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Young Geoffrey

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A black day in race-relations ... [Apr. 5th, 2011|04:24 pm]
Young Geoffrey
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I like to think I am, if not colour-blind when it comes to human beings, at least colour-indifferent. And more, that I am at the same time reasonably sensitive to cultural nuance and to words and phrases that, however innocuously intended, can carry offensive or painful baggage.

In other words, I am white (or at least, perceived as white; ask me about my Mongolian ancestry!) and am part of my country's dominant culture. So I try to remember the privileges those facts afford me.

Sometimes, though, it can all get a little confusing ...

Read more, "In Blackest Day ..."

This entry was originally posted at http://ed-rex.dreamwidth.org/216718.html. Comment there using OpenID, or here as per normal.
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[User Picture]From: pakaboori
2011-04-05 08:55 pm (UTC)
Perhaps you've blanked out on 1987. Doesn't matter how young your friend is - he's likely to have heard the expression somewhere. If he is at all inclined to wit....

Also, do you mean that once upon a time (when the over 70 crowd was in its youth, perhaps), if someone used "black day" they meant to imply racial derogation? As opposed to, say, implying tragedy or bleakness or darkness and the misery that goes along with lack of hope/light....
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-04-05 09:37 pm (UTC)

I did *not*!

No, I haven't forgotten 1987 — for me, it was Montreal, living very nearly beneath the pont Jacques Cartier, wondering if my predictions of a second Great Depression were coming true more than a decade early ... ah, those were the days ...

Ahem.

Also, do you mean that once upon a time (when the over 70 crowd was in its youth, perhaps), if someone used "black day" they meant to imply racial derogation?

No. In fact, it's my suspicion that it historically did in fact refer to darkness and night and that any racist connotations were coincidental.

Now, though, with the word "black" associated with, er, black folks, using the word negatively has (at best) uncomfortable connotations.

I'm reminded of something I came across on a (black) friend's Facebook. He and his partner (also black) had had a kitchen fire and were a little non-plussed when one of the fire-fighters mentioned, after the fact, that he and she would be "dealing with a lot of blackness" during the clean-up.

(How are you by the way?)
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[User Picture]From: pakaboori
2011-04-05 10:13 pm (UTC)

Re: I did *not*!

...How else would they have phrased 'you will see a lot of charred stuff and smoke imprinting' in the heat of the moment? Granted I understand that it would play strangely in that context, but I don't see why they would have found it discordant since...fire damage blackens things.

If I am pestering you with comments, you must assume I am well. Actually, I am generally well in silence, too. It's just that I am currently avoiding end-of-term-work :P
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-04-05 11:48 pm (UTC)

Re: I did *not*!

They didn't take offence, but simply found the choice of wording, well, awkward. But not so awkward that it didn't also make for an amusing Facebook anecdote. Which was a similar tone to what I was trying to do here.

Part of the problem, of course, is that our racial colour labels really aren't very accurate. Raven was quite amused — and even more confused — when I explained that Orientals have been referred to as "yellow". (And for that matter, I'm not white. Etcetera.)

If I am pestering you with comments, you must assume I am well.

I was hoping as much. And please, pester away as much as you like!
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[User Picture]From: mijopo
2011-04-05 09:40 pm (UTC)
hmm, I think you might be being a wee bit oversensitive here, but maybe that's just me and I'm not sufficiently sensitive to issues of race.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-04-05 11:53 pm (UTC)

Or possibly I was a tad heavy-handed

In truth, I exaggerated the incident — or rather, my discomfort — just a little for comic effect. I've been in rant mode enough lately it's quite possible I've lost some of my humourous touch.
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[User Picture]From: talktooloose
2011-04-05 10:12 pm (UTC)
I don't have any problem with using such a basic word as black to have a variety of meanings. The fact that some people of deeper hue (we are all variations of brown) are referred to as black doesn't mean that you can't have a black mood, walk through a pitch-black forest, or blacken someone's reputation. I don't believe any of these expressions carries racial overtones.

"White" and "Black" are lazy, over-generalized terms anyway. Since I don't think all people of darker hue should be lumped together at the back of the bus, I'm much more interested in knowing if someone's ancestry is Jamaican, Somalian, Nigerian or whether they are fourth generation Canadians. Since I don't perceive all black (or white) people as a single unit, the word "black" is not terribly helpful or interesting.

Heh, I'm a white male now, but my immigrant grandparents weren't: they were just Jews.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-04-06 12:08 am (UTC)

Agreed (mostly)

I agree with just about everything you said, except, "[none] of these expressions carr[y] racial overtones."

Fact is, while they might not for you, they definitely do carry those overtones for others. Though not, apparently, for my acquaintance at the grocery store.

Since I don't think all people of darker hue should be lumped together at the back of the bus, I'm much more interested in knowing if someone's ancestry is Jamaican, Somalian, Nigerian or whether they are fourth generation Canadians.

Absolutely. I raise my bullshit deflector every time I hear someone claim to speak to or (especially) for the "black community". Anyone who claimed to speak for "the white community" would be quite rightly laughed out of the room.
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[User Picture]From: talktooloose
2011-04-06 02:54 pm (UTC)

Re: Agreed (mostly)

"Fact is, while they might not for you, they definitely do carry those overtones for others."

Lol, are you suggesting the whole universe does not think like me? Horrors!
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-04-06 03:31 pm (UTC)

Re: Agreed (mostly)

It's a monstrous truth to confront, in'it?
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[User Picture]From: abomvubuso
2011-04-06 08:50 pm (UTC)
You've made me curious. You should share some more about your Mongolian ancestry.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-04-06 11:46 pm (UTC)

Hypothetically Mongolian

As per the subject-line, the idea is based on only circumstantial evidence.

My father's side is Slavic (Russian, Polish, Ukrainian &ct — how far back ya wanna go?) and we do have what Sarah Silverman called "vaguely Asian features". Short of stature, somewhat squat, narrow (not quite slanted) eyes. Historically, the Mongols not only came through, but even settled, at least for a while, in territories my paternal ancestors presumably inhabited.

Ergo, direct descendants of Genghis Khan, thank you very much.

On my mother's side, pure Finn, there isn't much to go in in terms of physical appearance, but there is that peculiar linguistic connection between Finnish and Mongolian, and so we clutch at that straw as well.

Since everyone is descended from savage barbarians if you go back far enough, I like to think I'm descended from the most succesful and, arguably, the most civilized barbarians of them all.
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[User Picture]From: abomvubuso
2011-04-07 12:10 am (UTC)

Re: Hypothetically Mongolian

Thats truly fascinating. I myself come from a line of barbarians, but a northern one lol :)
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2011-04-07 01:13 am (UTC)

Re: Hypothetically Mongolian

Ah yes, I remember well when my ancestors swept yours away in that great tide from the East!

Fun times, fun times ...
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[User Picture]From: abomvubuso
2011-04-07 09:06 am (UTC)

Re: Hypothetically Mongolian

Ah, those were the Swedes. They suck. Icelanders are more related to the Norwegians (badass mofos) :p
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