Tag Archives: language

Open Thread: On Language and Terms

by Latoya Peterson

So I noticed that one of the themes discussed on Joe’s Look Twice post focused around his use of certain terms. Specifically the words bitch and son of a bitch.

This isn’t the first post on Racialicious to spark some controversy over use of language. A while back, Fatemeh’s post on Halloween costumes prompted criticism for her use of the word slutty. I’ve had criticism leveled at me for using the words heifer and calling myself The Editrix.

Now, I understand the criticisms. But I’m coming at this from a slightly different perspective. So I am wondering…

1. Where in this is the author’s right to relate a story as they see fit?

2. At what point do the words used in the source piece encourage/discourage certain types of dialogue in the comments section? (For example, I’ve deleted scores of misogynistic comments [from men and women] on the Ciara piece and on the Esther Ku piece – though neither of those posts contained the type of gendered language that normally prompts an outcry.)

3. Is it possible for a place designed to encourage conversation to also be a safe space?

Postmaster Refuses to Serve Non-English Speaking Patrons

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

The Daily Mail has published an article about a British postmaster’s controversial move: He’s refusing to serve customers who don’t speak English. Complicating matters is that the postmaster, who works in a culturally diverse section of Nottingham, is of Sri Lankan decent. He became a naturalized British citizen 17 years ago.

“I tell them if they don’t speak the language and they can’t be bothered to learn, then don’t bother coming here,” the Daily Mail quoted Deva Kumarasiri as saying.

In making this statement, Kumarasiri ignores his background of privilege. For instance, later in the article, we discover that he learned English in school in his native Sri Lanka. This is an opportunity that scores of immigrants never receive.

The author of the article doesn’t say what age Kumarasiri was when he began to learn English, but studies have shown that the younger a person is when introduced to a language, the better chance the person has of mastering it. So, if Kumarasiri was a minor when he learned English, he has an additional edge over the immigrants he accuses of not “bothering to learn” the language. And is it fair to say that the immigrants in his area haven’t bothered to learn? I could argue that Kumarasiri didn’t bother to learn English either. He had to speak English by virtue of being a student in a school that instructed him in the language.

Throughout the article, Kumarasiri continues to make arguments that are downright shoddy. He resorts to using offensive clichés when he says, “If you don’t want to be British, go home.” Even when he puts more thought into his explanations for banning non-English speakers from his shop, his points are flawed. For example, Kumarasiri argues, “The fabric of the nation begins to unravel if we don’t all speak the same language.” Continue reading

Another Weird-ass Skittles Commercial

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

A lot of folks have wrote in this week to tell about this really bizarre Skittles commercial, featuring two dudes yelling at each other in Thai and Tagalog. It really makes no sense to me at all. And I don’t know what’s weirder — that the two Asian guys are yelling at each other in different languages, or that the white guy has a multicultural reflection. “Reflect the Rainbow.” Get it? Me neither.

Race & Video Games Update – Animal Crossing and Black College Football

by Latoya Peterson

As I have mentioned before, I am behind on my game related reading. So luckily, reader Tony sent in this item from Game Politics, as it would have slipped under my radar:

Louisiana game publisher Nerjyzed Game Studios is readying the launch of an Xbox 360 version of its Black College Football Experience game, reports The Advocate. The release of BCFx will mark the first-ever publication of a console game by an African-American owned studio.

A national ad campaign for Black College Football Experience will kick off today during the Bayou Classic as Southern University and Grambling square off in their 35th gridiron tilt.

I had read about Nerjyzed a while back in Black Enterprise so I was pleased to see that their game has finally made it out of development and into rotation.

However, I should have known that racism patrol was going to come out in full force. Continue reading

Open Thread: Uncle Toms and House Negroes

by Latoya Peterson

Okay, so first, it was Nader talking about how Obama “might” act like an “Uncle Tom.”

Now, Al-Qaeda’s called him a house negro.

What did Eric D. say in the comments? Stop the world, I want to get off? I concurr. I need a damn nap, so there isn’t much intelligent commentary from me on this one. I think all I can muster is a spew of profanity.

Luckily, Dr. Melissa Harris Lacewell & Dr. Yolanda Pierce over at The Kitchen Table have us covered.

First, there was Melissa’s response to the “house negro” incident:

I didn’t start a revolution at The Kitchen Table while you were in class, but Al-Qaeda was clearly tripping while I was teaching. After my long seminar yesterday I came back to my office to a phone call from a Saudi newspaper. They wanted to talk with me about the fact that Ayman al-Zawahri accused Obama of being a “House Negro.”

When I first heard the message I thought one of my friends was teasing me. A Saudi newspaper is reporting on Al-Qaeda calling Barack a House Negro? Doesn’t that sound like some kind of twisted practical joke that my overly intellectual friends would perpetrate? But the story is true and I find this latest Al-Qaeda video truly fascinating. Continue reading

Retro Flashback: Ruminations on a Song and on a Word

by Latoya Peterson


Warning – Explicit Language

While I was researching a piece for Feministe, I stumbled across an old video.

The video is of a TV appearance for John Lennon and Yoko Ono, performing their song “Woman is the Nigger of the World” on the Dick Cavett show.

John Lennon goes into great detail as to how the record was made. He mentions that most of the people who have an issue with the title are white and male. Also in his explanation, he notes “All my black friends feel I have quite a right to say it.”

He also reads a statement from the then-chairman of the Black Caucus:

“If you define nigger as someone whose lifestyle is defined by others, whose opportunities are defined by others, whose role in society is defined by others, then good news! – you don’t have to be black to be a nigger in this society. Most of the people in America are niggers.”

Lennon goes on to say “I think the word nigger has changed, and it does not have the same meaning that it used to.”

They then go into the song.

Thoughts?

Only Muslims Can Be “Terrorists”

by Guest Contributor Jesse Singal, originally published at Pushback.org

Over the weekend a disturbing story ran in the Dayton Daily News:

Baboucarr Njie was preparing for his prayer session Friday night, Sept. 26, when he heard children in the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton coughing. Soon, Njie himself was overcome with fits of coughing and, like the rest of those in the building, headed for the doors.

“I would stay outside for a minute, then go back in, there were a lot of kids,” Njie said. “My throat is still itchy, I need to get some milk.”

Njie was one of several affected when a suspected chemical irritant was sprayed into the mosque at 26 Josie St., bringing Dayton police, fire and hazardous material personnel to the building at 9:48 p.m.

Someone “sprayed an irritant into the mosque,” Dayton fire District Chief Vince Wiley said, noting that fire investigators believe it was a hand-held spray can.

According to fire dispatch communications, a child reported seeing two men with a white can spraying something into a window. That child was brought to the supervising firefighter at the scene.

There’s one word that’s conspicuously absent from this account: “terrorist.” If spraying a chemical irritant into a room full of civilians isn’t a terrorist act, then what is? Continue reading

Interracial Dating: “Beyond Race” versus “Anti-Racist Dating”

by Guest Contributor Lisa, originally published at Orange Crushed

When I was in elementary school, maybe second grade, a white classmate asked me the deep, probing question: “When you get married, is it going to be to a white man or a black man?” To someone like me who is biracial, this question is probably up there with “Are you adopted?” and “Can I touch your hair?” But even at 7 years old, I felt that this was silly — how could I possibly know who I was going to marry so far in the future? And why would I care what color he was as long as he had all of the stereotypical Prince Charming qualities that little girls are taught that men should have? And besides, my 7-year-old self pointed out, what if he’s going to be Asian or Native American?

I can thank my parents for instilling in me the idea that people are people, and that it’s cool to date whoever you want. In fact, both of my parents were practicing misceganators before they got married to each other. My white mother and her black boyfriend once got kicked out of a Catholic church in the 1960s. When my parents got married in the 1970s, someone in the supposedly ultra-liberal college town that I grew up in would routinely slash the tires on their cars overnight. They raised me to believe that, despite the crap that they went through, the world was becoming a better place every day and that by the time I was an adult, I there would be nothing to worry about when it came to interracial dating.

Of course, real life didn’t work out that way. No, I never had people damaging my personal property or ostracizing me for my choices. But what I did find was that the interracial dating revolution from my parents’ time, when things were about challenging the status quo and being willing to take shit from everyone around you in the name of love, was highly romanticized compared to the pitfalls and quirks that I encountered when I was old enough to start spending time with boys. Given my status as biracial, pretty much anyone who I chose to date could have earned me the moniker of “interracial dater,” but I think that my skin is dark enough that it was assumed that by dating black guys I was dating with “my own” race. Still, throughout middle school and high school, I “went with” (as we called dating back then!) guys of various backgrounds.

However, if I look at the general pattern, I “liked” or “dated” more black guys in middle school and progressively less of them as I got older. This is a little bit of a digression, but I was always a tomboy, and the last black guy I dated, in my junior year of high school, really put me off by asking me a bunch of seemingly sexist (or at least nit-picky) questions about “what happened to your nails?” because I don’t get them done and “why don’t you try and look more cute” and stuff like that. I think at some point after that, as I made my way through college, I decided that I couldn’t/didn’t want to live up to a lot of the standards that the black men I knew seemed to have for women, because I didn’t care about makeup or getting my hair done and because I was actually a huge nerd who spent her time playing video games and chatting on the Internet (of course now I know that perfectly nerdy brothers exist too, but at the time I was feeling more than a little jaded).

Anyway, back to the main point. Out of the white guys that I dated before I got married, most of them fell into the category of thinking of themselves as “beyond race.” By this I mean that they were the kind of people who would proclaim that they honestly didn’t “see” color when they looked at people, due to some kind of extra special social enlightenment that they had attained and now wanted to brag about. Continue reading