Prometheus von Cornsilk (kingnixon) wrote,
Prometheus von Cornsilk

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.

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