Friday, May 18, 2012

Racism, Hypocrisy and Facebook

In spite of all the progress we’ve supposedly made in this country toward ending racial inequity and inequality, I wonder if we are kidding ourselves.  There still exists a great deal of racial discord and ignorant behavior.  I also wonder if the so-called social media sites, rampantly popular, are actually making us less social and better able to rationalize ignorant, anti-social behavior.
Consider the incident prompting me to dwell on this:

I was scanning the comments on a friend’s Facebook wall.  It’s not something I do often, nor do I have a lot of friends on my FB page.  That’s by choice simply because I can’t see the sense in collecting “friends” like postage stamps.  However, I must participate to some extent simply because it has become unavoidable for full engagement in writing and publishing endeavors.

Nonetheless, one of my friends had posted a story on her wall about an unpleasant experience she had in a restaurant with some other patrons she perceived as bigoted. She was in the company of some young black men, evidently her children (she has grown children of mixed, black and white, heritage).  That’s really beside the point, though.  As far as I know, no comments were made, but she did feel quite uncomfortable from the disapproving stares she and the kids got from some of the other patrons.  That’s not really the point, either, but it goes to the incident I’ll now relate.

A young African American man named Lee Pigrum, in reference to my friend’s initial story, made the following comment on her wall, Freakin’ whities!!  Lmao

That annoyed me more than a little, so I replied, Lee Pigrum, your "whities" comment is just as racist and ignorant as the people you are commenting about. Think about it.

That led to the following:

Lee Pigrum: Um I'm not racist I'm mixed so it would be redundent for me to be, and it was not offensive in anyway

(Try to disregard Lee's (a college student) misspelling of 'redundant', or the fact that his usage indicates he doesn’t understand its meaning, either.)

I replied: (Russ Mars is a pen name, I'm Kevin Jones)

Kevin Jones: Not offensive? That depends on one's perspective. And being mixed does not give license to use inflaming words. How would you feel if I came in here and said, "freakin' blackies?" C'mon it goes both ways, but you have a nice day, sunshine.

Lee Pigrum: Well that does not make sense sayin "blackies" Jus say blacks! But sir this does not change my statement because Ms. Dawn (my friend) understands  my humor and where I am comin from so this is Jus really irrelevant to anything.. So have a wonderful day gorgeous

Granted, we were engaged in somewhat of a pissin’ contest at this point.

It continued:

Kevin Jones: It makes just as much sense as saying "whities" instead of "whites." It's a slur.

Lee Pigrum: Well I have never once heard or even said that slur

Kevin Jones: Now you have heard it, and as you grow older and experience more, you may learn more. Anyone who doesn't know you would take it as an attack on all whites, and this IS a public forum. Not all whites are racists.

Lee Pigrum: okayy..... i 'll keep that in mind

Kevin Jones: Really?

Lee Pigrum: No i really do not care anymore!

Kevin Jones: That's quite evident. And so the ignorance is perpetuated.

And that was the end of that.

Now my thoughts and questions about all this abound.

My first thought is that I should have kept my dog out of it because I was probably just wasting my breath on this young man, and it appears he totally missed my point—or does he, as he said, really not care?

I’m wondering if he would have cared if he were also in the restaurant with my friend at the time.  What if the other patrons, rather than just staring, had said, “Freakin’ blackies!” and then laughed?  Even if he’s never heard it put that way before, as he claimed, I imagine he’d have got it.  Would he have found the “joke” just as funny as he seemed to think his Facebook comment was?

If he truly meant no offense to whites, why use the term “whities” at all?  Why didn’t he use something more specific to the actual offense, like “bigots,” because that is, after all, evidently what those other patrons were, racial bigots, regardless of their race.

What if, while he was in the restaurant, he had turned to those bigots and called them “freakin’ whities.” Oh, but I forgot, Lee said his comment wasn’t offensive.  Oh, thank you, Mr. Pigrum, for deciding for the rest of us what is and isn’t offensive.  And tell those bigots, who already don’t want you there (this took place in Oklahoma), that it’s not offensive.  Good luck with that.

Okay, so maybe he wouldn’t say it in a restaurant full of bigots.  But, he will, and did, say it to, potentially, thousands on Facebook.  How does that work?  Is that how people view it?  Anything goes because they are protected by their little cyber wall?

If I said, “Freakin’ blackies” referring to some bigoted black people, would that be okay?  And, by putting it the way he did, didn’t he imply that all white people act that way?  Isn’t it the very definition of racial prejudice to make judgments about an entire race based only on the actions of some?  That is, of course, exactly what it means:  An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand without good justification--to pre judge, hence prejudice.

But, evidently, he thinks it’s okay for him since he mentioned he can’t be racist because he’s mixed.  Really?  How does having more than one race’s blood coursing through your veins make it okay to make prejudiced comments and display racist behavior, and be immune from being a racist?  As Forrest Gump would have said, racist is as racist does.  

I have the blood of five nationalities and two races running down my face every time I cut myself shaving.  I suppose, by his reasoning, I can make any derogatory comment I want toward anyone I please and not be held accountable.  And, hey, as long as some of my friends know I’m only joking, I can say those things in a public forum and everyone who doesn't know me will just have to accept it—it’s okay.

Then, there’s another word that comes into play here.  He thinks it’s okay, joking or not, to act the same as the people he’s damning—the bigots.  That’s called a hypocrite.

Many whites are quite guilty of prejudice of every imaginable type—racial, religious, cultural.  You name it.  Guess what.  It’s not unique to whites.

Racial prejudice, regardless of one’s race, religion, creed, what have you, and regardless from which side of the fence it's fired or at whom—is not okay—nor is not caring.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

28 Words That Don’t Exist in the English Language

I've run across this list in various forms on several sites, unattributed, but as far as I can tell, without dedicating more time to further research than I care to, its author is David Voth of Sex, Cigars & Booze Lifestyle Magazine. (When I first made this post, I linked to the magazine's site and experienced no problems there, myself.  Since then, the site of the original list has evidently been infected with malware.  I've deactivated the link and suggest visiting that site only at your own risk.) The list was created because, as he wrote, " I love to take the time to choose the ideal words when I’m writing something, but sometimes the perfect word to describe something doesn’t exist in the English language." 

I certainly laud him for that.

He goes on to say, "The following 28 words do not have direct equivalents in English. Some of them would definitely be useful if they existed in English."

I can't say I completely agree with him there, even though, overall, it's an interesting amusement, but it sure shouldn't be taken as linguistic fact.  I'll add that there are, of course, many languages and cultures that don't have words that represent, exactly, quite common concepts and situations expressed in English, especially American English.  However, I think he overreached in his attempt to make his point with these 28 words.  I can accept that as a case of stretching things a bit for some fun, and in that spirit I've noted (in bold text) comparable English words I think Mr. Voth overlooked.  I also took the liberty of adding a few grains of salt.

1. Age-otori (Japanese): To look worse after a haircut:

I can't relate; no haircut seems to help.

2. Arigata-meiwaku (Japanese): An act someone does for you that you didn’t want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude:
This one involves principles, social conventions and manners more peculiar to and emphasized in Japanese culture, so of course native English-speaking cultures are much less inclined to need a word for it.  In America, though, the situation described often culminates in the use of three wordsSue the bastard!

3. Backpfeifengesicht (German): A face badly in need of a fist:
Well, especially in America, we do have a multipurpose word that covers it quite well—*asshole.

4. Bakku-shan (Japanese): A beautiful girl… as long as she’s being viewed from behind:
I've often heard this type of woman referred to as a butter face. (But her face... !)

5. Desenrascanco (Portuguese): “to disentangle” yourself out of a bad situation (To MacGyver it):
There may not be an English word, exactly, for the act itself, but a couple of words come to mind that represent how the situation is handled—practically a matter of policy for governments and corporations—lie, deny... 

6. Duende (Spanish): a climactic show of spirit in a performance or work of art, which might be fulfilled in flamenco dancing, or bull-fighting, etc.:
I'll keep my flamenco-dancing bull out of this fight.

7. Forelsket (Norwegian): The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love:

8. Gigil (pronounced Gheegle; Filipino):  The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute:
I like this one and I'm going to start using it in reference to the behavior of an elderly aunt of mine.

9. Guanxi (Mandarin): in traditional Chinese society, you would build up good guanxi by giving gifts to people, taking them to dinner, or doing them a favor, but you can also use up your gianxi by asking for a favor to be repaid:

10. Ilunga (Tshiluba, Congo): A person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time:
I'd have to say the English word for that kind of person is mature.

11. L’esprit de l’escalier (French): usually translated as “staircase wit,” is the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it:
L’esprit de l’escalier isn't a word, it's a phrase.  I like it anyway and I can't tell you the number of times I've experienced it, but I usually just mutter to myself, I shoulda said... 

12. Litost (Czech): a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery:
Regret works.

13. Mamihlapinatapai (Yaghan):  A look between two people that suggests an unspoken, shared desire:  Sounds like lust to me.

14. Manja (Malay): “to pamper”, it describes gooey, childlike and coquettish behavior by women designed to elicit sympathy or pampering by men. “His girlfriend is a damn manja. Hearing her speak can cause diabetes.”:
I thought female covered this one... ?

15. Meraki (pronounced may-rah-kee; Greek): Doing something with soul, creativity, or love. It’s when you put something of yourself into what you’re doing:
Oh?  How about passion?

16. Nunchi (Korean): the subtle art of listening and gauging another’s mood. In Western culture, nunchi could be described as the concept of emotional intelligence. Knowing what to say or do, or what not to say or do, in a given situation. A socially clumsy person can be described as ‘nunchi eoptta’, meaning “absent of nunchi”:
Perhaps graceful suffices.

17. Pena ajena (Mexican Spanish): The embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humiliation:
Excellent!  Especially useful, too, with the popularity of TV shows like American Idol.

18. Pochemuchka (Russian): a person who asks a lot of questions: 
Depending on the circumstances, let's try intelligent or annoying.  Cop, Homeland Security Agent and IRS Agent also come to mind (see also, *asshole).

19. Schadenfreude (German): the pleasure derived from someone else’s pain:
Too easy—Sadism.

20. Sgiomlaireachd (Scottish Gaelic): When people interrupt you at mealtime:
(see also...*)

21. Sgriob (Gaelic): The itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whisky:
Again, I can't relate.  The only thing that overcomes my lips when sipping whisky is a smile.

22. Shlimazl (Yiddish): Somebody who has nothing but bad luck:
Okay, good one, but shlimazl is practically a household English word, especially if you were a fan of the 70s-80s show, Laverne & Shirley.   

23. Stam (Hebrew): An agreement out of amusement and frustration that something doesn’t have a satisfactory answer among those talking:
I'm still mulling this one over.  Anyone, any thoughts?

24. Taarradhin (Arabic): implies a happy solution for everyone, or “I win. You win.” It’s a way of reconciling without anyone losing face. Arabic has no word for “compromise,” in the sense of reaching an arrangement via struggle and disagreement:
Oh, come, now!  Short phrases evidently being acceptable, we hear, win-win, all the time.

25. Tatemae and Honne (Japanese): What you pretend to believe and what you actually believe, respectively:

26. Tingo (Pascuense language of Easter Island): to borrow objects one by one from a neighbor’s house until there is nothing left:
Herschel, my next-door neighbor.

27. Waldeinsamkeit (German): The feeling of being alone in the woods:
Peaceful works for me.

28. Yoko meshi (Japanese): literally ‘a meal eaten sideways,’ referring to the peculiar stress induced by speaking a foreign language:
I'll defer to my fiancée for this one.  She's an English speaker working in Thailand.