Monday, June 16, 2008

Racism, What's It Good For?

I was inspired to tackle this subject after reading an interesting post on the subject, by dcup on June 13. She confessed to having been raised in a mildly racist atmosphere, and has since rejected that influence and is stridently anti-racist today. I’m not sure if the word “racism” is the correct one to use in my post, since the technical definition of racism is “a doctrine of racial superiority,” according to my Merriam-Webster Scrabble Players Dictionary (the only one I can find, right now). I think that most of us think of racism as a dislike (or hatred) of people of other races. It is also used interchangeably (and inappropriately) with “prejudice.”

(An aside…I was looking for “prejudice” in the dictionary and accidentally saw the word “priapism, a persistent erection of the penis.” Now I’m all distracted.)

Okay, back to business. “Prejudice” is the act of judging beforehand. I think that prejudice is a natural and very common human trait. We tend to have a feeling that people who look different from us probably are different from us. Then, depending on various experiences, and teaching from family and friends, negative or POSITIVE connotations may take hold in our psyches. Everyone knows that “white men can’t jump” and “blacks have rhythm,” along with countless other generalizations.

I also believe that most people of various races tend to associate more with people of their particular color than with others. I always think of the term, “birds of a feather flock together,” when I observe this. The white ducks in our pond tend to hang out with the other white ducks, instead of the grey and green mallard ducks, who hang out with other mallards. I don’t think they are racists. When I was a freshman in a California college, I lived in the dorms. My roommate, Carol, was a black girl, very, very smart, with perfect deportment. We became close friends. When we were together, she spoke perfect English (much better than my mid-west tainted dialect) and was always discreet and genteel. But when she wanted to relax and let it all hang out, she visited with several other black girls. She told me it felt good to be able to "talk broad" (kind of a southern dialect) and not be self-conscious. She took me with her once, and I felt uncomfortable, just because the atmosphere was so different from what I was used to.

Okay, I have a lot more to say, but ah'm tahred! I'll continue tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Great post, Madam.

I struggled with which word to use. Racist? Bigot? Maybe bigot is the better word.

Thanks for the link!

Randal Graves said...

This is, and always will be, a loaded subject, no matter the intentions of the participants.

Spelling errors, an overabundant use of slang terms in everyday speech and weirdo grammatical fuckups annoy me. (STOP saying 'like' every other word, you young dumbasses!) They just do, I don't care who the hell says them. As a white dude, for example, is it 'okay,' socially-speaking, if I were to be bothered when white kids say dumb stuff, but not black kids? Is one prejudiced or bigoted, and the other not, since they're white like me? I think that ties into the last part of your post: there are different cultural atmospheres, norms, mores, and some of them are simply going to feel alien since we don't experience them on a daily basis. Language (and this is just one part of this whole deal) is fluid.

Then there's the flip side where everyone follows some basic social code and we're all reduced to following some bullshit monoculture.

Madam Z said...

dcup: I think the correct word will depend on the context. My dictionary defines "bigot" as "a prejudiced person." But we are all prejudiced in some way, I think, and "bigot" has more of a negative connotation than "prejudiced," to me at least. I think all "racists" are bigots, but not all bigots are racists.

randal: I like your comments and agree with them. As for your question, "is it 'okay,' socially-speaking, if I were to be bothered when white kids say dumb stuff, but not black kids?" my answer is a resounding NO! If you are bothered by kids saying dumb stuff, you should be allowed to be equally bothered by all of the little bastards!

Liquid said...

In agreement.........great post!

"I yam who I yam!"

And that'd be from Mississippi.


I'll meet anyone where they are at.

If they feel they've landed on the wrong island......well......straddle Gilligan with yer darn paddle and God speed remembering where ya' came from!


Dr. Zaius said...

Priapism is on TV all the time now. "If you have an erection that Lasts for more than four hours..."

I think that ducks that hang out with other ducks may actually be of different species, but I could be wrong...

Ms Smack said...

Great post darlin' and welcome back!