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> o yee of little pigment: the white privilege thread
bklynhermit
post Jun 5 2006, 04:10 PM
Post #161


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From: Brooklyn, NY


snafooey, from my perspective (as someone who said '...but if they don't want to accept that... automatically wrong...'), it's like this.

the point isn't whether it was OK or not for her to say that word (though many of us are of the opinion that it wasn't). the point is that her friends are within their rights to be upset by it. because, well, we are all within our rights to feel the emotions that come naturally to us. if her friends had been offended because she used the word 'lamp-post', she would still have to understand that her friends had a right to be upset about it.

one thing that gets me a lot in these dialogues between different groups (whether it's races, sexes, whatever) is that often the dominant group feels that if their intention was benign, that the dominated group has no right to take offense. which is patently ridiculous, not to mention in this case racist.

i mean, consider this hypothetical situation. you and i are equal in all respects (american white middle class thirty year old women, let's say). we are friends having a casual friendly conversation. and you inadvertantly say something really insulting to me, really put your foot in your mouth. even if you didn't mean to hurt my feelings, i would still take offense. because whether you meant to or not, what you said really upset me.

would it not be rational that i would have a right to those feelings, even though you didn't mean to hurt me? then why is it that when the two friends are of different groups, suddenly the member of the non-dominant group who is inadvertantly insulted DOESN'T have a right to their feelings?
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snafooey
post Jun 5 2006, 03:39 PM
Post #162


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Sorry - haven't forgotten about this thread.

Venetia, I see what you're saying (and that's why I can't stand those crime shows), but I guess I'm just not sure if using the offensive term is always about exploitation. I guess you can apply the same debate to both issues - is portraying brutal crimes on film, for example, always exploitation or is it sometimes necessary?

I'm not sure - based on the little information given - whether or not it was necessary in the original story. It was more that - again, based on the context that I was given - I was surprised that the general attitude here seemed to be "Well, you apologized, but if they don't want to accept that, you have to accept that what you did was automatically wrong and now you have to suffer the consequences." Obviously I don't deny anyone's right to be offended (or to act on it), but I still can't help but wonder if there were other factors at play.

Btw, does anyone remember the song from the musical Hair in which an African-American cast member essentially lists every racist name/stereotype he can think of in his process of reclamation? Obviously he has to sing the song and not any other member of the cast, but what about, say, a little white girl who grew up with that soundtrack and tended to sing along at home? I knew what it meant (it was my parents' broadway soundtrack album, but I'd watched the movie adaptation with them on television and I knew about the Sixties and the Civil Rights movement), but did that make it acceptable? And while I never sang it separately from the listening experience (as in, if I was listening to the entire soundtrack, I might sing along, but I knew well enough not to go singing it in the schoolyard), was it even appropriate listening material in the first place? Not b/c I was too young (I was old enough) but because it's simply not appropriate subject matter for a musical?

Warning: Potentially Highly Offensive Lyrics

ETA: It should also be noted that unless there were uncredited cast contributions, that song was written by a white man. While there's something ineherently problematic about a mainstream musical celebrating the counter-culture ("you know it's over when. . ."), is this song merely exploitative or does it make a point about stereotypes. As a preteen, what I took away from it was, "You can call me whatever the fuck you want, you can think whatever you want, you can try and hold me down, but I know what I am." As an adult, it smacks of let's-pat-ourselves on the-back liberalism, but I don't think it's exploitative so much as genuinely trying to make an audience uncomfortable.
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battygurl
post Jun 5 2006, 01:06 PM
Post #163


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Good point, tyger. I'm not for editing or censoring books or other historical documents. That doesn't do anyone any favours. My own personal line would still be drawn at reading it out loud though.


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Tears are curious things, for like earthquakes or puppet shows they can occur at any time, without any warning, and without any good reason. --Lemony Snicket
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bklynhermit
post Jun 5 2006, 09:27 AM
Post #164


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i definitely agree with that, tyger. but i think there's a difference between preserving something in a document and keeping it alive in our culture. i've spent the past several weeks reading old newspapers about the Son of Sam killings for work. I'm glad those old newspapers exist, and i'm glad we can use those documents in order to make a film about it. BUT i'm also glad that those events are now firmly in the past and only still around in documentary form.

i think the reason people would be loathe to say it in reading aloud is that spoken words somehow feel like they have more power than printed ones. when i see the word, it's just printed matter. when i say the word, even just to reference it as a cultural artifact, even when i'm using someone else's words, it in a way becomes mine. which i think brings us back around to the original argument, and why the girl's friends were upset with her. because even if you're relating someone else's story, the words become yours a little bit when you say them.
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pepper
post Jun 5 2006, 07:16 AM
Post #165







kisses for tyger. beautifully said, and i whole-heartedly agree. imagine trying to imagine how ugly things have been in the past without any evidence to prove it. it's not about erasing the past to me, to me it's about erasing the past in the Present.
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tyger
post Jun 5 2006, 01:42 AM
Post #166


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i keep having thoughts on this topic, and then try to write and i ramble, and then i get scared that i don't get to have an opinion because i'm a european mutt whose family came over on the boat after the mayflower and i could probably count the people of african descent in my town on my fingers and toes. so, i'm scared of stepping on toes when i shouldn't have been dancing to begin with, if that makes sense.

i guess what it boils down to with me is that i think we shouldn't censor history. to kill a mockingbird, for example. if anyone ever decided to re-publish the book with racial slurs edited out, i would find that more offensive than the original material, because it would be an attempt to edit history and art, two things which i think should be left as they are as a reflection of the world at that time. i realize that nigger is an offensive word, and that i will never know what it feels like to be called such a thing, but at the same time i think that it's an important, if ugly, part of history and it shouldn't be feared, or hidden, or erased, because that just gives it more power.

now i'm going to back away slowly and hope i've made sense enough to get my point across without rambling or being offensive
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battygurl
post Jun 5 2006, 01:09 AM
Post #167


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I like cunt and I feel better for having reclaimed it. It's taken all the power out of people who try to use it against me. But like ven said, it doesn't have the same history or associations as the n word. I just don't feel I have any claim to that. If I was in the situation mentioned below, doing a public reading of a historical text, I still don't feel like I could do it just for authenticity's sake. I guess it would depend on the context. I'd probably consult with some black students I know who are active in the anti-racist group on campus (because I know that the group would want to be consulted if it was a university event). The bottom line is, the people who it's been used against are the people who get to determine its usage. They're the ones who can reclaim it, or not.


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Tears are curious things, for like earthquakes or puppet shows they can occur at any time, without any warning, and without any good reason. --Lemony Snicket
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erinjane
post Jun 4 2006, 10:04 PM
Post #168


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Last year I would never had said cunt out loud. I read the book though, and kept telling people about it and the more I said it the more comfortable I became with it. A few months ago a guy I know got in a fight with my best friend and called her a cunt. She got really upset because her dad would call her that sometimes. I was really angry at the guy and I think I kind of took it upon myself to reclaim it, at least for myself. The more I say it, the more comfortable I am with it.


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pepper
post Jun 4 2006, 09:27 PM
Post #169







yes, what is with "stick man" anyhow?
some of those 70's terms i just love. "right on" is one of them, and i adore "blind pig", that's just the best thing ever. "keep on trucking" i can live without though.

there's a strange odour emenating from my cunt. hee!
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bklynhermit
post Jun 4 2006, 08:24 PM
Post #170


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i haven't been able to reclaim cunt as well as i have dyke, queer, and even to an extent fag. though i have to say i've never found a word other than the oh so clinical 'vulva' that i like for that whole area. and i think part of it is that i don't hear other people reclaiming it much yet, and i feel like if i were in a situation in which it might be appropriate to talk about my cunt, people might take it the wrong way. like in a doctor's office, "well, everything's fine, but i've noticed this strange odor emitting from my cunt." or in sexual situations i feel like if i'm with a guy, he might misunderstand and think it's ok for him to say in a derogatory way, and if i'm with a girl, she might be offended. i feel like cunt isn't quite ready for prime time, i guess. different from 'n' which i feel just isn't mine.

and ven, totally off topic but you're so right about terms like 'making love', 'right on', 'what's your sign', etc. they've been completely tainted by the 70's... stick man, though, i've never heard. like 'stick it to the man'?
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venetia
post Jun 4 2006, 06:06 PM
Post #171


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By the c word do you peeps mean cunt?? Now to me, that word just doesn't have the same history or associations.
(I grew up around 70s feminists, though, so I can't seem to use it for the same reasons that I don't say "making love" "foxy lady" "stick man" or "your aura has a positive energy".)

I have to admit I do use it as a handy guide insofar as men who reserve it for their most vicious insult usually turn out to be guys who are not what I'd call feminist-friendly.
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bustygirl
post Jun 4 2006, 02:30 PM
Post #172


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From: bible belt baby


This from the Miriam Webster website:

Main Entry: mu·lat·to
Pronunciation: m&-'la-(")tO, mu-, myu-, -'lä-
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -toes or -tos
Etymology: Spanish mulato, from mulo mule, from Latin mulus
1 : the first-generation offspring of a black person and a white person
2 : a person of mixed white and black ancestry

My face, it appears, has egg upon it.

I would like to weigh in as being unhappy with the n-word. It is never okay for a non-black person to use it, and somewhat sketchy for black people. At the very least, it declasses the user. It's a vile word, and it serves well to remind us that we have a long way to go as a society toward real understanding between people.
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bustygirl
post Jun 4 2006, 02:25 PM
Post #173


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Are you sure mulatto comes from mule? You're right, it is repulsive if that's the root, but I'd never heard that, and I'm usually pretty good with words.

At any rate, based on some of my friends' experiences, it's at least not true. ;)
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bunnyb
post Jun 4 2006, 10:55 AM
Post #174


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I feel the same about the "c-word" and only use it in extreme moments of anger!

I still find the "n-word" ugly and would never say it and object to it being used in my company but I have no problem with it being reclaimed and changed into another word/meaning but I think it can only be said by someone if they are black; anyone else and it takes the word back in time and infuses it with hate, memory and hurt.


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pepper
post Jun 4 2006, 10:37 AM
Post #175







i still flinch when chris rock says it. it's an ugly, ugly word to me never mind that it's been "reclaimed", i still dislike it and would never say it. ugh.
i'm all for the reclaiming of the c word to, but i would never use it either, unless i was using it to swear. i understand it's origin, etc, but it's still and ugly word (to me). it really is.
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bunnyb
post Jun 4 2006, 10:15 AM
Post #176


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hummingbird, both of your posts towards anna_k sounded really patronising. She was exzpressing an opinion, like everyone else in this thread, about whether she would or would not use the word and in what context.

bklynhermit, I'm of the same opinion as you, in no context whatsoever would I use it. However, snafooey asking about reading aloud made me question "would I use it then?" I thought of the same example as you, Huckleberry Finn, and I realised that I still wouldn't use it. If I was a teacher reading aloud to a class, I wouldn't use it; or a mother to a child or an adult at an adult book group. I would say "the n-word" in that context or in recounting any story/joke (although I don't think I would consider the "joke" funny, if it used it. I don't think it's acceptable in any circumstance and would flinch if someone else used it but would discuss my discomfort with them.

hummingword made a really good and concise definition of the two different n-words (see? I can't even write it!) which makes complete sense; it explains why I don't bristle when hearing Chris Rock, for example, using the second one ... it's a different word.

eta: has anyone ever read Toni Morrison's short-story "Recitatif"? It's her only short-story and it's about two friends, one white and the other black, but she never says which is which. It's a very interesting read and is illuminating in the judgements the reader and society make about race; you read it looking for clues to what race the characters are -perpetrating stereotypes- before realising that it doesn't matter and that the whole point of the story is that race is consciously elided.


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"Hey, did anyone ever think Sylvia Plath wasn't crazy, maybe she was just cold? " (Lorelai Gilmore)
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hummingbird
post Jun 4 2006, 09:57 AM
Post #177


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anna_k: i meant that you didn't get the use of the N-word.
It's like here we all are talking about this, and your post made it clear that you don't get it.
So, even if you were to tell a joke that you heard PM say, it wouldn't come off the same because you prolly would word it as N--er instead of N---a, which is the way you wrote it too. I would say it's best to not even say it because you don't know how to say it.
So, here's the thing. It's all in the way in annunciated. Saying Nigga a lot is a ghetto thing. People in the ghetto use the term a lot. Now, black folks in general say it as well. But, if you are from the ghetto and we're not black, the chances are you could get away with saying it because you know how to say it to make it sound endearing or friendly or cool. People from the burbs, black or white, cannot say that word and make it sound cool. Namean?
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anna_k
post Jun 3 2006, 07:54 PM
Post #178


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hummingbird, I do understand about different textures of hair and the "good hair" type. At the time I was too young and I didn't care.

You're right, it's more "Nigga" than Nigger with the PM joke.
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bklynhermit
post Jun 3 2006, 04:42 PM
Post #179


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i've discovered a situation in which i would be sorta ok with saying 'n'.

if i were reading Huckleberry Finn aloud. or, you know, any Literature that uses the word.

and even then, i'd probably squirm a bit. and it would only be for the sake of authenticity. and probably only for a public, performative reading (in the way that people will do readings from banned books, commemorate an author by having a night of readings from their work, etc.). if i was reading it aloud to my child i would probably say 'n-word' or somesuch after a short prefatory explanation that we DO NOT EVER SAY N_____!

i have wanted either dreads or a fro my entire life. if i could have anyone's hair in the whole world, it would be Angela Davis' (either now or back in the day). unfortunately, just as most black women's hair won't do straight, my white woman's hair won't do anything approaching locks. i could never decide whether me using ick chemicals to acheive Black hair would be consciousness raising or just extremely stupid. but i've always wanted to go into a walgreen's and move the skin bleach to the suntanning aisle.
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pepper
post Jun 3 2006, 11:55 AM
Post #180







do you know where the word mulatto comes from?
a horse and a donkey can produce offspring but that offspring is sterile and can't produce offspring of it's own. the name of this creature? a mule.
mulatto is one of my least favourite words in the universe since i learned that. ugh, what a repulsive history eh?

i love the look of a puffy 'fro. neatly clipped close to the head or picked right out to there, i think it's one of the coolest hairstyles there is. my hair is just a bit too loosely curled to even have a wee 'fro, it's such a shame 'cause i would so 70's out my head if i could. and i wouldn't mind if people touched my hair so long as they weren't messing it up in the process (i hate that!) but i'm a pretty touchy feely kinda person.
i would never, ever use the n word, not in any context. regardless of the intention behind it there is just a world of hurt associated with it. and if someone calls me a wigger or says that word around me they had BETTER be talking about an actual wig. sheesh. that's just rude.
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