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Racism and the English Language
Words are probably the most powerful weapon to exist in society. A disparaging statement about an individual can ruin their life and the meaning of words can be twisted to fit any situation. One of the main reasons why racism exists in this society is that language conveys reality while reflecting it. If a society is inherently racist, it is natural for the language spoken there to reflect that racism. Moore and Churchill’s articles discuss how words are used to dehumanize certain ethnic groups by making those groups seem subhuman. By using language to make “others” seem inferior to, society is justified in believing that these groups do not deserve the rights and privileges of the dominant culture. These articles and other previous articles that I have read convey that racism is a socially constructed idea and was set up for the advancement of white people and the exclusion of other ethnicities.
Moore’s “Racism in the English Language” explores how language influences Western thought from the first moment the language is learned. The English language is littered with racial stereotypes and slurs, even in words and phrases that seem quite harmless. It shows how these words are not trivial but are used to inflict oppression and a sense of inferiority on anyone deemed to be “different” from American culture. Words such as “nigger”, “kike” and “chink” have been used to label African-Americans, Jews and Asian-Americans and although it is politically incorrect to use these words, the words and their derogatory meanings were burned. in the consciousness of white America, some who see nothing wrong in saying those words. Even color names such as “Black” and “White” have been used to promote racism. The color, “Black” means “dirty, filthy and beyond redemption”, while white is “pure, clean, filled with innocence.” These words and their meanings have led people who have internalized these beliefs and suffer from delusions of grandeur or feelings of self-hatred. The author of this article believes that acknowledging that racism exists in language is the first step to admitting that racism still exists in this society and that people should do a conscious effort to use language that is not derogatory towards people based on ethnicity.
Similarly, Churchill’s, “Crimes against Humanity” makes a powerful thesis, stating that by disrespecting Native Americans by using native names, images and symbols as team mascots, their place in society was marginalized and degraded. He states with exquisite sarcasm that if the practice of using Native American images and symbols as team mascots continues, there should be teams named the Galveston “Greasers” and the San Diego “Spics.” Since the use of indigenous symbols for sport is not considered disrespectful by the mainstream culture, that same culture should use other ethnicities as symbols since it is all in the name of fun. He further states that the genocide and degradation of Native Americans is comparable to the Jewish Holocaust and that the United States should be charged with crimes against humanity. By reducing the experiences of Native Americans to mere stereotypes, white society succeeded in making Native Americans “unreal” to other groups, who passively accept bigoted views of Native Americans. In both of these articles, the message is that words are used to dominate and oppress anyone who was not born white in this country and keep the status quo in charge. American society likes to label people.
Everyone has to be labeled something: whores, dykes and niggers. I was called a delinquent teenage mother, on social assistance and a scourge on society. For many years I believed in these labels and sank deeper and deeper into the hell called low self-esteem until I went to college and I discovers that I was intelligent and worthy of respect. Some people aren’t as lucky as I am and still believe in the labels that society has imposed on them. Sometimes I wonder what American society would do if there were no labels. Take away the pretensions, the feelings of superiority that come with having the “right” skin color and some people in this society would be lost. These types of individuals need to feel superior to others in order to feel better. I hope the day when labels are no longer needed will come sooner or later.
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#Racism #English #Language