Racial Language

You all know ‘language”; but what is racial language?

You hear this “racial’ everywhere. From White House to eastern Germany to the British Labor Party, racial matters dominate the news. Be careful, the words used in such discussions, are often misleading. The word ‘racist’ is blunted by overuse.

Race

A concept with no biological validity. Inborn differences between say, black & white people – skin color are minute. Such division seems unbridgeable difference. Nobody is only one thing-simply black, or white, or muslim. All have multiple identities. One single person can be black, Christian, a Londener, an accoutnatn, a mother, a sister, a runner, etc. – Amartya Sen, the Philosoper.

Racist

This word is losing meaning, by overuse. It used to believe that certain ethnic groups are inferior. Now anyone who says anything about race that somebody considers offensive. Accusing someone else of racism feels  reighteous and gnores the reality that everyone has some racist instincts. To fight racism, one has to identify and combat these instincts.

Community

Is usually applied to other ethnic groups. If you ask – which community you belong to? She/he will be baffled – just an individual with unique views. It’s easy to assign people to monolithic ethnic “communities”.

Is someone Muslim, Moroccan, French, Persian, European, or all.

No ethnic group anywhere is a club with a unified world view that one can join at birth.

Who are community leaders?

Generally unelected, self-appointed, older, with beards.

Traditional cultures

Countries like US, New Zealand, Canada have “murdered” their native populations – there’s a reverence for everything perceived as ‘Traditional culture’. Its members are hailed as paragons untainted by modernity. But, that locks them in an ethnic box, while the rest can free change. Give minorities an opportunities, not treat them as savages.

Think clearly, to speak clearly – Orwell.

Every society needs speech codes. It’s nice that every woman, gay peop;e, ethnic minorities, can go to work everyday, without being abused by bigots.

Safe spaces

A common phrase on American campuses. Students need protection from speeches they find distressing. Crucially, too, focusing on offensive speech distracts from more significant issues of racial injustice – David Cole of American Civil Liberties Union

Segregated schools are a bigger deal than magazine poem. And, so are those fraternities in the campuses.

Suresh Shah, Pathfinders Enterprise

Adapted from the write by Simon Kuper, published in a daily in Singapore

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