Category Archives: racism

Word Crimes

Rosencrantz: What are you playing at?
Guildenstern: Words, words. They’re all we have to go on.
           Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

She chastised me because I used a word. She told me a person cannot be Oriental, since it is degrading. I was out of the loop, I did not know. The preferred word is Asian, a person can be an Asian.

What’s in a word? It helps us communicate and limits our communication at the same time. It can be artificial, complex and ever-changing. There is heaven and hell in those words. Take pleasure in its playfulness and beauty. Find frustration when communication fails.

In Latin, orient simply means east. That was the origin of the word and the end of it became insulting. Evidently people from Asia don’t call themselves Oriental, and it’s best to call people the name that they prefer. I learned that calling a person Oriental is an antiquated term that calls to mind a time when Western peoples viewed Asians in a subordinate way.

So Asian or Asian-American is preferred. And so is African-American. Say Native-American instead of American Indian. An Indian is actually an Asian. We end up chasing our tails.

This whole idea of hyphenating Americans is a bit odd to me since hyphenation carries its own inherent flaws.

The word America is named after Amerigo Vespucci. An Italian explorer, Amerigo stumbled upon what is now part of Brazil. An early mapmaker decided to name this part of the world America after this Amerigo guy and plunked that label onto his map. Soon other mapmakers started to label the lands north of Brazil as America also. So by chance, the continents were called North and South America.

So where does this leave hyphenated Americans? You give up the words like Oriental and Black in exchange for the name of a dead-white man that poked his nose into an indigenous population beyond his own borders. I don’t see a vast improvement. Other words such as black, white, red, and yellow also fail to accurately describe human beings.

The West creates more word crimes than anyone else. Through a modern political lens, Western civilization has a name, and that name is evil. The word and the land America may find itself in jeopardy.

Native-Americans crossed into the the Americas about 25,000 years ago; relative newcomers to this land since humans first appeared on the planet about 160,000 years ago in East Africa.

In more realistic terms, we are all East Africans that have wandered far across the globe. A politically correct analysis: We torment the rest of the animal and plant kingdoms, and tamper with the climate and the earth’s crust. All of humanity is the real evil in this world view. Paradise was lost when humans entered the scene.

The world and the words in it are not perfect and never will be. Can’t we just relax and enjoy our discourse and disagreements without a call to self-flagellation? Do the best we can, do no purposeful harm, and move on. That’s all we have to go on. Go peacefully.

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I Blame My Mother for How I Feel About the Jews

The 78 record was spinning Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” on the record player. My friend and I just discovered this stash of 78’s in my basement and they were hilarious to us. We made fun of this old music not realizing the connection swing music had to our favorite music, rock and roll.

So “In the Mood” was playing and my mother came in and for some unknown reason started listing great historical and modern problems. She went thought a long list and finally she said, “Do you know who is behind all these problems?” Slight dramatic pause and then she said, “The Jews.”

Glenn Miller just started his loud horn work after a long period of hushed music as she said this. My friend and I laughed our heads off. The music was too funny, and my mother’s comment was so beyond absurd.

How could one group of people be the cause of all the bad stuff that ever happened on earth? Historically, the Jewish people were chased out of every country in the world, and if they were allowed to stay, they were treated like crap. The crap is never ending.

I learned young not to trust my mother’s ideas. She had some crazy ones. So my knee-jerk reaction was to swing (thanks Glenn) to the opposite viewpoint. I’ve been doing this all my life.

I am amazed and horrified by the anti-semetic protests happening in the world right now. Ethnic cleansing is abhorrent to most people, but exceptions are always made in the case of the Jews.

Being Christian is a rough road to travel in large parts of the world too. Killing Christians is also a justifiable act. All you secularists out there, don’t think that you are immune, you just might be on that list too. Where is this thing called civilized society? The dark ages are still with us.

My mother is dead, but the list is alive and well.

Racism and the White Woman, 2

I’m from Detroit. A writer of a recent Detroit newspaper article would argue with me on this point since I never actually lived on any street within the city. I am a phony because I only lived near the city of Detroit.

When I lived in Warren, Michigan, I could look across 8 Mile and see Detroit from my kitchen window. (No, I do not hang out with Sarah Palin.)

Before that, I lived in Hamtramck a couple of blocks from the Detroit city limit. Hamtramck is a small city that is completely surrounded by Detroit.

The street I lived on in Hamtramck created and at the same time broke down some racial barriers. I lived on one side of the street where all the houses were occupied by white people. Across the street, all the houses were occupied by black people. Divided right down the middle. At the age of four, all the white and black people sitting on their front porches sort of looked the same to me.

One of my first observations of racism took place in the women’s clothing section of a department store. I was with my mother and grandmother. Two teenage girls debated over the monumental decision of which blouse they should buy.

My grandmother spoke in Polish to my mother, “Just look at that, black people are shopping here!” Her words implied that these black teenagers should be banned from certain places and activities. This is the first time I remember being fed a racist thought.

This was the late 1950’s and within a few years all the houses on my divided street were torn down. The dismantling continued into the 1960’s.

Racism and the White Woman

A Kenyan-born professor taught an African Studies class I took at an American college. One time he mentioned that the American Slave trade forever skewed the relationship between Europeans and Africans. The relationship was healthy between them before the horrible trade began and should have remained so. But the growing market for slaves in the Americas altered the dynamics.

This was an offhand comment and the professor didn’t dwell on it, nor make it a political point. It was a basic observation and lament. Many years later, this one comment remains vivid in my mind.

Africans traded worldwide as equal economic partners with other countries and continents. Advanced civilizations flourished on the African soil. The Library of Alexandria in Egypt was once the largest and grandest in the Mediterranean world. Slave did not define an African.

And yet here we are. Racism is central to the American fabric according to some groups. Even if racism is diminishing, it is not gone.

Africa has a rich history. Racism was the result and not the cause of slavery. Slave traders dehumanized Africans so that they could treat this one race as if they were property. Slavery obscures the historical Africa.

The real story of Africa is not victimhood. A sense of healing in the future might begin if we can revisit the past.