“How To Tell People They Sound Racist”

by waxnwings

How To Tell People They Sound Racist.

Enjoyed the post and the video, but had to express what it stirred.

I can understand the point of view of this person in their wanting to hold a person accountable for their “racist” comments, but the issue here I feel should be concerned more with the nature and interpretation of “racism” (emphasis on the inverted commas) itself.

To simply confront an individual concerning a supposed racist comment really does nothing but places the accuser in an assumed position of authority over what a racist act really is. More significantly, it also has to potential to re-accumulate racist issues which may have not even been intended. After all, we have overt racism and inferential racism: overt in the sense of a cross burning in your front garden, inferential in the sense of simply distinguishing a black person as ‘black’ and therefore an ‘other’ with a whole host of associated significations.

There is a big difference between racism through ignorance (or even to the ends of “humor”) and racism carried out in malice. I will not deny that often many “innocent” jokes and comments can be seen as the tip of an iceberg submerged in a cultural sea or social (even familial) circle, but does confronting the comment really address the issue? More importantly does it change anything? More than likely, no. And this is largely to do with your own interpretation of what racism is and (more importantly) what the actual comment/act actually contributes towards a tangible racist problem.

A quick personal example before I rant too long (I have already written papers ha) concerns the use of the word “chinky”. Now that’s “chinky” with a small “c”, not “Chinky” with a capital C.

“Chinky”: A shortened abbreviation designed to be racist with potential malice, usually used in an outburst of racial slurs, most likely due to its conveniently abbreviated form.

“chinky”: a takeaway meal from the local Chinese restaurant, which everyone knows does not resemble traditional Chinese food in the slightest.

It took me a long time to bring myself to recognise the difference – why? Because I felt that just because I am of Asian heritage I should take offence at any potentially racist-related comment which passed my ear. I felt uncomfortable when any of my friends said “chinky” because, in my mind, I heard “Chinky”. Now you may say that “chinky” (the meal) is derived from “Chinky” the racial slur. And to be honest, that is undoubtedly so. But words change – etymology is history – and also meanings change from culture to culture, even social circle to social circle.

So then I ask you, exactly who contributes more to the “existence” of racism: the person who uses the term “chinky” to, quite innocently, refer to a bastardised “Asian” meal, or the interlocutor who at the mere mention of the word “chinky” hears “Chinky” and immediately assumes a racial slur?

I’ve finally decided not to take offence at this word anymore. It did actually take a while, but I realised that I would prefer to bring a chinky to the table than bolster the big “Racism” itself by maintaining its presence.