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while i'm posting my essays, here's one on why i am possibly a racist, and you may be too - here is where i live

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October 22nd, 2004


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04:17 am - while i'm posting my essays, here's one on why i am possibly a racist, and you may be too
someone, i think chris, said the other day that he realized racism existed in our society when he was looking at a box of crayons. there was one crayon in there that was pinkish, and the name of that color was skin. pink was Skin Color, as opposed to brown or yellow or plaid, which are all Not Skin Colors. no one at the crayon factory was neccesarily saying "people with brown skin are inferior", or even "people with brown skin are incorrectly pigmented". probably, none of them even thought that. but they were in effect saying that all those brown-skinned people were not the default, in the same sense that diet coke and regular coke are both subsets of coke, but regular coke nonetheless IS coke. all skin colors are legitamite skin colors, but pink skin IS skin color.
but then, look at language. one of the things that really gets under my skin is people who try to whitewash language of any possible inferences. as an english major and a linguist, i am very aware of how language can develop layers of meaning, but can never mean more than it means to the society of people using that language. if i call someone a motherfucker, i am not actually saying anything about their fucking mothers, or about whether it would be right or wrong for them to do so. motherfucker basically has the meaning for me of generic insult, and i think most people interpret it that way. so if somebody were to come along and say that we should all stop using the word motherfucker because it implies that there is something Wrong and Bad about fucking mothers, i would tell them they're fulla crap, because despite what the word may look like it means and what it may historically have meant and what they interpret it to mean - which is all irrelevent to this debate - in the common usage by which it is commonly used it means only generic insult. for another example, the word whitewash, which i used at the beginning of the paragraph and which you probably gave no thought to. the word, as i understand it, means 'to change something's appearance so it is acceptable, even though it has not actually been changed in substance'. white happens to be in the word, but it could just as easily be plaidwash and have the exact same meaning. when i use that word, i am not thinking, even metaphorically, that changing any other color to white makes it more acceptable. and the people in that crayon factory were not thinking brown skin is incorrectly pigmented. if a Skin Color crayon is racist, why isn't whitewash?

update: i am gonna toss in another example now, just because i thought of it. i like apples, they are tasty. my favorite apples are usually green or yellow. nonetheless, at any such times as i should have to draw apples, i will always color them in red, because in some corner of my brain that dictates such thing, apples ARE red. and people ARE white straight upper-middle-class males. if they're not, that's fine, but initially they are.
is this bad? on the one hand, if i need to color in apples, i need to pick some color for them to be. english has no neuter pronouns, so if i'm going to talk about a person without getting really stupid about it, the person will either be a he or a she. pick one. doesn't matter which. on the other hand, i am picking one based on something obviously, and even if i am not aware of any bias other than in pronoun selection, it could be elsewhere.

(25 shots upside the head | en garde!)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:leyse
Date:October 22nd, 2004 07:20 am (UTC)
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whitewash has more meaning than that though. it's a mixture of like, lye and water and some sort of white stain and it's used for walls and fences when people are too poor to buy paint. it has the connotation of... i guess ... hiding flaws without fixing the underlying problem? the whole "white-washed seplucher" thing... obviously Jesus wasn't digging white people... but they were literally staining graves white to make them look cleaner rather than dusting. get me?
[User Picture]
From:zombeer
Date:October 22nd, 2004 07:24 am (UTC)
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i think it's because people generally argue that white isn't a color, much like black, but rather a shade. these people are of course, idiots.

if someone says "fuck you" to me, i take them up on the offer. generally, this illicits(sp?) a chuckle, but if i were living in a porno then that chuckle would be followed by some hardcore bow-chick-a-bow
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:October 23rd, 2004 12:55 pm (UTC)
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okay i was debating this the other day. can there be shades of black? i'm pretty sure black is just black. if two things are both labeled as black, but they don't match, one of them is NOT really black.
[User Picture]
From:zombeer
Date:October 23rd, 2004 06:33 pm (UTC)
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exactly
[User Picture]
From:xpuella8x
Date:October 22nd, 2004 09:45 am (UTC)
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how do you know what the people in the factory were thinking? and just because it's not a thought on the forefront of their minds it does speak to their subconscious thoughts at least.
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:October 23rd, 2004 12:44 pm (UTC)
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i don't know, hence the "necesarily"s and "probably"s. but if they're actively racist, then the rest of the argument is irrelevent anyway. and i agree, it does, but what is it saying about their thoughts
[User Picture]
From:silverwraith
Date:October 22nd, 2004 01:08 pm (UTC)

speaking as another english major & linguist

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ack, don't get me started on the idiocy of PC jargon and nit-picking language.
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:October 22nd, 2004 01:18 pm (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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no, please do get started. that was the point of my post - i feel the same way about how stupid it is, but i was thinking about that last night and can sortof see their point
[User Picture]
From:silverwraith
Date:October 22nd, 2004 01:52 pm (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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my pet peeve is "mankind." in this case the term "man" doesn't mean "male", it's a generic term for people in general. if you're going to be all pissy about that, why not be pissy about "humankind" too? hey look, it's got "man" in it too! blasphemy!

the day I went in to help my mom grade spelling tests, I was looking through the new writing books. apparently now you're supposed to address a business letter to "Dear Chair" instead of "Dear Chairman" or Chairperson.

*shrug* maybe I'm just extra easily annoyed. sometimes when I'd write papers I'd deliberately use Mankind just to irk my professors. heh.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 22nd, 2004 06:21 pm (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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i get so peeved at people who use "humankind" or things like that; they don't realize that "man" in that sense IS a generic term meaning people as a whole. they just automatically assume it's sexist.

however, my dad is a chair of a department and they all call him (and the women chairs) "chair." i think it developed out of convenience and not being PC.
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:October 23rd, 2004 12:40 pm (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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no, i think they understand it's a generic term in that sense. the problem is, the generic term chosen IS the word for males, who get to represent the whole species. that's what's sexist about it. or so the argument goes

who is this, btw?
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:October 23rd, 2004 12:41 pm (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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wymymkind, yo.

i'm going to address a letter to Chair, and if a person answers have them arrested for mail fraud because it wsn't addressed to them, but to their chair.
[User Picture]
From:silverwraith
Date:October 23rd, 2004 02:09 pm (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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I don't think I could even send a real business letter out with that heading--at least, not without much snarky giggling before hand.

wymyn. argh. *sponges it from the English lexicon*
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:November 30th, 2005 11:31 am (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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so i am reading through old posts and i spotted this. i just last week learned the Evil Truth about mankind, etc.

apparently back in the day, when we were basically speaking shitty german, 'man'[1] really did mean generic person. wo- was the prefix for female, and there was another prefix for male. at some point we lost the male prefix. i suppose that doesn't change the argument, since man does mean male person now and its history is irrelevent to such things, but i thought it was neat to find out how we got man/woman.

[1] okay, it was actually 'mann' or something, because we're talking germanic here. and the female prefix, which i now forget, was not exactly wo-. i think the male prefix was something like wyr-, which eventually morphed into were-, as in werewolf.
[User Picture]
From:silverwraith
Date:December 2nd, 2005 09:27 pm (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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veeerry interesting. *taps her chin*

fo' real, yo. word history is fun. :) I think I was one of the few people who actually enjoyed my "history of the English language" course. it was required for all branches of English Majors and most people cried every night they were enrolled.
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:December 5th, 2005 11:08 pm (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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i liked my history of the english language class too. it wasn't required at unh though, it was an obscure little linguistics class. why would they require it for, say, aspiring journalists? that's like an even more useless gen ed
[User Picture]
From:silverwraith
Date:December 6th, 2005 05:18 am (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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I liked my class so much that I did an independent study with the same prof. she was very cool--knew tons of stuff about old & middle english, and could speak them both.
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:December 7th, 2005 11:24 am (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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sweet! what was the ind. study?
[User Picture]
From:silverwraith
Date:December 8th, 2005 04:59 am (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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in-depth reading and study of Beowulf, Gawain & the Green Knight, and selections from Canterbury Tales. she didn't make me read them in the old or middle english (a good thing), but my editions were dual-language so we did a lot of word comparison between the translations and the originals. it was my favorite uni class over the whole four years. :)
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:December 13th, 2005 11:28 am (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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i never read gawain, but slogging thorugh beowulf and parts of the canterbury tales in school was always a torture to me. i'm a bad english major - i hate most of the classics.
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From:silverwraith
Date:December 14th, 2005 04:22 am (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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I can see why Canterbury Tales aren't a favorite of the masses. they were my least favorite assignment for the study, but I definitely prefer them to Virginia Woolf.
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:December 14th, 2005 05:13 am (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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never read any woolf
[User Picture]
From:silverwraith
Date:December 14th, 2005 07:30 am (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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don't bother. vastly overrated, in my not so very humble opinion.
[User Picture]
From:kingnixon
Date:December 14th, 2005 07:34 am (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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heh. well i have a book (i forget which) buried in my room somewhere. one of these days i might even open it
[User Picture]
From:silverwraith
Date:December 15th, 2005 03:24 am (UTC)

Re: speaking as another english major & linguist

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if I was you I'd skip opening it and move it directly to the firestarter pile. I've had to read Orlando, To the Lighthouse, Mrs Dalloway, and..um...one more that I can't remember. but I hated them all. then again, I'm in the minority with my Woolf Loathing (tm).

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