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Re: Ebonic Xmas

From:John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Date:Thursday, January 13, 2000, 17:17
hoensch@SOFTHOME.NET wrote:

> My supposition that a word written and pronounced the same way means the > same is (whatever else it might be) very sane and logical.
"Apartheid" may be a perfectly ordinary word for "separation", but in its South African context the stink that it created fills the whole world.
> And furthermore, > as I stated, in a number of languages (including my mother tongue) the > equivelant word means "black (people)".
True in German, emphatically not true in English. This can be established by looking at the compounds: "nigger-work", for example, means work of the most menial and degrading kind. (This term is as taboo as the original, BTW, but I am willing on *this* list, where civility is the norm, to *refer* to words that I wouldn't *use*.)
> And if amongst blacks it is a word recalling a "shared > experience" than can whites or asians use it to address their black > classmates? It is one word. It is the same word.
Some years ago I read in the newspaper the story of a young man who gets up every morning, looks at himself in the mirror, and intones "Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger." He said: "If I can survive that, the rest of the day is no problem."
> If it truly is offensive, stop using it. Otherwise it is just > a setup for blacks to be offended.
I happen to agree with this, and so (speaking of black comedians) did Richard Pryor, who abandoned the word in his comedy after his trip to Africa.
> The poem had no malevolence.
It was indeed malevolent, insofar as one can judge intent from objective criteria, and knowing the cultural context well.
> Pray tell, Gray Wizard; why is it racist for whites (or, as in your view; > blacks) to tell jokes about blacks, but it is not when blacks are telling > jokes about whites?
Because "racism" is not synonymous with "discrimination" or "race hatred"; it refers specifically to a pattern of *institutionalized* denigration and degredation of dark-skinned people. (This point is not well understood or explained in general, and a non-native speaker can certainly be excused for not being aware of it.)
> [I]t is NOT RACIST to judge a word's meanings > BASED ON THE COLOR OF THE SPEAKER'S SKIN!
It is sensible, not silly or hate-ridden, to judge a word's meanings based on the speaker. -- Schlingt dreifach einen Kreis vom dies! || John Cowan <jcowan@...> Schliesst euer Aug vor heiliger Schau, || Denn er genoss vom Honig-Tau, || Und trank die Milch vom Paradies. -- Coleridge (tr. Politzer)