How to Fight Casual Racism

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Reader Comments (107)

To everyone saying that Jews, Welsh, Roma, etc. aren't actual races...races aren't discrete biological groups. Google "race" and "American Anthropological Association" if you're interested. Race is very real, but it's cultural, so the meaning and categories of race shift depending on time and place. Example: people of Irish origin are usually grouped with other Caucasians in the US today, but would likely have been considered members of a distinct, inferior race in the 1800s.

And just because one person doesn't perceive a word or phrase to be offensive doesn't mean other people won't. Everyone messes up and says things like that sometimes, and they usually don't mean any harm. But if you know the term/phrase/whatever can be racist, why insist on using it anyway? Is your enjoyment of the term really more important than not participating in oppression, or are you just exercising your privilege to opt out of worrying about it at all?

I'm not trying to attack anyone. It's a good conversation to be having. Kudos, Scott, for starting it.

May 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHestra

What the hell is the racist term for brazil nuts?! I've never heard nor even considered there could be one!

May 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLee

It's easy to go too far into PSA territory with this subject, but you did fine with it, Scott. But I believe "honkeying" is what goes on in Starbucks and Garden Ridge stores.

When I was growing up, the local grocery store sold a variety of nuts in the shell which customers could purchase by the scoop. For a long time, I thought "Brazil nuts" was a euphemism for what the grocer really meant.

May 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRick

I think that I can guess what the Australian cheese brand is. When we were in Australia, I saw it on the shelf, and absolutely couldn't believe it. It's an old, racist slang term for black people (at least in the US), starting with c. Horrid.

May 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMechTeach

I'd react the same way as your uncle.

"Don't you know how offensive you're being?!"

"Ummm....yeah, I do."

May 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

"On that note, "Heeby-Jeebies" means "Hebrews and Jews". As in, they're coming to get you. So... yeah."

No. No it doesn't. That is completely false.

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/heebie-jeebies.html

Check your facts before you go around making ignorant assumptions.

May 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergopher_it

Wait, how is 'honkey' not a racial perjorative?

May 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterremy

I trust us honkeys to take our slur with grace and good humour--if not, who cares for us bigot nitwit subhumans anyway. Besides, it's the only racial slur left we honkeys get to toss around, so hey, let's sock it to us. btw, a couple of years ago some Hutus decided to kill off around 800,000 guys because, well, they weren't Hutus or not enough Hutu friendly. Besides, they looked different.

Incidentally, that occurs often in that continent. Remember Mr Mugabe? He had some hundred thousands killed or starved to death, incidentally, most of these were Matabele people, unlike Mr Mugabe and his goons, who are Shona. Hey, and let's not forget that Arab slave trade, you know, 10 and 18 million Africans enslaved over the course of, hey! more than 1250 years, millions killed and castrated, because some Arab folks thought their sexual drive to be uncontrollable. Sounds familiar? And then there's Asia, but let's not open that can of worms, the post is getting too long anyway. Anyhow, honkeys they ain't, all these good souls, so racism wasn't possibly involved,* and if it was, let's take a deep breath and not walk on that wild side.


* it was invented in Plymouth, MA, in 1620 during a secret ceremony involving naked Turkeys and raving, lily white succubi.

May 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterM. Möhling

Communication theory notes there are several stages in the transmission of ideas (intent, words, medium, reception, interpretation). Liberals generally believe that only intent matters ("I'm sorry I offended you!"). But communication concerns all the stages (you ever know somebody who already hates you who interprets everything you do as vile? Yeah, me too.). So forget about being "pure" - we're embedded in a racist heritage. Instead, as E M Forster says, "Only connect." I think the original Star Trek illustrates this perfectly, ha ha!

May 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSpeck

I wrote this long enough ago that I don't clearly remember what word I meant there. I don't think it was renege, I THINK it was gyp,

I'm glad to hear that. "Niggardly" is a lost cause, but I'd hate to lose "renege".

May 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

Fifty years ago, my mother also felt 'gypped' that there weren't many of her favorite nuts in the mix, so I suggested that she buy a can of just those nuts instead of mixed nuts. Off we went to the store, where she couldn't find a can labeled _____ toes on the shelf. She found the manager and complained. He showed her the picture on the can to convince her they were what she wanted. I crawled into a hole and died. I was 4 years old and I knew they were Brazil nuts.

May 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSondra

I understand panel 2. Unfortunately I was like 16 by the time I actually learned they were actually called Brazil nuts.

May 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

People shouldn't stop saying "renege" because they think it's racist. They should stop saying it because they apparently can't f*ckin pronounce it...

What's wrong with "re-nezh"? More accurate, and no-one's going to think you hate black people.

May 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

As has been noticed, several of these groups aren't really considered races (Welsh etc.) and anyway, race is a cultural concept. So I'll generalise to "words and expressions offensive to certain groups", which sadly doesn't have one neat word that I can think of.

Anyway. In the English language, surely the most offended group must be the French. Think French Leave, The French Disease (syphilis, known in French as 'la maladie anglaise' - The English disease) and many others.

What about French kissing? A practice which, while doubtless popular in France, is equally popular elsewhere. Except that this isn't particularly offensive, just attributed to one group for no particular good reason.

I'm given to believe that a lot of such phrases first came about at a time when England was at war with the country involved. hence so many anti-French ones, since we've been kicking seven shades out of each other for pushing a thousand years now.

Dutch Elm disease is another fine example. Nothing much to do with the Dutch beyond happening to arrive in England when we were at war with them.

More recently, Russian volunteers.

Ok, I've run out of examples now. I'm sure that there are many more.

May 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStevie Hair

The poor Dutch...

Dutch treat == no treat at all
Dutch uncle == a scold
Dutch courage == courage gained from alcohol
'in Dutch' == to be in trouble
Dutch oven == a cookpot intended as a cheaper substitute for a real oven

What am I forgetting?

Attribution: most of these were swiped from an old National Lampoon .

May 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

I think the racist term for reneging on a promise that y'all are looking for is "welsh".

May 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSolak

@Zak
"An example of that in reverse would be a word like "faggot" -- its original meaning (bundle of wood) is irrelevant, because that's not how people use it now."

In this case, you might find it horrifying to know that that dates to World War II, when Nazis would burn homosexuals as they would a "faggot," and that by calling them that now implies they are good only for burning.

May 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKidTheFat

I appreciate the comic, but I'm a bit surprised how many comments I had to read just to find out what Brazil nuts were called. Nigger toes. I find people quite oversensitive when they think they may not use a racist expression even when discussing racist expressions... Ideally, usage of such expressions will vanish with time, but as long as there is a need to discuss them, just name them. Creating a taboo of the type "don't use THE WORD, but I'm not saying which one" doesn't really foster discussion.

Also, a (now obviously unused) German epxression for a sort of canned meat translates as "stomped Jew". (Woah. And yet, I don't think writingthis makes me racist...)

May 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlerk

It's off-putting when racism is dredged up where none was intended. If neither the speaker nor the listener knows or cares about the origins, it's not racism, any more than using using words such as "jeepers" can be considered blasphemous. You yourself defended use of the word "disinterested" instead of "uninterested" because of semantic shift. Well, the semantic-shift defense works both ways.

I'm just sick of walking on eggshells because I can't keep up with terms have fallen out of fashion. How you treat people is a lot more important than being the etymology police.

May 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeanette

The Australian cheese someone mentioned is a brand called Coon. Yeah, it's normal here. I think it was based off of some famous cheese maker's last name. Not intended to be racist in the slightest. Unless you read the wiki article in which case it may imply that there was possibly some racism intended. But whatever.

The funny thing about the word 'honkey'.... in Western Australia we have these gum trees that have gum nuts around the size of golf balls (and really good for ditching at people at school!). They are quite common on school ovals and such (around the edges, obviously). We call them honkey nuts, cause that's what we call them. I didn't find out until a couple of months ago when one of my eastern stater friends told me he thought it was weird that we called them that considering what it means... Turns out you can be seperated by a common language in a common country too.

June 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAussie Girl

This flurry of comments from people trying to guess the racist terms that were alluded to: I didn't even know the Brazil nut term until someone here helpfully pointed it out. Thanks SO MUCH for putting that association in my head. I wonder if I'll ever be able to get it out.

Wouldn't it be better to let sleeping dogs lie?

But since this was all done in the name of a well-intentioned PSA, our clear conscience can just egg us on in waking the dogs.

Wish I had skipped the comments and just stuck with being innocently puzzled by the comic.

June 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKralovna

Damn. I just knew I shouldn't read the comments. And I just knew I shouldn't have Googled that term for Brazil nuts.

While we are moaning, I wish Merkins would stop calling black people "African Americans" when not referring to people resident in the USA. It is so insensitive, parochial, nationalistic and downright offensive in its ignorance.

But it was funny a while ago when a Merkin stand-up comic over here in the UK referred to a Gambian man in the audience as an "African American" and got a right load of abuse for it. :-) The comedian didn't seem able to grasp that black people can come from places other than the USA. Priceless. And he's one of the ones with a passport!

Being polite is good. Political correctness is mindless censorship.

June 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSimes

You should have used "Cracker-lacking."

June 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBlender

Scott, a rare miss. This was definitely more preachy and less funny than usual. I know you mean well, but honestly, I read because the ironic tones created only when the instructions v panels are a completely ludacris comparison. Can't wait for the next one.

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterG33k

Whoa, flashback: my grandma used the unmentionable term for Brazil nuts for years. She even busted it out at my sister's wedding when talking about the giant bowl of mixed nuts. We all pretended not to hear her.

July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

'Gyp' isn't a slur against Gypsies because 'Gypsy' is an abbreviation of Egyptian, which isn't what the Romani are, they're Indian. 'Honky' is a slur against Polish, Bohemian and Hungarian immigrants to the U.S. You're alleging these peoples are the prime culprits in the propagation of inaccurate etymology? You also have all your work ahead of you in explaining both the hyphen in your new term, as well as why it doesn't count as being racistic itself.

May I direct you to the preface of your third panel?

December 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrian McInnis

The only person irl I've heard use the word 'gyp' was my mother, from whom I inherited Romani blood. It's matrilineal, so unless I spawn with a woman who has it, I can say 'gyp' all I want in front of my children, yet deny their g-word privileges.

July 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterArchive Binging

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