Saturday, August 30, 2008

Racism

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, racism is a belief or ideology that all members of each racial group possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as being either superior or inferior to another racial group or racial groups. The Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines racism as a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular racial group, and that it is also the prejudice based on such a belief. The Macquarie Dictionary defines racism as: "the belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others."

So if I am reading this correctly to tell a joke with a racial slant does not make you a racist, right?

4 comments:

Travis said...

when you tell a racist joke ("so a mexican walks into a bar") you are defining "all members of [that] racial group" with whatever the punch line implies (lazy, sweaty, sex-crazed, whatever). Which to means you are explicitly saying that group "possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as being either superior or inferior to another racial group or racial group" Because the implication is you couldn't trade the word 'Mexican' in that example with the word "White-American" ... the joke wouldn't "be funny" or at the very least the punchline wouldn't "work."

Next I'd have to say telling such a joke where your own ethnicity can't be interchanged with the butt of the joke if its to work really is
"a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular racial group, and that it is also the prejudice based on such a belief" by the simple fact that you can dehumanize that other race by catagorically lumping them all together and looking down on them by making fun of them.

Finally I'd have to say the very act of telling a joke that dehumanizes another race reflects
"the belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others."

So I'd have to say yes the definitions to say telling a racist joke makes you a racist.

But I also believe everyone is racist...by our very nature we want to feel superior to others and we are fearful of differences. What defines us evolutionarily as 'civilized' is when we can recognize our inner racism and fear, work to rise above it, and fight to respect each other and value, not devalue other races and cultures

Melissa said...

We will have to continue this in person I'm sick of typing :)

Melissa said...

But I will say I really don't see the problem with noticing differences.

When I was in high school my best friend was Libby. Her mom was Lolly sister Lori other sister Linda. Their neighbors were chinese so the family became Ribby, Rorry, Rori and Rinda. We would laugh about it and she would laugh about our big white girl butts. We noticed these differences, made fun of them and accepted being made of ourselves.

I don't think either one of us were racist. My point at the beginning of all this was that there are greater and lesser evils. I don't think you do a thing for your particular cause when you go extreme. When feminists try to change the name of "manholes" or when the Pro life movement blows up abortion clinics. People lose sympathy for your cause when you go all nit picky. So save the indignation for the big stuff.

So do you think that you aren't "allowed" to believe certain races have differences? That the Sherpa's in Nepal don't have bodies that over years ARE superior in Mountain climbing? That ours are in fact inferior? And does that belief make you racist? And is that bad?

Travis said...

I agree I think this conversation is best continued in person.

I totally think ethnic groups are different. Clearly Curtis has different skin color than I do, his hair grows differently than mine does, and his eyes are a different shape.

I totally think we should recognize these differences..and celebrate our own heritage. I think its good to talk about the differences and with people we trust even laugh about them.

My point from the beginning was that when a joke dehumanizes an entire group of people I really do honestly believe that's the first step toward much worse things. When we tolerate even the smallest of dehumanizing behaviours we are complicit.

I totally agree there are shades of grey in everything...I'm not a black and whiter (forgive the cliche) about much of anything. So I'm pretty sure I get your point and respect it. I'd probably agree that among people we know and trust (who we can have serious conversations with) laughing at our differences is healthy and great. Your examples about Mark calling you a woman sometimes and your asian friends and their R's growing up.

At this point into the conversation I'm not sure I'm doing a very clear job of differentiating my point....so I'm just going to stop.

But I think this is a great conversation!