.

    One of my very closest writing friends is black.  She and I have had some down and dirty – and I mean dirty – discussions about this.  Point in fact – she went to a conference in a southern state and swore she would never go back.  She gave me specific examples of what people do and say that she finds offensive.  I’ve called her on a few things – instances at RWA’s national conference when she was certain someone was nasty to her because she’s black – and I said, no, that woman is nasty to everyone because she’s a bitch.  She’s an equal opportunity mean person. 

    I accuse my friend of being too sensitive, and she agrees, but then says she’s conditioned to it, that she EXPECTS to be treated differently.  Which leads us to wonder, is it a case of a self-fulfilling prophesy?  Maybe – maybe not.  I’ve witnessed weird stuff with my friend and I’m shocked, and sad, that shit like that still happens.

    In my opinion, racism is alive and well in America.  Looking forward, I believe the melting pot will eventually homogonize – might take 300 years, but it’ll happen.  Until then, we’re faced with a lot of asswipes.

    On the flipside, I think the whole politically correct thing has gotten WAY out of hand.  Seems like you can’t fart in public without somebody accusing you of discrimination, repression, blah, blah.  Get real.  Farting in public is just rude.  Saying ignorant, tacky, mean things is rude – but doesn’t necessarily make someone a racist.  An idiot – yes.

  10. 10
    Tonda says:

    Hey, about good ol’ facism?

    I’m half Native American, but I don’t look it. I look Italian. I stopped going to Pow Wows years ago, cause I always get treated like SHIT! Other anglo/NAs I know who “look the part” (like my friend Rich, who’s 1/64 Cherokee) get treated great (as do all the black/NAs, who don’t even have to look the part).

    The last straw was when I took a friend to a Pow Wow in college (she’s English and Welsh; as lily white as you can get) and she got treated like a queen cause she has long black hair and was tan!

    I mean, I live in Oakland, CA (home of the now infamous Black Muslim attacks on liquor stores) and I get called stuff all the time (mostly “white bitch”), but I’m not supposed to respond in kind . . .


  11. 11
    Candy says:

    Hey Sam: what I was trying to say was, racism encompasses a lot of things, and the problem with the word is that it lacks nuance. Somebody can be a racist and never do anything racist her whole life. To me, racism is as much an internal attitude as anything else.

    Other people tend to interpret racism as engaging in racist acts, especially explicitly harmful actions like voting in favor of racist legislation.

  12. 12
    Saraswathi says:

    I find the John McPherson comic scenario to be rather amusing, simply because people are getting up in arms about how the indeterminate brown race in the comic is being represented as “small-brained and big-headed” when the skulls device they’re playing with is actually a Newton’s Cradle

    -Saraswathi, who loved Physics class in high school.

  13. 13
    Sarah F. says:

    What about reverse racism?  My mother prefers people with Jewish-sounding names as doctors or lawyers.  She got thrown by “Dr. David Levy” who was Roman Catholic, but hey, we still went to him for years and years.

    Is it racist because it’s true?  Well, no number is just a number, of course.  Blacks have lower LSAT scores entering Law school because of EO and Affirmative Action.  No one mentions that on the other end of law school, there’s almost no grade disparity.  Once they get there, they do fine.  Hard numbers don’t mean truth.

  14. 14
    SamG says:


    What is a banana woman???  I’ve never heard that term.

    Yeah, I tend to think you have to act on your particular racist attitude.  I guess I call people that don’t *do* anything bigots, and people that act racists…

    I have never voted for something bigoted/racist as far as I know.  I don’t ever think I would. 

    I have a 17 y/o nephew that is black.  I don’t believe I ever treated him differently than my white N/N.  I have certainly never loved him less.  Knowing he may be treated differently by others makes me very angry. 


  15. 15
    Candy says:

    A banana woman is yellow on the outside, white on the inside. I’ve been accused of not being Asian enough ever since I was a fairly young girl. Then, the other day, somebody told me I was much more Asian than he’d expected. I just can’t win.

  16. 16
    fiveandfour says:

    So, I thought about this off and on all day and didn’t really come up with any original thoughts. I went ahead and blogged about it anyway, though, because it seems to me having the dialogue and seeing the multitude of legitimate points of view that exist on this subject is a valuable exercise.  Sickening as it is, using the logic of “devil you know vs. the one you don’t” I think there’s even some value in knowing the point of view espoused by the Prussian Blue kids-whose-lives-will-be-mostly-fucked. 

    In taking the AIDS epidemic as an example (as in, you’ll notice the countries with the highest rates of infection aren’t white), it’s undeniable that racism is alive and well and still living the high life all around the world. 

    So I have my worries that equality among races is as far distant as peace in the Middle East.  Of course, that doesn’t excuse us from doing what we can to make things better – even if it’s just by an infinitely small amount.  But sometimes when I look down the road of where the US has been, then turn around and see how much road remains in front of us still, I lose confidence in the idea that an equality everyone can agree on as truly “equal” can be achieved.

    For example, sometimes I think of equality among men and women along the lines of 5+5 = 6+4.  In other words each side of the equation is equal, but the elements going into each side are not the same.  Using that simple idea as a metaphor, what will it take among races for all sides to feel equal to the others?  Is it possible that some day one race would say “sure they’re an 8+2, but we’re a 7+3 and that’s ok”?  I fear that’s just too much against human nature to ever really happen.  But we should strive to get as close to it as we can, and so we all need to soldier on and fight the good fight.

  17. 17
    Lynn M says:

    I think, for me, that racism is always associated with something negative even though the definition of the word doesn’t lend to that. So, for example, if one were to claim that black men tend to be better at basketball, I would assert most people would consider it a racist remark in the negative sense even though it is not a negative statement, per se. Being good at basketball is a good thing, right? But such a statement perpetuates a stereotype and is thus bad.

    If, however, scientific research were conducted and a big report issued that proved emperically that on average, black men had a physiology that allowed them to perform the necessary physical actions that allowed them to accel at sports that required jumping and aiming a ball (I say this hypothetically, of course), we’d all say this wasn’t a racist remark. Yes, it perpetuates a stereotype, but it’s based on something real and measurable. There are no emotions implied in it or any judgements tied to it. It’s just facts.

    So, I guess I agree with Candy in that context plays a huge part in defining racism. And if the context isn’t necessarily negative, I tend to not use the word racist even though it still applies.

  18. 18
    emdee says:

    I’m a WASP, so white I’m almost transparent.  And I’m 56 years old.  Call me naive, but it never occurred to me that people of color would hate other people of color.  I’m not even sure if I like that term because I have a color as well.  Anyway, I have a friend who is an 84 year old Black woman.  She’s mean as hell but at 84 people kinda let her slide on a lot of stuff.  And she hates Mexicans.  Despises them.  We live in Tucson, which is like 60 miles from the Mexican border and people of Mexican descent make up a majority.  The first time I heard her go off about this I was like, hey, this used to be part of Mexico.  She said who cares, because it is the US of A and they can either learn English and conform to our ways or stay home.  She’s even taken it to the point of calling her cable company to complain when she gets a piece of literature that is in English and Spanish. This woman is an Air Force widow, has lived all over the world and her late husband was one of the Tuskeegee Airmen.  I have no words when she starts in with this. Very soon the majority population in 11 of the states will be of Latino descent.  It’s already that way in TX. It’s gonna be interesting.

  19. 19
    Eddie Adair says:

    “If, however, scientific research were conducted and a big report issued that proved emperically that on average, black men had a physiology that allowed them to perform the necessary physical actions that allowed them to accel at sports that required jumping and aiming a ball (I say this hypothetically, of course), we’d all say this wasn’t a racist remark. Yes, it perpetuates a stereotype, but it’s based on something real and measurable. There are no emotions implied in it or any judgements tied to it. It’s just facts.”

    But, Lynn, sometimes using the real and measurable to prove “difference” is just as problematic, regardless of what the conclusion of that difference is. For instance, when scientists try to prove a biological basis for homosexual orientation (I’m thinking back to “lesbian ears”, finger sizes, and Simon LeVay looking for “the gay gene”), they weren’t trying to point out a deficiency in gay people, but they WERE trying to point out a difference between them and “straight” people.

    Now, none of us can deny that most people whose families originated in Africa have noticeably darker skin than most people whose families originated in northern Europe. That’s a difference, sure. But what I’m trying to say is that Western societies—and others, I’m sure—tend to try to use science to create binaries. They chose a group and say, “X is INVARIABLY different from Y, and this is why.” Sure, black folks have darker skin than white folks. But a person from Sudan might have a different skin tone and body type than a person from the Congo, and if those people’s descendants in the U.S. have mixed with each other, not to mention Anglo Americans and Native Americans and Mexicans and who knows who else, then how can we say “To be black is to carry traits that are uniform to all other black people”? We can’t.  Same’s true for white folks, who come from infinite blends themselves. And if anyone has followed me this far and is wondering what I was doing with all of that gay gene talk, well, I’d like to argue that there is no one way to “be” gay and the belief that there is one specific gene that determines what category of person someone can fall in love with disturbs me greatly.

    So I don’t mean to pick on you, directly, Lynn, I swear. Your comment just made me think, and I felt compelled to point out some problems with using science to classify people. If nothing else, the good old English (and plenty of Yanks, too) were trying to use science to prove that white was the superior race around the turn of the 19th/20th century, not to mention their explorations of what made a “normal” male or female and how superior the former was to the latter. So, in my opinion, any attempts by scientists to prove inevitable differences in two different groups is an unconscious (or not-so-unconscious) attempt to reinforce the Us/Them factor.

  20. 20
    Dee says:

    LOL emdee, she’s probably that way because Mexicans traditionally don’t like Black people either—remember the Vicente Fox comment that had him apologizing (sorta) to AAs?—.  I mean, they REALLY hate each other, so she probably got some bad treatment from them equal to that of the pre-civil rights white treatment. Not that I excuse it, lol, but after years of seeing it, I tend to find the whole thing amazingly funny.

    I’m Native American/Mexican, spent most of my formative years growing up in a central Cali ghetto area and boy, you wanna see some serious racism, head there. The area is primarily mexican (which made us kings of the poor people). Then you have the asians (Laotion, Vietnamese & Chinese, primarily) who take up about 35%. 10% after that is Black. Then a measley 5% is white. I knew a total of 4 white folks (excepting my teachers) in my school. I was related to one white lady in our neighborhood through marriage, so my three cousins account for the entire list of seven white people that lived in our part of town.

    Add to this that I’m one of those hispanics who looks black, lol. I’d go past one block and be called “Negra”  or worse, and mocked. Then past the next and be reminded that the mexicans didn’t belong there. I won’t even go into how my grandfather would talk about other races—he was from Mexico City and let me tell you, there are days I’m glad I didn’t know much spanish. My mom moved us to San Diego to get us out of there and I’ve stayed out of the Ghetto ever since. Some of my sisters have gone back and they like to tell me I’ve forgotten where I come from because my dishes match and I won’t let them try to fit 8 kids in the back of a four-seater car. (for us brown folks, we’re called “coconuts” if we get “above ourselves”. So, you really can’t win.

    What that whole thing is to tell you is that it’s hard in this day and age not to have those culturalistic thoughts. I really don’t think they’re racism, just that we get brought up a certain way and training is always the first thought. I chastize myself all the time for what my initial thoughts are.

    Truthfully, I see hispanic men tattooed up past their eyeballs and I know whether to be scared or not with a glance. I see the same kind of guy of any other race and I have no basis for comparision, so I instinctively fear them all. And I spend the next hour kicking myself for falling into racial stereotyping. (Of course, I have the same response to police and immigration, but that’s another post)

    Ironically, I had this same discussion with my hubby (Asian guy, our son is a Native Mexipino on all his paperwork) and we started making fun of all the cultural things our parents feel aren’t in our homes. Hopefully, racism will be one of them. :)


  21. 21
    Dee says:

    As if my last post wasn’t long enough, lol, two other points:

    I gotta agree with Eddie there. During the slave state/free state argument, Southerners actually used science to prove why the blacks were perfectly suited to the work they did and why white men were not. Some of it was ridiculous (that their hair being mostly dry and in tight curls better protected them from harsh sun, snort), but much of it was about muscle mass and so on. I’m surprised anyone would do that kind of study again.

    The other is one consideration people never like to note.

    Racism has been around since the sons of Noah.

    Anti-racism has been around roughly a hundred years, with anything being DONE about it for only 50.

    I’m not saying we should be patting ourselves too hard on the back, because racism is definitely around still, but we’ve come further as a world in moving away from it than at any other time on earth. It’s just that there’s still so far to go.


  22. 22
    Candy says:

    Lots of interesting points being made. Anyone read The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould? Good stuff, and it deals with what Eddie Adair talks about, i.e. groups of people trying to find scientific bases for their claims that they’re the pinnacle of all creation. Short of taking statistics and research design classes, the book also provides a decent education for a layperson on some quick-and-dirty ways to spot data manipulation.

    And Dee: If for some reason I ended up having a kid with an OMGHOT Mexican boy, would our child be a banana-coconut shake? And doesn’t that just sound like something you need to drink with a bendy straw and a glass decorated with a jaunty mini-umbrella?

    Tangent: I HATE the term “people of color.” I find it disingenuous. It’s basically somebody trying to pussyfoot around saying “non-white,” because “people of color” implies that there are people who are transparent and colorless roaming our streets. Currently, because of his outdoor job, my whiter-than-whitebread husband has a much darker tan than I do.

    GodDAMN that term irritates me. Wow.

    Color obsession is a pretty common theme throughout the world. I knew a couple of Indian men who refused to date dark-skinned Indian girls, for example. And some of my friends back in Malaysia envy my Portland winter tan because they have a hard time keeping their skin fair in a tropical country. And then there’s a friend of mine here in Portland who’s a redhead, with the attendant pale pink-and-white redhead complexion, and she desperately wishes she could tan the way I do (I can stay out almost all day in the sun and turn really, really dark, but I rarely ever burn).

    I find color a very odd thing to obsess about, because if the skin’s healthy and beautiful, who gives a flying fuck what color it is? But the more I learn about people, the more I realize that color obsession seems to be the norm all over the world. It’s not just race, there are class and caste ramifications, too.

    Dee’s also right about segregation being more of the norm for the majority of human history. I do wonder how miscegenation was viewed during, say, the peak of the Roman empire, for example—lots of people were crossing borders in those times. Anyone know? Like I said before, it seems that as a general rule, people just love pissing on others who are different, and race is one of the easiest, most obvious identifiers of difference around.

    Veering sharply into talking about sexuality: I agree with you, Eddie. And even if somebody chooses to engage in homosexual behavior (and sexuality really is so complex—some of it is involuntary, to be sure, because I sure as shit never made a conscious choice to be attracted to boys, but complexities like sexual curiosity and the complex array of possible bisexual behaviors and preferences, etc. may or may not be), WHY the fuck should anyone give a rat’s ass one way or the other?

  23. 23
    Dee says:

    ROFL, I like to think of my boy as a banana-coconut shake in an adobe cup, lol!

    Ahhh, People of Color. That’s right up there with people saying they’re a African-American or Mexican American or whatever race you’d like to put first. Drives me up a wall. Unless you PERSONALLY come from the other country, you should be an “American of “Insert Country” Descent”. I can’t decide if it’s the pedantic kissing up of PC language that annoys me more or the butchery of the english language, lol. I have OCD people, I need things in their right frickin’ order. LOL!

    As for sexuality, sadly, I have only one problem with homosexuality: When people make their sexuality their personality. I want to know who they are as people. What we do doesn’t make who we are. How many people would walk around with their fingers up their nose (or worse, their ass) if we were all supposed to be that way? Siiigh, but that might be another rant. LOL!


  24. 24
    fiveandfour says:

    the more I realize that color obsession seems to be the norm all over the world

    I was just thinking on this point recenty while reading Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.  It did make me wonder, though, about when it became “better” to have lighter skin in cultures where, historically speaking, they’ve been brown as far back as that culture existed.  Did this exist before the white countries started exploring and taking over the brown countries or only come in after?

    Finally, Dee’s comments brought to mind some things I’ve been thinking of since watching the movie Crash recently.  It very eloquently and powerfully and movingly explores the topic of racism and inter-racial communications from a variety of points of view and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t yet seen it.

  25. 25
    fiveandfour says:

    Ahhh, People of Color. That’s right up there with people saying they’re a African-American or Mexican American or whatever race you’d like to put first.

    OK, now I’m going to make the shocking confession that I have been known, on occasion, to watch those “reality” shows on MTV.  One of them a few years back was a group of college students doing a semester at sea, and part of the trip involved a stop in Africa.  A girl from the US who identified herself as “African-American” was part of the group.  Someone was discussing this phenomenon of people identifying themselves as “African-American” with various people who are African and one of the Africans replied that it seemed a ridiculous conceit to her.  From her point of view, why should someone who’s never even been to a place – and what’s more, not even that person’s parents had come from that place – identify themselves as being from that place?  Most other Africans took a more gentle view, however, and said kinder, more welcoming things about the idea.

  26. 26
    Candy says:

    “As for sexuality, sadly, I have only one problem with homosexuality: When people make their sexuality their personality.”

    That’s true about just about every classification I can think of. I don’t particularly like militant people, whether I agree with/am sympathetic to their cause (e.g. vegetarians, vegans, gay people, feminists, atheists, animal rights activists) or not (e.g. evangelicals of any religion, homophobes, white supremacists, anti-choice campaigners, creationists).

    “It did make me wonder, though, about when it became “better” to have lighter skin in cultures where, historically speaking, they’ve been brown as far back as that culture existed.”

    I know that in Chinese culture, the fair skin = better thing started independent of contact with western colonialization. It’s very much a class issue: if you were fair-skinned, it meant you were spending a lot of time indoors, and in a society that was largely agrarian, that meant you had a prestigious job that limited your exposure to the sun, e.g., you were scholar, or some sort of merchant who was successful enough to have workers do your grunt work for you, or royalty, etc.

  27. 27
    Dee says:

    Thanks Candy, I hadn’t realized it before, but that thinking about letting what you do identify you DOES apply to everyone. I think that’s why, as a writer, I get so mad at shows or movies with paper thin stereotypical characters. Why make yourself into a caricature when you can have depth?

    (Of course, I have the depth of a cookie sheet, but, that’s not really by choice, lol.)


  28. 28
    Lisa says:

    My parents are racist. My brother is racist. I live in Memphis, the Home of Racism, Tennessee.

    Evil racism to me is when the intent of the joke or action is meant to undermine a culture group, to demean them and make them feel less powerful.

    Good racism—well—most sociologists would tell you that there’s no such thing. I halfway agree. I make jokes about my heritage, my Chinese mother and family, and all the while, I wonder if I’m doing us a disservice and being hypocritical. But at the same time, I’m basing my jokes on what I know to be culturally accurate for my family.

    Racism is all about power, and who has it. In America, it’s those white people. So the rest of us—black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American—we could outnumber the whites in population, but if we don’t have the money, we don’t have the power.

    On that note, I vote we rob Fort Knox :)

  29. 29
    fiveandfour says:

    It’s very much a class issue: if you were fair-skinned, it meant you were spending a lot of time indoors

    Makes sense since the same kind of thinking applied to white people, too, up until the days of Coco Chanel and the concept of the wealthy spending their free time lazing around in the sun.  Funny how white people want to be tan as a symbol of status while brown people want to be white for the same reason.

  30. 30
    Eddie Adair says:

    Right, don’t most groups tend to perpetuate stereotypes when they act, well, stereotypical? Granted, not ALL of these traits and behaviors are particularly harmful, but the idea behind them—letting the rest of the world dictate how you’re supposed to act—definitely is. And that goes right back to a society classify and compartmentalize people. Whether a person is perpetuating a stereotype because that person is influenced by mainstream beliefs or because other members of his/her group are implying that she/he has to behave a certain way to be taken seriously (Think: Am I ____ enough?), it’s still oppressive.

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