Speech and Racism

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Orleander, Apr 27, 2008.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    * * * * NOTE FROM THE MODERATOR * * * *

    Racist remarks are not tolerated on this board. So far this discussion has been admirably free of such comments but you have gone over the line. I will not bother with the effort of editing posts like this. In the future I will delete the entire post. Please refrain from such language here.
    Orly, once again, it's "ebonics," not "eubonics." It's derived from the word "ebony" for "black." It's not a combination of Greek eu- meaning "well" and Latin bon- meaning "good."

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    Anyway, I'm here in Washington DC, arguably the American city with the highest percentage of African-Americans in its population. Even here I have worked with Euro-Americans who speak like Valley Girls and get away with it, but no African-Americans use ebonics slang on the job. Apparently most people do not feel like you do, not even African-Americans.
    Gaelic is an ancient Celtic language, the language of the Celtic tribes who settled the island of Ireland. There was no such thing as "education" as we know it, in those days.
    The words "dialect" and "language" have established meanings and people don't get to change them lightly, especially for ephemeral political purposes. Ebonics is a dialect of English because speakers of ebonics and standard English can understand each other easily. As I mentioned earlier, the people of northern Belgium tried to do the same thing with "Flemish," but they can't change the fact that Flemish is really a dialect of Dutch, not a separate language, for the same reason: the speakers can easily understand each other.

    Of course laymen don't use the terms properly and that contributes to the confusion. Cantonese is often referred to as a "dialect" of Chinese, but in fact Cantonese and Mandarin are not even slightly comprehensible to each other's speakers. They are two different languages.
    I think you've identified the reason that so many of us Euro-Americans have such negative feelings about ebonics. We do NOT want African-Americans to stay poor, uneducated and segregated. We WANT them to join us as unhyphenated Americans. We WANT to live in a country like Brazil where people come in a spectrum of brown, rather than having distinct communities of "black" and "white" people. So we don't understand it when some African-Americans appear to want to perpetuate the separation.
     
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  3. Roman Banned Banned

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    I don't think that's what she was saying. You have to admit, a lot of what is called "black" in America correlates fairly well with stupidity and ignorance. A black businessman isn't considered black the way a rapper or a pusher is considered black.
     
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  5. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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    The Celtic tribes were from Modern day England correct?

    Yeah, this is how I feel. I don't like that everything has to be "Black" and "White". Why there has to be "Aisan", "Latino", or "black" neighborhoods.

    Why does it all have to be about race? In my School, it is so hard cause when I walk around, I see all these clicks that consist of people of the same race. I try to be friendly to everyone, but it seems like the blacks are the most surprised when I smile at them or be friendly with them. Its like they don't know how to react to a white dude being nice. They usually smile back or talk to me, they just seem surprised, like its something that never happens. I just wonder what it is like on their end. What happens when they smile at a white person or try to befriend a white person.

    But I do wonder who is at fault. Is it the blacks being jerks to whites that makes them separate, or the whites being jerks to the blacks, or a combination of both???

    Anyway, I'm rambling now.
     
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Not exactly. The Celts were the first tribe of Indo-Europeans who migrated into Europe out of the ancestral home somewhere around Anatolia, around 3000BCE. We can only speculate on the nature of their encounters with the population of Homo sapiens who already inhabited the continent, since the only remnants of it that still survive are the Basque people and a few archeological clues like Stonehenge. But as usually happens when newer migrants come from a place with advanced technology (civilization had already sprung up in the Middle East but Europe was still in the Stone Age), they displaced the indigenous culture. For centuries, all of sub-Scandinavian Europe was a vast Celtic homeland. Bohemia is named after the Bohumil, a Celtic people. The Gauls were a Celtic people, as were the people of Iberia whose name we've forgotten but not their bagpipes.

    But more Indo-European tribes followed them to Europe. The Germanic tribe took a roundabout route through Scandinavia and then across into Denmark, but the Greeks and Romans came straight in from the southeast. Again the pattern of newcomers overwhelming an older population played out and by the early centuries CE Celtic cultures and languages were restricted to the British Isles. When the Romans abandoned their outposts on Britannia, Germanic tribes with technology learned from the Romans even invaded that island, obliterating the culture of the original Celtic "Britons" and replacing it with that of the Angles and Saxons.

    At this point the only Celtic cultures on Britannia were Wales and Cornwall. What is now Scotland was inhabited by the Picts, a pre-Indo-European tribe of whose language, culture and genetic history we'll probably never know much. The last Celtic homeland was Ireland. Ironically the Romans called Ireland "Scotia," so when in the latter centuries of the first millennium CE Irish colonists migrated to the Pictish lands in northern Britannia, they brought the name along with their Gaelic language and the place is now called "Scotland."

    The only surviving Celtic languages are the Irish and Scots dialects of Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish (which is undergoing a revival) and Breton, the language of the descendants of some Britons who fled back to the continent when the Anglo-Saxons invaded.
    I don't mind attempts to preserve "Asian" or "Latino" communities any more than I mind the "Italian," "Russian," "Persian" and "Greek" communities in our big cities, or the "Irish," "Polish" and "German" ones that used to exist. A culture is something people maintain by agreement. Any American of Asian, Latino, Polish or Greek ancestry is free to give notice to his landlord and move into another neighborhood where everyone eats hamburgers, speaks English, watches baseball and listens to rock music. And in general these communities are cordial to outsiders who wish to move in due to marriage, scholarship or sheer eccentricity, so long as they do their best to learn the language and assimilate in other ways.

    In the same way, I have no objection to "African" communities where people speak African languages and practice African traditions. Cultures are precious sources of ideas and motifs. We should support all reasonable attempts to preserve them because they enrich civilization.

    But I am uncomfortable with communities that are defined by the physical appearance of their members. This means that those members don't have the same freedom to migrate from one community to the other as the descendants of the German and Mexican immigrants do.

    Most of my ancestors arrived in America in the late 19th century and the children of the first generation of immigrants assimilated into the mainstream. I barely speak a word of any of their languages, have rarely tasted their food, and have no more interest in the politics of their homelands than the average American. I'm an American without a hyphen or an adjective. Just an American.

    But ironically, the families of most "black" Americans go back at least three generations further than mine on American soil, and many go further than that. They're more "American" than I am. Even as slaves they spoke our language, ate our food and played our games. Why is there such a strong force to keep them separated from the rest of us?

    Discrimination is not the reason. Asian-Americans suffered grievous discrimination up until the 1960s, just like African-Americans. Mexican-Americans continue to be discriminated against. Yet the children of Mexican and Asian immigrants intermarry with Euro-Americans at such a high rate that it's difficult to identify anyone who's a third-generation member of those ethnic communiies. Why, then, do we have fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, and even eighth-generation African-Americans?
    It's tempting to suggest that it's all about skin color, that this is why it's easier for Italian and Mexican immigrants to assimilate. All they have to do is lose their foreign accent and get haircuts like ours and we can't tell them apart. Yet Chinese immigrants are easy to tell apart despite their perfect English and their zeal to adopt our fashions, and they've been welcomed into the Melting Pot for decades.

    Elsewhere in the New World the descendants of freed slaves were not only accepted into the mainstream readily enough, but they wanted to assimilate. Why not here?

    As I said, I think it's the legacy of the Civil War. Almost a century and a half later, Euro-Americans and African-Americans still have to reach over a river of blood in order to shake hands. All other slaves in this hemisphere (except in Haiti) were freed peacefully, as the forces of economics made slavery impractical.
    Surely some of both. This is a problem that has to be solved individually. You're doing your part by smiling at them and being friendly. Don't concern yourself with how anyone reacts. You're a positive force for the advancement of civilization and knowing that should be enough of a reward. Your children and their children will have an easier time getting together because of people like you. Bless you.
     
  8. CutsieMarie89 Zen Registered Senior Member

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    My intent wasn't racist, its just how I feel like I'm treated. I am a part of the afflicted minority so I know at least from my experience. Most things that are directly related to the black culture are viewed as ignorant or uneducated. If I insulted or offended anyone I apologize.
     
  9. CutsieMarie89 Zen Registered Senior Member

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    I don't know about everyone else, but for me it was a strive towards a cultural identity. I grew up in predominantly white areas as a child and then I went to private schools which were even more so. So I lived the dream that everyone supposedly pushes for, race was a nonissue for me. My friends were of all colors and creeds. When i was in high school there were only two black students in my class, but I never really thought much about it. My parents would always point out certain things about race, but I didn't understand where they were coming from or what they were getting at so I just assumed they were a little racist themselves. It wasn't until my senior year of high school when I helped my brother with a school project he was doing that it really hit me hard. I had absolutely no cultural identity. When people would say I'm Irish or I'm Japanese or whatever I was always sort of left out. I'm black (or American, but that never flies). I had no heritage I did not understand anything about myself and I didn't know anything about people who were like me. I felt so isolated and wished that I did have at least some black friends to talk to people who could truly understand how I felt about certain things. Sometimes I think black students who are more fortunate than I was in that regard may become a little to wrapped up in maintaining their cultural identity and forget about letting others in.
     
  10. darini Registered Senior Member

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    Why don't you call it "variant"?

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    OK, it's not a different accent but a way to communicate... but I understand "dialect" as a variant that cannot be fully understood by people out of a certain community.


    About "races" separation: here some black people are proud to wear shirts with the inscription "100% Black". Fact is, if I wear a shirt saying "100% white", I might be arrested for racism. :shrug: But that's not the discussion. I believe you must be careful not to transform racial integration into demagogical and hypocritical acts (as many we have here).

    What you call ebonics there we should call "economics" here, because as we don't have that racial separation as you stated, we have big social / economical problems. So, we have "brown", white and black people living together in poor communities with their own slangs and variants. I wouldn't call them a dialect, though.

    cheers
     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    No. In fact a dialect must be understood by other speakers of the same language--possibly with a small amount of effort--or else by definition it's a separate language. The fuzziness of the definition enters the picture when we have a spectrum of dialects, any adjacent two of which are intercomprehensible but the ones on the end are not, such as German and Dutch, which both have dialects at the fringe of their territory that strongly resemble the others' language.
    In the United States that qualifies as protected free speech so long as the slogan isn't something stronger that might cross the line into "hate speech." However, that protection is only against interference by the authorities, not angry civilian readers of your shirt.

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    There are a number of terms for variants of a language. To quote Dictionary.com:
    Therefore, to call Ebonics a "dialect" is to draw attention to the fact that 160 years after Emancipation, African-Americans still often live in specific geographical areas and often constitute a specific social class.

    As I have noted, I have no problem with this situation so long as the people in question truly identify themselves as "African-" Americans and choose to maintain ties to Africa and its culture. But for those whose only difference from the rest of us is that they have darker skin and some of the other physiological characteristics inherited from African ancestors--I strongly disapprove of the term "black" Americans and I am saddened by their being forced (by us and by history, but most sadly of all, by themselves) to be a separate community and a separate social class of people who are only different in physical appearance.

    I refer everyone to the "South Park" episode about "Ginger-vitis," in which Cartman launched a successful crusade to discriminate against people with red hair. The status of "black" vs. "white" America is precisely that stoopid for precisely the same reason!
     
  12. darini Registered Senior Member

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    What do you call variants, then? I'm hitting on the same point again, because at University we're told that there's no dialects in Brazil, only variants (not considering small indigenous groups or some Oriental / European communities that live here and have kept their languages).

    I believe the same happens in the US / UK: different accents make variants, not dialects. Taking German as an example, they have the standard "ich", but in some regions they say "ik" (Dutch, anyone?

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    ). Once I talked to a Bavarian guy who told me he says "gab mir "instead of "gib mir". However, I believe everyone will say "I" in the US/UK and "eu" in Brazil.

    On the other hand, we have a linguist here who wrote a book entitled "Linguistic Prejudice" and says that if someone asks you "what language does she/he speak?", you have to say something like "it's a variant of Portuguese spoken in the Northeast, by males/females aged around 20 years old, whose social conditions and education are etc, etc."

    Too much to answer a simple question, I guess.

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    cheers
     
  13. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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    German and Dutch are two completely separate and different languages!
     
  14. Enmos Staff Member

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    Not completely, they are very alike.
     
  15. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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    Alike yes, but I wouldn't say that Dutch is a dialect of German.
     
  16. Enmos Staff Member

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  17. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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  18. Enmos Staff Member

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    I know, but that doesn't make it less true

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  19. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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    I always thought they were different enough to be considered separate. It sounds like here:
    He is saying that Dutch is spoken in a region of Germany and that it is a dialect of German.
    It just seems like typical American geographic ignorance to me.
     
  20. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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    Actually it looks like he is from Brazil, so Brazilian geographic ignorance

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  21. Enmos Staff Member

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    Of course they are different languages. But they obviously have the same roots. Saying one is a dialect of the other is stretching it though, severely.

    It is. Americans often seem to think that The Netherlands is Germany.. :shrug:
     
  22. Enmos Staff Member

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    Brazil is in the America's

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  23. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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    And they think that Amsterdam is a country where marijuana is legal and everybody there smokes tons of weed and parties all the time. I actually frequently get in arguments with people about this. And they are so sure that Amsterdam is a country. Then I tell them Amsterdam is THE CAPITAL of HOLLAND/THE NETHERLANDS AND I HAVE BEEN THERE!!!
    Then they stare at me with this stupid empty blank look. God I hate living here En :bawl:
    Can I come live with you in Heaven? I mean Holland?
     

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