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Author Topic: A Note on Racism  (Read 2880 times)

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Offline Question MarkTopic starter

A Note on Racism
« on: February 15, 2011, 10:41:15 PM »
Just thought of this, and could only think of one place with the intelligence and composure to reliably answer a topic concerning race with level-headedness and wit

If you comment on an identifying trait of a race to a person of or not of that race, that is not racist.
Ex. "Oh, you're native African, that's why you have a broad nose."

If you comment on a stereotype of a race to a person of or not of that race in a way that shows you believe in that stereotype, that is not racist.  That is simply showing you believe most things you hear and don't or haven't yet learned the truth for yourself.
Ex. "Oh, you're Japanese.  You must know how to help me with this calc problem."

If you assume that a certain race, including your own, is somehow inferior or superior to another race based only on that race's defining physical or societal characteristics (body, color, physical origin, culture, technology level, etc.), or for no reason at all, you are a racist.
Ex. "Oh, you're a Pacific Islander.  That makes me better than you."


What makes me lay these definitions out is some frustration with my last roommate.  I would mention the fact that he's Hispanic (note that we were and are still on good terms) in an offhand way - for example, Is that where your accent comes from then? - or refer to his skin color - Well, you are mulatto... - and he would take like I just ordered him to don a sombrero and clean the bathroom.

He was so incredibly touchy about his race and, this is what annoyed me, and yet so proud of it.  I asked him why he sleeps with his shirt off, even in the winter.  "'Cause I'm Hispanic; we all do."  Why do you like that brand of tequila so much?  "'Cause I'm Hispanic man."  He was, in a way, acting racist himself.  The message he was giving off was, "I'm Hispanic, which gives me unique defining traits like all races, BUT only I can talk about them and act like they're good qualities; otherwise it's an attack against me and my people."

So I just want to see if you all agree with me.  Acknowledging and knowing the many ways various races differ from each other is a good thing.  We need to embrace our differences, not act like everyone is the same and that your ethnicity only matters when it comes to hate crimes.  It's so much more than that!  I have blood going all the way back to Scandinavia and northwest Europe, and I'm damn proud of it!  And if someone pointed out that's why my skin's so pale, or that's why I have broad shoulders, I'd agree with them and take no offense.  It's part of who I am, and I should accept and celebrate it, not hide it away and shun people who point it out.

Or at least, that's my honest opinion.

Offline Trieste

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Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2011, 10:53:55 PM »
This is just a note that staff will be watching this thread, and two things need to be understood:

1. If it gets out of hand it will be permanently locked.

2. If "I just wanted to see if you agree with me" was an honest question, that's cool. But if this is a fishing expedition for validation where opposing opinions are shot down, the thread will be moved to "bad and ugly" where it belongs and the thread will be locked.

With that said, have at it and enjoy. :)

Offline Question MarkTopic starter

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2011, 10:56:41 PM »
This is just a note that staff will be watching this thread, and two things need to be understood:

1. If it gets out of hand it will be permanently locked.

2. If "I just wanted to see if you agree with me" was an honest question, that's cool. But if this is a fishing expedition for validation where opposing opinions are shot down, the thread will be moved to "bad and ugly" where it belongs and the thread will be locked.

With that said, have at it and enjoy. :)

:O  I'd hate for that to happen.  Trust me, I'm just trying to see what other people think on the subject.  I don't want a flamewar scarring the E anymore than anyone else (I hope).

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Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2011, 11:01:06 PM »
I would note that 'mulatto' is defined as being biracial with one black and one white parent.  I could see someone who is Hispanic being a little miffed at being referred to in that fashion.

I'm also not entirely sure how your second example is inconsistent with your definition of 'racism'.  The person in the example believes that, due to fact that the other person is Japanese, that person is 'superior' when it comes to doing Calculus.

Offline Jude

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2011, 11:17:40 PM »
I don't think that being a racist is simple or objective, but I'll give you my definition.  Racism is:

A)  Having a stereotype about a racial group which persists in light of evidence to the contrary.
Example:  A teacher assumes his black student is being academically dishonest because he's doing well in his class solely on the basis of that student being black.

B)  Recognizing members of a racial group only as part of that group and not as an individual.
Example:  Referring to people by their ethnicity as the defining trait.

It's not perfect, I'm sure there's a bit more to it.  I'll probably write more later.

Offline Question MarkTopic starter

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2011, 11:28:25 PM »
I would note that 'mulatto' is defined as being biracial with one black and one white parent.  I could see someone who is Hispanic being a little miffed at being referred to in that fashion.

Really?  I've only ever heard of it referred to as a skin color, not an actual specific like that.  Like, a general group spanning across races, where someone's skin isn't black or white, but an inbetween brownish.  That's a good point, though I will say my roommate should have informed me of what offended him, instead of just acting offended.

Quote
I'm also not entirely sure how your second example is inconsistent with your definition of 'racism'.  The person in the example believes that, due to fact that the other person is Japanese, that person is 'superior' when it comes to doing Calculus.

Let me clarify.  In the second example, the speaker doesn't mean any offense.  He doesn't believe that - overall - he is superior or inferior.  He just incorrectly believes there's a correlation where there is none.  They could be good friends; he means no harm, thus he is not racist.


I don't think that being a racist is simple or objective, but I'll give you my definition.  Racism is:

I agree, but we humans....  Oh how we like to define and categorize things.  I think, if we're going for simple definitions, racism should be an "Intentional offense based solely on ethnicity."  Then again, we could throw definitions out all night.

What about anyone else?  Where do you draw the line when it comes to racism?  When does it change from semantics to hate crime?

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Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2011, 11:49:19 PM »
Really?  I've only ever heard of it referred to as a skin color, not an actual specific like that.  Like, a general group spanning across races, where someone's skin isn't black or white, but an inbetween brownish.  That's a good point, though I will say my roommate should have informed me of what offended him, instead of just acting offended.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mulatto  I do agree that it's always better in any situation to clarify what's offensive, rather than leaving the other person guessing (and perhaps wrongly).

Let me clarify.  In the second example, the speaker doesn't mean any offense.  He doesn't believe that - overall - he is superior or inferior.  He just incorrectly believes there's a correlation where there is none.  They could be good friends; he means no harm, thus he is not racist.

So, saying that 'Of course Jim made the [athletic] team.  He's black,' would not be racist if the person saying it was under the mistaken impression that those of African descent are stronger, faster, more agile, etc.; but it would be racist if the person saying it was under the impression that there was some kind of bias in the athletic department?

Personally, I think both situations reflect a certain amount of racism, although there is a difference on the 'benign/malignant' scale.  It would be racist to assume that one nationality makes better lovers (although benignly racist), and malignantly racist to assume that one nationality is unintelligent.

Offline Question MarkTopic starter

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2011, 12:16:39 AM »
So, saying that 'Of course Jim made the [athletic] team.  He's black,' would not be racist if the person saying it was under the mistaken impression that those of African descent are stronger, faster, more agile, etc.; but it would be racist if the person saying it was under the impression that there was some kind of bias in the athletic department?

Personally, I think both situations reflect a certain amount of racism, although there is a difference on the 'benign/malignant' scale.  It would be racist to assume that one nationality makes better lovers (although benignly racist), and malignantly racist to assume that one nationality is unintelligent.

I think you may have missed my point slightly, or I didn't convey it well enough earlier.  Let me reword.

There are differences between races.  Maybe some ARE better lovers, for whatever reason.  Maybe one nationality DOES have a lower average intelligence.  If that's the case, that's how it is.  The problem, my frustration specifically, arises from people assuming that all races and ethnic genetic lines are on an even keel, both physically AND otherwise.

"Of course the average ___ is as smart as the average ___."  "Of course the average ____ is as compassionate as the average ____."  But what if they're not?  It's the idea that the not-so-easily-measured characteristics of all the world's people are the same that gets to me; we're not.  Some ethnic genetic lines are smart, some are creative, some are master athletes, some are great laborers, some have larger builds, some are all of these, some none, and all of them mixed and matched.  The differences are small, are inconsequential overall due to the extreme natural variety of human individuals, but they are there, and they shouldn't be condemned.

HOWEVER, here-in lies the dilemma and misunderstanding: it's easy to assume that "Oh, they have better runners on average than us, thus they are superior to us."  That's not the case, and I think believing that to be true to be ignorant of the big picture.  Overall, no one ethnicity is greater or overall "better" than any other (to think that, along with believing that all individuals of one race are equally represented by stereotypes or even RL trends, is my definition of racist imho), but it would be silly to ignore their differences, their strengths and weaknesses, their contributions both great and small.  We may not need celebrate or even acknowledge that these differences even exist, but I think we (we being the cultural zeitgeist, for lack of a better term) should treat them as good things, not racist undercurrents, when they do present themselves.

In other words: we're all different, much more so individually, but there are minor trends on the macro, racial perspective, and acknowledging these trends with no ill intent is not racist.

Offline Silk

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2011, 05:34:24 AM »
I think what the OP is trying to say is, that the factual desriptive sense is not nessersarily racist because it strikes a factual stereotype, like saying someone who is african american, probably has a ancestory that leads back to africa, Or that saying Asians tend to be somewhat shorter than Caucasians, is not racist because there is a factual correlation that leads to the outcome. Neither are things like "People of Black ethnicity are more prone to Sickle cell amnemia" as it is a supported claim, and just not a unfair bias against people of black ethnicity.

However, unsupported ones such as "Americans are fat, English love tea, french are cowards, germans are Nazis, blacks are better at sports, Asians are more intelligent Etc. Are considered racist as there is no factual backing to support them.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2011, 05:37:20 AM by Silk »

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Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2011, 09:22:47 AM »
However, unsupported ones such as "Americans are fat, English love tea, french are cowards, germans are Nazis, blacks are better at sports, Asians are more intelligent Etc. Are considered racist as there is no factual backing to support them.

However, the last two were the ones I specifically used, and the additional criteria of offense came in.  (If this is applied, then only the American, French, and German examples would qualify as 'racist'.) 

Offline Silk

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2011, 10:23:09 AM »
However, the last two were the ones I specifically used, and the additional criteria of offense came in.  (If this is applied, then only the American, French, and German examples would qualify as 'racist'.)
Except you could say by comparison, it is claiming those that do not fall into that group as discriminatory, saying asians are more intelligent is effectively saying "everyone else is dumber than asians" or black people are better at sports as the same as "white people suck at sports" just in different wording

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Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2011, 10:34:44 AM »
That is my confusion, exactly.  From my earlier posts:

I'm also not entirely sure how your second example is inconsistent with your definition of 'racism'.  The person in the example believes that, due to fact that the other person is Japanese, that person is 'superior' when it comes to doing Calculus.

So, saying that 'Of course Jim made the [athletic] team.  He's black,' would not be racist if the person saying it was under the mistaken impression that those of African descent are stronger, faster, more agile, etc.; but it would be racist if the person saying it was under the impression that there was some kind of bias in the athletic department?

These were followed up with the OP's post that you responded to.  So, I agree with you that the six unsupported claims would be racist, but the OP apparently thinks that the last two, at least, are not.

Offline Jude

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2011, 07:39:27 PM »
A lot of what is categorized as racism in the United States isn't actually racism:  it's things which are quite ambiguous and could be racially motivated, taken that way for cynical reasons.

Offline Will

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2011, 08:13:03 PM »
It's still generally rude to make assumptions about people, regardless of how solid a statistical backing you may think you have.  Whether you call it racism or not, you can't really be surprised when it doesn't go over well.

What's more, I think accepting "benign" stereotypes implies a tacit approval of the more openly racist stereotypes.  We can't pick and choose which ones are okay, and which ones are not; they're all based on the same thinking, so if one is accepted as true, then in most people's minds, they all are.

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Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2011, 08:17:44 PM »
It's still generally rude to make assumptions about people, regardless of how solid a statistical backing you may think you have.  Whether you call it racism or not, you can't really be surprised when it doesn't go over well.

What's more, I think accepting "benign" stereotypes implies a tacit approval of the more openly racist stereotypes.  We can't pick and choose which ones are okay, and which ones are not; they're all based on the same thinking, so if one is accepted as true, then in most people's minds, they all are.

I actually chose the words 'benign' and 'malignant' with the tumor connection in mind.  You still want to work towards not having any of them (judging each person on their individual merits), but at least there are those that don't cause more damage the longer they sit there.

Offline mystictiger

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2011, 11:10:50 PM »
Being an international lawyer, my first port of call will necessarily be to a treaty:

the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life

I think that this is an interesting approach in that it doesn't deal with what you might call 'postive discrimination' or 'affirmative action' because there has to be some kind of loss or harm. The test of this is very low indeed. I am not likely to be offended by being called 'whitey', but being passed over for a job because I'm Jewish / Scottish purely by virtue of these identitifying features is.

Now, turning to some of the examples the OP used:

Quote
If you comment on an identifying trait of a race to a person of or not of that race, that is not racist.
Ex. "Oh, you're native African, that's why you have a broad nose."

Native African is a horrible horrible term. It's certainly not a race in any meaningful sense of the term. A Zulu from South Africa is not the same as an Egyptian is not the same as someone from Madagascar. All that they have is not-white skin. Further native African? So we're now saying that a white South African can't call themselves a native African anymore?

Quote
If you assume that a certain race, including your own, is somehow inferior or superior to another race based only on that race's defining physical or societal characteristics (body, color, physical origin, culture, technology level, etc.), or for no reason at all, you are a racist.

This one really confused me - a race that has better technology than another? To my mind it is at best states and probably more accurately different groups of people that have different technology rather than something so ill-defined as a race.

What characteristics are we allowed to say that make us better than another person? Education? Intelligence? Wealth? Good looks? Athleticism? Liberal social policies?

Offline Question MarkTopic starter

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2011, 11:33:00 PM »
Native African is a horrible horrible term. It's certainly not a race in any meaningful sense of the term. A Zulu from South Africa is not the same as an Egyptian is not the same as someone from Madagascar. All that they have is not-white skin. Further native African? So we're now saying that a white South African can't call themselves a native African anymore?

This one really confused me - a race that has better technology than another? To my mind it is at best states and probably more accurately different groups of people that have different technology rather than something so ill-defined as a race.

What characteristics are we allowed to say that make us better than another person? Education? Intelligence? Wealth? Good looks? Athleticism? Liberal social policies?

GAH!  Big words.  o-o

But seriously, a few responses.

Your comment on native African is true; that could be taken extremely offensively.  My point, though, is people need to stop being so self-entitled and think for just a moment I was referring to something else and not negatively claiming that all Africans have broad noses.  I know, I know, that's what I literally SAID, thus it should not be poor conduct to take it literally, but all I ask is that the offended person think a little bit.  Did I say it with intent to harm?  Not at all.  In fact, when I used that example, I was narrow-mindedly thinking of only native African tribes in the sense of the Zulu and so forth, not literally ALL native Africans; my mistake.  I didn't realize the "harm" it could have if taken the wrong way.  Once you pointed it out though, I was quick to re-affirm that I meant no offense.

I guess what my point boils down to is this: people need thicker skins and slower minds.  THINK before you cry racist.  "Has he ever made a racist comment before, or been mean to me in the past, or even come across as ill-tempered and irrational?  No?  Then he probably just had an internal syntax error, so I should get off my high horse and stop taking offense whenever I read too far into things."



A.N. - I honestly think I can't crystallize my opinion well enough to translate to words.  I say one thing, but it's only a good fit for my beliefs, not the best fit.  Then when I try to explain it further, it gets all tangled and convoluted, making me explain even more and so on.  So I'll just leave it as is where it concerns my opinion.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #17 on: February 18, 2011, 06:20:31 AM »
I am not quite sure why the one hearing the comment has to think, when the person making the racist comment is not expected to think.  Wouldn’t the one taking the action be required to think about their action, rather than the person hearing the offensive comment gives thought to why they should not be offended.  In the least I would think the person taking the action would have better tact than to call the listener ignorant. 

Offline Noelle

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #18 on: February 18, 2011, 05:17:31 PM »
There are differences between races.  Maybe some ARE better lovers, for whatever reason.  Maybe one nationality DOES have a lower average intelligence.  If that's the case, that's how it is.  The problem, my frustration specifically, arises from people assuming that all races and ethnic genetic lines are on an even keel, both physically AND otherwise.

I think this is a dangerous thing to say without further nuance and I think you're beginning to mix your terms.

Nationality is not the same as race is not the same as ancestry/descent. I am of the Caucasian race of English/Scottish/German descent, but I am American by nationality. Of course certain nationalities can have lower average intelligence rates due to factors such as emphasis on proper education in that nation, but speaks nothing to any race's 'advantage' over another.

Thusfar, I'm not even sure that there has been any proof that states certain races have a greater capacity for intelligence or the like over another (if I'm wrong about this, do provide me with some research and I'll happily retract this) -- most things that seem racial end up being more socio-economic than anything, and is reflective of the society at large rather than any flaw in someone's race. Even the generalized difference of physical qualities are marginal, at best, and unreliable to boot; Inuits tend to be shorter and stockier, on average, due to a heritage dwelling in colder climates where heat and energy reserves must be conserved, and northern Europeans tend to be taller and more fair-skinned, et cetera., but I think those things are greatly overplayed, especially as people have more and more mixed descent and due to the fact that physical variations occur even within races, which makes the whole point of generalization pretty moot. There are short Dutch people, weak and slow African people, and dark-skinned Northern Europeans (black Irish, anyone?)

Quote
Some ethnic genetic lines are smart, some are creative, some are master athletes, some are great laborers, some have larger builds, some are all of these, some none, and all of them mixed and matched.  The differences are small, are inconsequential overall due to the extreme natural variety of human individuals, but they are there, and they shouldn't be condemned.

Err, could you perhaps provide some research on this claim? Intelligence is largely (if not completely) a product of the way a person was raised, their own natural curiosity, and environmental influences that do or don't predispose them to a quality education. The idea that one race is inherently smarter than another is a pretty antiquated idea that dates way back even before the Civil Rights era, and in fact, was heavily touted by white supremacists (even to this day) as a justification to treat minorities like crap. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that's what you're doing here (especially because your next paragraph is well-meaning), and I may have you all wrong on this, but I have seen absolutely no evidence to suggest that any race is more inclined than others to become laborers or geniuses or fast runners or artists. For example, suggesting that more Hispanics were meant to be laborers because you see them working hard labor jobs is not a racial difference -- It largely stems from where they stand in society right now; mostly poor, low-class people, often immigrants, who are not educated and need a job to feed their family, not to mention deeply-embedded racial prejudices against them as being dirty foreigners who can't speak our language and accusations of being illegal. Boom, racism.

Quote
HOWEVER, here-in lies the dilemma and misunderstanding: it's easy to assume that "Oh, they have better runners on average than us, thus they are superior to us."  That's not the case, and I think believing that to be true to be ignorant of the big picture.  Overall, no one ethnicity is greater or overall "better" than any other (to think that, along with believing that all individuals of one race are equally represented by stereotypes or even RL trends, is my definition of racist imho), but it would be silly to ignore their differences, their strengths and weaknesses, their contributions both great and small.  We may not need celebrate or even acknowledge that these differences even exist, but I think we (we being the cultural zeitgeist, for lack of a better term) should treat them as good things, not racist undercurrents, when they do present themselves.

I think you're very well-meaning here, I really do. Your underlying message is a good one, that we should all treat each other with respect and dignity, but I really do think you're overplaying these so-called "differences". I think it would be wise to do more research into the idea of genetic superiority regarding race and things like creativity or intelligence.

Beyond basic survival things that I would argue are no longer terribly relevant (darker skin means no sun-blindness/terrible sunburns in places closer to the equator, fair-skinned people surviving for thousands of years in colder climates, blah blah...We have sunglasses and coats now, thank you very much), there really isn't much difference between the races at all -- at least none that are politically worth mentioning.

Quote
Your comment on native African is true; that could be taken extremely offensively.  My point, though, is people need to stop being so self-entitled and think for just a moment I was referring to something else and not negatively claiming that all Africans have broad noses.  I know, I know, that's what I literally SAID, thus it should not be poor conduct to take it literally, but all I ask is that the offended person think a little bit.  Did I say it with intent to harm?  Not at all.  In fact, when I used that example, I was narrow-mindedly thinking of only native African tribes in the sense of the Zulu and so forth, not literally ALL native Africans; my mistake.  I didn't realize the "harm" it could have if taken the wrong way.  Once you pointed it out though, I was quick to re-affirm that I meant no offense.

Again, I think you're well-meaning here. I think you've got a good attitude in regards to listening to others when they point out to you why what you've said may not be appropriate, but I still think there are a few misplaced opinions here.

You're right that sometimes pointing out someone's race/heritage is nothing more than observation; pointing out that someone has brown eyes and that it's common for, say, people of African descent to have brown eyes isn't making any kind of statement as to whether or not it's a good or bad thing. It just is. I don't think there's anything harmful about that necessarily. Asking if someone with red hair is Irish isn't speaking to any kind of superior or inferior quality of red hair, it just is.

I can't really speak to a person's touchiness when it comes to talking about race, especially in that context, but I am inclined to agree that sometimes people can be quick to misinterpret you or come to the wrong conclusion and the best thing to do is stay calm, apologize, and ensure them you meant no harm. It is frustrating to make an apparent gaffe and not know why, but I think most people appreciate when you express interest in understanding why what you said offended them so you can learn from it and move on. Anyone who still acts like a dick probably isn't worth your time anyway.

Quote
I guess what my point boils down to is this: people need thicker skins and slower minds.  THINK before you cry racist.  "Has he ever made a racist comment before, or been mean to me in the past, or even come across as ill-tempered and irrational?  No?  Then he probably just had an internal syntax error, so I should get off my high horse and stop taking offense whenever I read too far into things."

Aughh, I'm so torn on this. I've been doing a lot of reading into the subject of privilege lately and am still having trouble formulating an opinion on it. I just have to warn you that a lot of people will tear you apart for saying something like that. Many people want to be taken at their word that if they it's racist/sexist/whatever, then it must be -- I've run into this before when trying to discuss and learn more about racism and have been thoroughly ripped a new asshole many times, so it's a subject you have to tread lightly on. I will tentatively say that I think you're right; both parties needs to stop, slow down, and think very carefully about the situation from as clear of a viewpoint as they can and try not to blow off the handle about it. If all else fails, ask someone to clarify their intent. Obviously saying "LOL WHAT UP GOOK" is more blatantly offensive than someone who means well pointing out some kind of difference.

tl;dr - Racism is tricky, I'm still not sure how and to what extent using privilege works/is a valid excuse to stop someone from being skeptical of your claims, and I hope that this doesn't turn into a flamewar :(

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Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #19 on: February 18, 2011, 06:47:48 PM »
tl;dr - Racism is tricky, I'm still not sure how and to what extent using privilege works/is a valid excuse to stop someone from being skeptical of your claims, and I hope that this doesn't turn into a flamewar :(

I'd have to agree with the lady here, Question Mark, because from what I've seen you're headed toward a more scientific view with your examples. Politics and Science rarely mesh well. Anything pointed or even abstractly said about a race could be taken as offensive by those hearing it, and it most typically will. As this, it's marked you as the offender, similar to a person rear ending a car. It may have stopped full on in front of you, but by default because you ran into the back of the person's car, it's the judge most typically renders it your fault.

Some claims are alleged, others more sincere. Regardless it's more often better to simply stand away from commenting upon a hereditary feature, as it's likely to lead with your foot in your mouth one way or another. I could be wrong on this, and I'm sure someone will probably compound on what I've said, but it has been my personal experience.

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Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #20 on: February 19, 2011, 11:35:31 PM »
Just thought of this, and could only think of one place with the intelligence and composure to reliably answer a topic concerning race with level-headedness and wit

If you comment on an identifying trait of a race to a person of or not of that race, that is not racist.
Ex. "Oh, you're native African, that's why you have a broad nose."

If you comment on a stereotype of a race to a person of or not of that race in a way that shows you believe in that stereotype, that is not racist.  That is simply showing you believe most things you hear and don't or haven't yet learned the truth for yourself.
Ex. "Oh, you're Japanese.  You must know how to help me with this calc problem."

If you assume that a certain race, including your own, is somehow inferior or superior to another race based only on that race's defining physical or societal characteristics (body, color, physical origin, culture, technology level, etc.), or for no reason at all, you are a racist.
Ex. "Oh, you're a Pacific Islander.  That makes me better than you."


What makes me lay these definitions out is some frustration with my last roommate.  I would mention the fact that he's Hispanic (note that we were and are still on good terms) in an offhand way - for example, Is that where your accent comes from then? - or refer to his skin color - Well, you are mulatto... - and he would take like I just ordered him to don a sombrero and clean the bathroom.



Good points, but you know I'd add it's definitely possible to imply someone must be lazy. a liar, unable to think clearly just because of their race or national background without expressly making a contrast judgment (saying that "Blacks are /always/ more lazy than whites", "Muslims/Arabs are generally terrorist sympathizers and Christians/Whites are not"). Often it works just fine to leave the contrastive leg unstated, or to phrase it through an ironic twist and when someone asks, you just roll eyes a bit and give all the impression that it wasn't serious - by then it's long since hit home anyway. And you don't want to be seen as not geting the irony, so it's a bit embaraasing to ask or to try to bring out what one might think is demeaning about this oarticular ironic slur. A guy trades a joke implying all Italians are layabouts and act like Berlusconi as long as they're able to, it's ironic of course but also placed in a context where it's meant to work as a put-down, if not of all Italians then a stab at some particular Italians. And if you're an Italian and everyone else arund are wasp, you may have to keep smiling about it.

It's slippery when one starts with something that's a throwaway "fact statement" and slide towards ethnic generalizations. Like this one -it's an ironic send-up oif that very procedure made by a comedian from my country in the sixties, showing the easy slide (at the time, the n-word was a bit more accepted than now but already felt to be vaguely dismissive and in-your-face)

Some negroes are lazy.
Many negroes can't help appear lazy.
You'll find lazy people in this world, mostly negroes.
Most negroes are lazy all the time.
NIGGERS ARE LAZY.
What a lazy guy you are! Are you a nigger?
Man, that was one industrious nigger. Indeed, he must be white.

Not even the last one overtly, unmistakably implies that whites have to be stronger and more hard-working than blacks, although that's the real implication. It could still be defended, made to come out as being built on just "some niggers are lazy and some whites are honest and industrious people", you needn't define how many you think it is on either side. And it could appear (sophistically) to say that if you're a good black and work hard, you can be promoted to be seen as an honorary whitey, so the person saying this could claim he wasn't being racist at all.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2011, 12:05:02 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Silk

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #21 on: February 20, 2011, 03:08:01 PM »
I'd have to agree with the lady here, Question Mark, because from what I've seen you're headed toward a more scientific view with your examples. Politics and Science rarely mesh well. Anything pointed or even abstractly said about a race could be taken as offensive by those hearing it, and it most typically will. As this, it's marked you as the offender, similar to a person rear ending a car. It may have stopped full on in front of you, but by default because you ran into the back of the person's car, it's the judge most typically renders it your fault.

Some claims are alleged, others more sincere. Regardless it's more often better to simply stand away from commenting upon a hereditary feature, as it's likely to lead with your foot in your mouth one way or another. I could be wrong on this, and I'm sure someone will probably compound on what I've said, but it has been my personal experience.

I disagree for some part, because as part of medical science its sometimes required to take racial heritage into the equation, like my earlier example of those of african heriftage tend to be significantly more prone to sickle cell amnemia. Its a Observation that leads to saving lives by distrubting more resources to that vulnerable group.

Offline Noelle

Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #22 on: February 20, 2011, 03:19:17 PM »

Good points, but you know I'd add it's definitely possible to imply someone must be lazy. a liar, unable to think clearly just because of their race or national background without expressly making a contrast judgment (saying that "Blacks are /always/ more lazy than whites", "Muslims/Arabs are generally terrorist sympathizers and Christians/Whites are not"). Often it works just fine to leave the contrastive leg unstated, or to phrase it through an ironic twist and when someone asks, you just roll eyes a bit and give all the impression that it wasn't serious - by then it's long since hit home anyway. And you don't want to be seen as not geting the irony, so it's a bit embaraasing to ask or to try to bring out what one might think is demeaning about this oarticular ironic slur. A guy trades a joke implying all Italians are layabouts and act like Berlusconi as long as they're able to, it's ironic of course but also placed in a context where it's meant to work as a put-down, if not of all Italians then a stab at some particular Italians. And if you're an Italian and everyone else arund are wasp, you may have to keep smiling about it.

I'm not really sure if I understand you here. Stereotypes are stereotypes and I find it kind of pointless to even mention race at all if we're only talking about subjective quantities -- some or part of a population. Some Asians are good at math. Well, big surprise, so are some white people, some Hispanic people, some African people, so what is the relevancy of race in that statement if you're not making a generalization?

It's still not okay to make stabs at a person and attribute it to their race, even if you're only talking about "some" of their race. Saying that "you're lazy, it must be because you're black -- but not ALL black people are lazy!" is still offensive and still implies that there is some kind of inherent flaw that makes black people more susceptible to laziness, which there is not and there is no proof that indicates it otherwise. You don't have to explicitly say "I'm better than you" or "your race is inferior in X or Y area" to imply it; hypothetically speaking, if there WAS some kind of genetic flaw in a certain race that made them more prone to laziness or drunkenness or what-have-you, it doesn't take a big leap of logic to infer that it must be somehow better to be another race because you're not as prone to those vices. It would be kind of hard to argue otherwise.

Feigning irony really doesn't make that message any easier to swallow. But as I said, maybe I've misunderstood you, your post wasn't entirely clear, so feel free to help me understand what you want to say.

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Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #23 on: February 20, 2011, 03:22:56 PM »
I disagree for some part, because as part of medical science its sometimes required to take racial heritage into the equation, like my earlier example of those of african heriftage tend to be significantly more prone to sickle cell amnemia. Its a Observation that leads to saving lives by distrubting more resources to that vulnerable group.

It's interesting to note at this point that sickle cell trait (being a carrier for sickle cell anemia) makes one less likely to suffer from malaria.  Therefore, this particular gene gets selected for in areas in which malaria is prevalent.  (Better to have half the population protected than none of it.  Having two genes for sickle cell gives you the anemia, but even that can be seen as preferable to being infected by parasites.)  That happens to be more or less tropical regions - areas where high melanin content is also selected for as protection against UV rays.

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Re: A Note on Racism
« Reply #24 on: February 21, 2011, 12:06:25 AM »
I'm not really sure if I understand you here. Stereotypes are stereotypes and I find it kind of pointless to even mention race at all if we're only talking about subjective quantities -- some or part of a population. Some Asians are good at math. Well, big surprise, so are some white people, some Hispanic people, some African people, so what is the relevancy of race in that statement if you're not making a generalization?

It's still not okay to make stabs at a person and attribute it to their race, even if you're only talking about "some" of their race. Saying that "you're lazy, it must be because you're black -- but not ALL black people are lazy!" is still offensive and still implies that there is some kind of inherent flaw that makes black people more susceptible to laziness, which there is not and there is no proof that indicates it otherwise. You don't have to explicitly say "I'm better than you" or "your race is inferior in X or Y area" to imply it; hypothetically speaking, if there WAS some kind of genetic flaw in a certain race that made them more prone to laziness or drunkenness or what-have-you, it doesn't take a big leap of logic to infer that it must be somehow better to be another race because you're not as prone to those vices. It would be kind of hard to argue otherwise.

Feigning irony really doesn't make that message any easier to swallow. But as I said, maybe I've misunderstood you, your post wasn't entirely clear, so feel free to help me understand what you want to say.

Well yeah, I would agree. The point I further wished to make in my post, then, was that framing it in an ironic form or loosely implying that "Jim is a conman and a pimp but what can you expect, he's as black as shoeshine" or "the Gypsy women where I live, they're always making visits to shops, five in a band, lifting things off and putting them within their long skirts and then walking out without paying for a thing" is sometimes used as a cover for really putting veiled statements about everyone of a certain race. Only it's done in a way that evades making "hardcore", literal racist statements (and remember, I come from a part of the world where race isn't as regularly brought in on all issues as it seems to be in North America*; if you want to bring it in on a line of thinking, an ad, a book here; if you want to criticize covert race thinking and racial stereotyping over here - or if you want to play it bluntly racist - you soimetimes have to overtly push the race card yourself and risk coming across as pretentious or lacking a healthy sense of humour. We're less self-conscious about this than Americans I think, though not innocent. People here in Scandinavia are aware of race and ethnicity but it's not seen as a matter of course that race patterning must apply to all kinds of communication, arts, books, films, politics or attitudes)

I think some of the Danish Muhammed cartoons used those backdoor ways of propagating racist or xenophobic ideas. "Muslim" is not literally a race but in many places it's effectively used as a race brand, it denotes a very pronounced out-group, and in Denmark there had been a lot of virulent debate about Muslims being inherently leeching and unable to adapt to a free society; there are also laws directed at Muslim immigrants and resident aliens. While I don't think the cartoions would have qualified as hate speech in a legal sense - in any case, in Denmark the prevailing idea in the native public sphere is that they don't want to hear of concepts such as 'hate speech' or any need for self-restraint in public speech - still, the pictures were "fired" in a country and a context that had already long been riddled with islamophobia and the jókes they made were very smug. I think the nature of the Muslim reactions that would happen and which would get noticed, those reactions were sort of inscribed into the pictures themselves, in the angles those pictures made, particularly the one with the bomb in the turban and this one where the teacher, who is white-skinned and could be ethnically either Danish or a Middle Eastern guy, in any case he's been hired, and called Muhammad and teaching a class in a Danish school, is telling them in Arabic lettering that the people at the newspaper that published the cartoons are a band of reactionary, fiilthy provocateurs.  As I read it, that cartoon sets up an expected outburst of anger, before it happened in this case, and coming claims that the paper are right-wing scum - they had already been claimed to be by some in public debate, both Danish-born and foreign-born - and it hints that anyone who will question what the paper does is an Arab lover, helps pave the way for an Arabization of the country (and of Europe as a whole). Education in the future, according to that drawing, will obviously be conducted in Arabic, not Danish, and bend to Muslim sensibilities. Such people also lack a sense of humour and aren't really Danish, because knowing how to take things with a smile is an essential trait in being Danish. So the image disarms any reaction that would follow from foreigners, except for the most insipid ones or wholehearted approval. It also disallows any attempt to question their status as 'foreigners': are we always foreigners when we live here? are my kids foreigners, they're born here? is it disruptive if we'd form political movements of our own? why are some of us treated as second-rate people?**

A moderate response or reasoned criticism would not have been publicized or highlighted in the major news media, but when there were first protest motions led by imams and ambassadors oif Arab countries, then a boycott of Danish foodstuffs in the Arab world, then attacks on Danish and Swedish embassies by people who had likely not even seen the pictures, it was told in a way that implied this was the typical immoderate and violent Muslim reaction: "what can you expect? just like in the pictures, no?"

It's only recently that Denmark or Sweden has seen any real attempts at islamistic terrorism on their native soil (the cartoons were first printed back in 2004)  but those cartoons presupposed that Muslims as a community are hellbent on terrorism and intolerance, no matter where they live, they always are, and they were meant to trigger an angry reaction (even if only from a minority among Muslims) which, in turn, would be made fuin of in a media world bent on celebrating whitebread "Danishness". I am not okay with that, to me the intention was clearly racist even if the pictures as such were formally non-prosecutable.

*The original post being made by a U:S: American, and I think the way it was framed was recognizably "American" although the issues are global.
**I'm a white-skinned Swede myself but those kinds of questions by immigrants and their kids are completely legitimate of course.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2011, 10:02:08 AM by gaggedLouise »