Is it racist to describe someone as having slitty eyes?

(162 Posts)
joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:14:52

Why is the description slitty eyes racist? Is it used as a derogatory term?

My ex husband was Japanese and his eyes were slitty in comparison to my rounder eyes, our DD has eyes shaped somewhere inbetween, would that make me a racist bigot to say her eyes were slightly slitty shaped? I think she has stunning eyes and I wish mine were her shape!

I was often described as round eyed when living in japan, I didn't take it as a racist slur, do some of you believe I should have?

I may be being 'naive' here but I'm curious about this.

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 09:17:47

Yes it is used as a derogatory term. If you question it's use then it is best not to use the term.

Besom Fri 10-Jun-11 09:20:33

Say 'almond shaped' instead if you need to say anything? Slitty has been widely used as a derogatory term.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:21:28

I've never heard it used as a derogatory term which is why I ask.

Would round eyes also be a derogatory term?

FruStefanLindman Fri 10-Jun-11 09:22:15

I agree with scurry.

You could always describe your DD's eyes as almond-shaped

Besom Fri 10-Jun-11 09:22:28

Although everybodies eyes are almond shaped aren't they? Eyes are not round.

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 09:22:55

It will be interesting to see how this thread goes. I challenged the same term that was used by someone on a Style and Beauty thread once and I was flamed for challenging it.

FruStefanLindman Fri 10-Jun-11 09:23:16

Oops, X-posted, Besom

moogster1a Fri 10-Jun-11 09:24:08

I've always wondered why Paki is derogatory but Brit isn't. I see them both just as abbreviations. Aussie, Argie, Yank. Why are some viewed as so awful and others not?

'Slitty eyes' has a negative connotation. You could say 'almond-eyed', I think that would be fine.

I think that the Japanese are casually racist in the way thatthe Britush were a generation ago, when terms like 'the Paki shop', 'spas', or 'retard' were considered just descriptive, but not pejorative. They may be descriptive, but in an offensive way, which is now recognised.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:25:05

I think when people use the term 'round' they mean in comparison to their own eye shape rather than someone actually having circular eyes!

valiumredhead Fri 10-Jun-11 09:25:14

I agree, not a nice term.

moogster1a Fri 10-Jun-11 09:25:48

Message deleted by Mumsnet.

MrsLevinson Fri 10-Jun-11 09:26:55

It is used in a derogatory way, not in a usual descriptive one, therefore it is racist. Agree the term almond shape is best, it's obvious what is meant by this as Western eyes are rounder.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:30:15

Although some people may use a word in a derogatory way, do you think if you use it without derogatory intention or even in a positive way that still make you a bigot, ignorant or neither?

If I said I don't think Hugh Grant (for want of a better example!) is attractive as he's too pale would that be racist?

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:31:31

Is it because slitty doesn't sound as nice as almond? I agree almond sounds more attractive

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 09:31:48

It wouldn't matter what your intention was, it is the received message that counts -so don't use the term if you believe it may offend.

Animation Fri 10-Jun-11 09:32:21

This is something Prince Phillip said - in a moment that was intended to lighten a situation. I watched his interview last night. I believe his intentions were good - but that it's best not use terms like that.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:36:23

I saw the interview too which is the reason I started the thread.

I've never heard it used but then I suppose no one is going to say something they believe to be racist within earshot of me considering my DD is half japanese.

Irksome Fri 10-Jun-11 09:40:46

yeah, it's an unpleasant thing to say.
It's like the difference between 'round eyes' and 'bulbous eyes'.

FFS

Paki is a racially motivated slur. It was/is used as a term to denote inferiority by nature of someone's ethnic background (it isn't short for Pakistani, it's a slur for asian-looking) and it is actively and intentionally hurtful to asian people. Brit is simply a shortening of British. Huge difference.

Slitty is an unpleasant word and implies that having east asian eye shape is ugly or inferior. Slanted or sloping might be ok, or almond, or just east asian.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:43:06

I've heard slanty eyes is also racist....

BingBongSong Fri 10-Jun-11 09:43:54

Actually, I was on a predominantly Chinese discussion board yesterday, where the term "round-eye" was being used alongside the term "potato" in a derogatory way to describe white people. Hadn't been aware of that till now.

Other expressions used are Gweilo (ghost-man, used to describe anyone not Chinese), and one which is used less often now in China is "dabizhi", which translates "big nose".

It's establishing a term as a label - often an irrelevant label - that makes it a problem. Many offensive words started off as legitimate and acceptable words, until their use was hijacked. Take 'spastic', for example, or 'yid'. Both were originally used by people with CP and by Jews to describe themselves. It was when others used those words to exclude these people that the words became unacceptable.

Though TBH I think with 'slitty-eyes' the reason is even simpler. If a Westerner narrows their eyes it is often a negative expression - suspicion, dishonesty, etc. You would legitimately describe them as slitty-eyed, it would not be racist, and it would immediately send the message that they were being in some way bad.

valiumredhead Fri 10-Jun-11 09:44:41

It's like the difference between 'round eyes' and 'bulbous eyes'

I disagree, that's descriptive but those words weren't/aren't used as a racial slur iyswim as 'slit eyes' was/is.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:45:57

But in general caucasions do have bigger noses than Chinese, no denying it!

I think if you are using it to describe an individuals appearance (in the same way you would use tall, blonde, black) it isn't racist as you are just describing someone's appearance. I do remember hearing about the presenter of a programme trying to pick out a member of the audience and went through a list of things which might identify him "the man in the front row, on the right, with the blue tie, in the jumper" because he didn't want to use the most easily identifiable think about the guys appearance - his turban! Not sure how true it was, but I don't think that saying someone has a turban on is racist. However, if you were to meet a White British person who works with a lot of Sikhs or lives with them and say " you'll have to leave otherwise you'll be wearing a turban soon" I think that would be racist.

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 09:48:01

joogle -why use such a term to describe someone? Why define someone by what they may look like? Generalisations are unhelpful.

Irksome Fri 10-Jun-11 09:48:44

Valium, that's what I mean! Someone said that if slitty is rude then so is 'round' - I don't think 'round' is, I think 'bulbous' would be more of an equivalent.

I'm gonna go against the grain and say slitty isn't offensive in my mind. Its a descriptive word. Can be used in a good or bad way...

"She has beautiful slitty eyes" OR "Look at that chink with their stupid slitty eyes"

I've never understood why paki or chink was offensive either. I thought it was kinda the same as me being called scotch or a jock - mildly annoying as its scot not scotch and jock just gives me visions of a jock strap, but not offensive unless used by someone in a negative way.

The one word I do draw the line at is the N word. But thats because its rarely used by white people in anything other than an offensive way.

HorseWhisperer Fri 10-Jun-11 09:49:51

EricNorth Excellent post. I am astounded that someone needs to ask why 'Paki' is racially offensive and 'Brit' is not. Wow.

bupcakesandcunting Fri 10-Jun-11 09:50:03

I just say "oriental eyes" but the world of racial offensiveness is constantly evolving so this could be deemed as derogatory now.

Slitty definitely offensive. A lot of pan-asian people use "round eye" to describe westerners, the same way as racist westerners call pan-asians "slitty eyes" I don't like it. A chinese man in China Town London called me a "round eye cow" once. sad

EvenLessNarkyPuffin Fri 10-Jun-11 09:50:38

biscuit

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:52:58

Because I believe differences should be celebrated, I think it's great that we don't all look the same.

If you don't know someone the first thing you will notice is how they look, there is nothing wrong or shameful in that and it doens't mean you are 'defining' them by it.

I've always wondered why the term 'white trash' is widely used yet if the term 'black trash' were to be used i'm in no doubt it would be considered racist (and rightly so ! ) confused

Irksome Fri 10-Jun-11 09:55:02

friedrice have you ever genuinely heard someone say 'she has beautiful slitty eyes'?

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 09:57:14

You are if that is your only comment you have to make, joogle. A physical description is valid if it is relevant to the conversation. Using a term you have already been told is offensive is deemed racist.

Slanty and slitty usually accompanied by gook, chink or jap was a racist term during the hostilities with and after Japan and Asia. So Prince P using the term was racist. Those that are younger do not realise the conotations behind some of the language and so see it differently.

Racism had a massive effect on people's lives (putting it mildly) and it is hard for younger (and other) people to understand why some people are so against certain behaviour or language becoming acceptable again.

NoelEdmondshair Fri 10-Jun-11 10:00:29

friedrice - what a bloody stupid post.

OP - yes "slitty" eyes is racist and derogatory but I suspect you knew that when you posted.

Apocalypse- because those that were considered 'white trash' still were held in higher esteem than any black person. The skin colour deemed there 'rights' etc not the behaviour or decency of the person. Think of the book 'to kill a moking bird' it came from the US. In parts it is still relevent. A white man could rape a black girl and it was ok, but a decent black man could be 'strung up' for fun. We should not forget history, 'to coin a phrase', "otherwise it is in danger of being repeated".

I think the answer is to treat others as you yourself would like to be treated. IE don';t say things that could be potentially hurtful.

OP, I don't believe you have a mixed race child tbh, I think it's a bit od that this thread has appeared when a discussion about Prine Phillip using the same term has been rumbling on.

To call someone 'slitty eyed' would be awful, the correct (kinder) term would be almond shaped, as i'm sure you know.

Yes I have heard someones eyes being referred to as slitty, but they were white, so does that make it ok? So does the word just become racist when speaking about a chinese or japanese person.

I stand by what I said, its a descriptive word. The definition of slit is "A long, straight, narrow cut or opening." So to say someones eyes are slitty is saying just that.

Just because a word can be racist doesn't mean it loses its non racist meaning. I'm not insensitive to racism, I have a mixed race DD (black/white) and have over heard a teenager refer to her as a nigger before. But that doesnt mean that I have to think that every word that could be racist is racist.

It is racist and offensive
I'm suprised someone actually had to ask this question

Irksome Fri 10-Jun-11 10:26:23

You've heard someone say 'she has beautiful slitty eyes'?

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 10:29:10

SpecialFried, your wilful ignorance is outstanding.

Sensi Fri 10-Jun-11 10:32:49

As a little side-note, there is a small branch of linguistics which concerns itself with connections between phonemes and the emotional impact of a word.

Of words which start with 'sl' there is a higher than usual percent of negative meanings or negative feelings connected with the word. There is something about the sound which lends itself to negativity. Of course there are many exceptions, But

Slow
Slut
Slag
Sloth
Sludge
Slap
Sleeze
Sly
Slime
Slum
Slug
Slash
Slay

Well, there's basically tons. grin

So maybe that is part of the reason 'slitty' just sounds horrid.

Kallista Fri 10-Jun-11 10:36:01

Er, yes.
Both terms 'slitty eyes' and 'round eyes' are offensive - because that was the original intention of those terms.

malinois Fri 10-Jun-11 10:41:06

moogster1a - 'Paki' is offensive because most people of Pakistani origin find it offensive. 'Brit' is not offensive because most British people don't find it offensive.

Is that clear enough for you?

Irksome That's not exactly what was said, it was more along the lines of "You have really pretty eyes, kinda.... slitty".

ScurryFunge Why do you think I'm being wilfully ignorant? As I've said I'm well aware slitty CAN be racist, but it doesn't mean it has to be racist. Is it still racist if used to describe a white persons eyes? Should we just remove it from the English language? In that case we better remove cracker too as that could be offensive to white people.

The whole racism thing does my head in. Words aren't racist (bar a few like nigger and zipperhead etc) - People are.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 10:48:41

ApocalypseCheeseToastie - You don't beleive my child is mixed race? Wtf?! What an utterly bizarre thing to say! Why do you think I would I make something like that up, is it because you think if I had a mixed race child I would never even consider using the term slitty eyes, something which I have never heard of in a racist context? I would be happy to post a picture of her on my profile if you think I am some kind of nutter who fabricates children!

As I have said almond shaped does sound nicer than slitty.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 10:49:18

SpecialFriedRice - I agree with you

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 10:51:31

I think it goes without saying if you use a word which you know is going to cause offence, racially or otherwise, then you are a bit of a dick

ZZZenAgain Fri 10-Jun-11 10:57:12

Chinese friend of mine in Germany went to the headmistress to complain about her dd being referred to as "slit-eyed" by other pupils. She obviously found it enormously offensive and was happy that the headmistress took ithe matter seriously and stamped down on the usuage immediately and effectively.

So IMO yes, it is offensive

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 10:58:28

I see you are coming round to the idea then joogle. Two seconds after agreeing with SFR you call them a dick grin

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 11:01:14

Oh, and SFR, I think the whole racism thing(wtf?) is doing your head in because maybe you are not giving any thought to how you use language.

jasminetom Fri 10-Jun-11 11:11:36

what about horrid little weasel faced white men with slitty eyes (as seen on jeremy kyle). They have slitty eyes, is that ok to say?

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 11:14:37

My DD is 5 and is at a fairly racially diverse school so has not had any kind of racial abuse, obviously if someone taunted her by calling her 'slitty eyes' I would be furious and devastated but if it was someone said to her 'your eyes are slitty compared to mine' I don't think I would class that as offensive - although I realise it depends on how it made her feel rather than me.

I think that's quite important, joogle. With words that have multiple meanings or uses, it's the difference between a label and a description.

Labels are offensive because they reduce the person being labeled to just one irrelevant thing, ignoring their humanity and individuality.

jasminetom Fri 10-Jun-11 11:22:51

But surely that is just human nature prettycandles?

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 11:25:43

It is an excuse more than human nature. If having discussed and thought about certain labels, someone goes out of their way to continue using it then it is disregarding someone's feelings completely.

Kallista Fri 10-Jun-11 11:36:30

Ok - as an example my mum (who hates my dad's family) says that because they are part romany they have 'those gypsy fox eyes'. I was very annoyed and asked how she would feel if i insulted her family.
She just said 'well don't worry; your eyes are nicer'. :@
I know she did it to wind me up but aaghh...

It is in human nature to assign labels, to yourself as well as to others, and to link yourself strongly to groups whose labels you share or wish to share. It is equally in human nature to be antagonistic to other individuals or groups whose labels you fear or dislike.

If, however, we lived only by our natures we would be equivalent to animals. We moderate our natures in the name of compassion and respect, and create a functioning society.

Kallista Fri 10-Jun-11 11:42:47

To me an offensive term is that which makes the recipient feel 'less human', degraded, or of lower worth.

Madoldbird Fri 10-Jun-11 11:59:39

This word is not just racist, I find offensive in general. My DS has, what I term, "oriental shaped" eyes, not due to his background (we are white British) but due to a chromosomal abnormality.

I would be hurt and angry if anyone described his eyes as "slitty" as it has negative, derogatory conotations. I use the word "oriental" which is largely what the medical professionals we have met use, but i think almond shaped is also acceptable.

jasminetom Fri 10-Jun-11 13:45:46

Well it is a derogatory term but so are lots of other references to people's appearance. What about calling someone a fat cow? or lanky idiot? I personally do not believe that none of you ever insult anyone. A lot of you certainly rely on stereotying and insulting anyone who doesn't agree with your views. I wouldn't say it personally at all, obviously it can be rascist. I do call people fat cows quite a lot however.

JoySzasz Fri 10-Jun-11 13:55:39

The word "slitty" is never used in a positive light IMO.

It could never be used in a compliment confused where could it be used positively?

Oriental can never be used anything to describe anything apart from soft furnishings where I live (US). Asian is the term most people use,and to me makes the most sense.

I have spent masses of time in Japan,my clients used to describe my eyes as "looking like a husky dog" grin confused

LDNmummy Fri 10-Jun-11 14:57:57

Is this another thread where people end up defending their right to use derogatory terms to refer to people of other races and cultures?

If so, those of you who think it is ok are all a bunch of hygiene-less ghosts (unless you are of a minority background like myself).

I don't mean that in a rude way, its just a genuinely descriptive term for the English where I am from based on traits which are considered common in English culture and the physicality of English people.

Surely it is not rude then IYSWIM.

A colleague of mine was offended when someone told him he 'looked like a Catholic', my brother was told he 'looked like a Hun' (not by the same person thankfully) and said "thanks". I think any description that lumps a person into a 'type' is wrong, because we are all individual no matter what we look like.

onagar Fri 10-Jun-11 15:15:02

HorseWhisperer you (are others) say things like "I am astounded that someone needs to ask why 'Paki' is racially offensive and 'Brit' is not. Wow."

Is it perhaps because you are all very young perhaps? I am from a time when it WAS short for pakistani.

onagar Fri 10-Jun-11 15:16:24

That was meant to say "you AND others"

LDNmummy Fri 10-Jun-11 15:21:39

Onagar can I ask when this was?

sue52 Fri 10-Jun-11 15:24:55

Ongar I am quite old by MN standards (59) and that old has been offensive for as long as I can remember.

sue52 Fri 10-Jun-11 15:25:24

sorry that word I meant to say.

thefirstMrsDeVere Fri 10-Jun-11 15:28:49

I am 44 and I dont remember Paki ever being used to describe people from Pakistand specifically and definately not in a non derogetory way.

It has always been used as an ignorant (at best) way to describe anyone brown and at worst flung with bile at anyone brown.

My kids have been called Pakis. They are white Uk/guyanese.

The whole I cant understand why its deemed offensive (said in an innocent voice with eyes all wide) is bollocks.

Everyone knows its a term of abusive and/or a term used to describe anyone who is Asian/Indian/mixed race with a total disregard for their actual origins.

The MN demographic is supposed to be educated, well read women. hmm

ooohyouareawfulbutilikeyou Fri 10-Jun-11 15:32:44

I am 44 and I dont remember Paki ever being used to describe people from Pakistand specifically and definately not in a non derogetory way.

i have heard lots of people say going to the Paki shop - thats not offensive or derogatory - just descriptive surely

they could just as easily say going to Taffy's shop if going to someone Welsh

ooohyouareawfulbutilikeyou Fri 10-Jun-11 15:34:39

all a bunch of hygiene-less ghosts

if you want to call me that, go ahead, wouldnt offend me whatsoever as you dont know me personally to know if i am hygiene-less or not. I would just laugh at being called paleface, ghosty, honky, whatever - in fact i cant think of many things that would make me feel offended.

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 15:37:08

brick
head
wall
bang

<sigh>

MrsLadywoman Fri 10-Jun-11 15:43:28

what's a zipperhead?!

LDNmummy Fri 10-Jun-11 15:48:25

I am assuming you are English then ooohyouareawful, well in that case you MUST be hygiene-less because isnt that what being English is all about? Surely I wouldn't have to know you personally to know that. In my language that is the association made with the word used to denote English people so it must just be an accurately descriptive term. In that case of course you are right not to be offended.

Message deleted by Mumsnet.

magicmummy1 Fri 10-Jun-11 16:16:09

I think slitty eyes is offensive, and I'm amazed that someone with a half-Japanese child would describe her child in such terms. Funnily enough, in all the years that I spent in japan, I don't ever remember being called "round-eyed". hmm What was the Japanese term that was actually used, OP?

In any case, as someone else has said, casual racism is common in japan, especially towards foreigners who don't happen to be white. Lost count of the times I was asked if my family minded that my DH had darker skin.... sad

As for the term paki, if anyone doesn't understand why it's offensive, try going out in certain areas at 11pm on a Saturday night, in the company of a man of Asian origin, and you may well get an insight into why people consider this term to be a racial slur.

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loopylou6 Fri 10-Jun-11 16:24:16

My eyes are described as 'slanted' I am white and it doesn't bother me at all.

LDNmummy Fri 10-Jun-11 16:33:10

www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=zipperhead

I hadn't even heard that before.

MrsLadywoman Fri 10-Jun-11 16:37:31

I am half-japanese and had a number of nicknames at school, one of them being Holly Holly Hong Hong. In itself you could argue that there is nothing inherently nasty in the words Holly or Hong Kong (despite being inaccurate) but it was used to make me feel very conscious of being 'different' from the majority of the class and therefore inferior. An Indian girl in my class had the Whole Nut ad repeatedly sung at her, as in "Nuts whole hazel nuts - cadbury's take them and they cover them with chocolate" (you can tell I'm in my 40s!). Again, not in itself saying anything directly offensive but the intention and the effect were clear.

So yes, slitty eyes I would say implies screwed-up tight pokey little piss-holes in the snow .

I know it doesn't actually MEAN that but this is why you have to be quite careful about language and consider how it can affect people. There are no cover-all hard and fast rules about how to avoid being racist, you just have to be vigilant and sensitive.

DuelingFanjo Fri 10-Jun-11 16:42:22

I love how these threads always start with someone asking a supposedly innocent question and 'I am really curious' and 'I really want to know' but then subsequent posts just prove they are merely being a twat and trying to start a discussion.

Has anyone said 'some of my best friends are...' yet?

WineAndPizza Fri 10-Jun-11 16:49:10

Some people on here are idiots. For all those who say (and I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this on MN) 'I don't understand why Paki is offensive...surely it's the same as Brit'...once and for all, NO IT IS NOT. 'Brit' is a shortening of British, it is not and never has been used in a perjorative way. 'Paki', as others have said, is an offensive and derogatory term which was used to describe anyone of a certain skin colour regardless of their ethnic background.

Paki shop is likewise offensive - if the shop was not run by a family who (you are assuming) are from Pakistan, what would you call it? A corner shop, a newsagent, etc. You wouldn't call it the British shop. You are making assumptions about people based on appearance and also making generalisations.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 16:49:11

Isn't 'really wanting to know' and being 'curious' the same as wanting to discuss something? I would say it was.

Why are you calling me a twat?

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 10-Jun-11 16:51:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 16:55:23

Obviously the word 'paki' is offensive and I would consider it's use racist. I think most people know not to say it so if they do use it is in a derogatory way.

I think it's more a question of why it has become offensive in that it is presumabley a shortened form of 'Pakistani' whereas 'Brit' isn't considered offensive when it is a shortened form of 'Bristish'.

LDNmummy Fri 10-Jun-11 16:56:51

Joogle, because of the way and context in which it is used.

thefirstMrsDeVere Fri 10-Jun-11 16:57:42

sigh - yes youareawful but are they going to a shop run by people from pakistan?

Or are they just using an ignorant term to describe people of an asian/indian/mixedrace appearance regardless of their actual ethnicity?

That question is rhetorical btw.

ragged Fri 10-Jun-11 16:58:25

I have slitty eyes,in that they look like narrow slits. It wouldn't mean anything else to me if you said I had slitty eyes. I am white European caucasian. I like my eyes the way they are.
Have I just made a racist comment? Exactly which racial group was I insulting? confused

WineAndPizza Fri 10-Jun-11 16:58:55

Joogle I think I just explained that.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 16:59:00

I'm not asking myself, I realise why, I meant I think that is the general question others posters are trying to convey.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 17:00:22

Sorry Wine and Pizza x post

WineAndPizza Fri 10-Jun-11 17:01:31

Ragged it wouldn't mean anything to you because you are white European caucasian.

thefirstMrsDeVere Fri 10-Jun-11 17:01:41

These threads should have their own board.

The 'why dont I get to use anyword I want just cos I want to regardless of its offensiveness because I am too lazy, ignorant and selfish to use a different one'

That would keep everyone who demands the right to use paki, mong,spaz, nigger, halfcaste, retard etc out the way and the rest of us could make good use of the 'hide' facility.

Its getting really boring now.

WineAndPizza Fri 10-Jun-11 17:03:04

Don't forget 'chinky' MrsDeVere

JoySzasz Fri 10-Jun-11 17:04:07

ragged I think you are in the minority then smile

Your eyes sound beautiful,but I am surprised you would want to call them "slitty" confused

I would just say they were slanted surely?

Anyway,in that context you (of course) not insulted anyone.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 17:05:27

Although I had never heard 'slitty eyes' as a racial slur I have heard 'slanty eyes'

VictorGollancz Fri 10-Jun-11 17:07:50

Jesus Christ almighty, it really shouldn't need explaining, should it?

Consider your history and ask yourself: has this term that I'm so determined to use been systematically employed to dehumanise and 'Other' an entire race of people in order to perpetuate an Empire/a war/slavery/the extraction of opium or gold or diamonds/labour camps/genocide etc?

Now, ask yourself: has 'Brit' ever been used to do that? Has 'Kiwi'?

It's really tremendously simple.

thefirstMrsDeVere Fri 10-Jun-11 17:09:18

Of course, how could I forget?
We could include the 'I'm not being funny but fat people are all lazy innit?' ones aswell.
Oh <on a roll> 'Most people with blue badges can run really fast' and 'We are ALL carers arnt we? I have two children so why should my neighbour get all that money just cos she reckons her kid is handicapped?

(and handicapped to that word list too - e.g. 'I only said handicapped and the pc brigade jumped on me')

FreudianSlipper Fri 10-Jun-11 17:09:32

i am surprised by the ignorance shown on here

if someone is overweight me calling them fatty would be offensive so i do not use it, why because i know its offensive and i do not want to offend others. whether or not they would find it offensive is up to them not for me to decide. so why can people not get their head around this with racism its not rocket science

and really why is paki seen as offensive hmm you have never heard of the national front, bnp and other right wing parties

JoySzasz Fri 10-Jun-11 17:10:27

I have very slanted eyes also.

I have only been told that they were very pretty slanted eyes.

To me,slanted describes the shape ...slitty sounds wrong...like one is describing a letterbox.

ragged Fri 10-Jun-11 17:10:36

Actually, I'm pretty sure that my chinky eyes come from my Connecticut-based ancestors (all White anglo saxon protestants). So is reference to my slitty eyes an automatic obvious slur on all New England Yankees?hmm

I have a Filipino half brother and we have almost the same eyes -- although his are probably rounder. It's really cool that we look so much alike, even if the poor guy is lumbered with looking a bit too much like a Connecticut Yankee. wink Luckily most people say he's a dead ringer for Dean Cain.

VictorGollancz Fri 10-Jun-11 17:11:26

And if you're the sort of person who thinks that a white person being called 'honky' is exactly the same as a black person being called 'n*****', when actually the latter word has been employed BY WHITE PEOPLE to dehumanise, degrade, murder, rape and enslave an entire goddam race from all around the globe, then I'm not sure you've thought this one through properly.

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 10-Jun-11 17:15:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

VictorGollancz Fri 10-Jun-11 17:17:12

See ragged, take the term you use to describe your eyes and apply the test described in my post of 17.07. I think you'll find that it fails...

ragged Fri 10-Jun-11 17:17:46

But I like the idea of being Chinese, of them looking Chinese. Is that a bad thing to like? Am I not allowed to use the word "Chinky" in an affectionate way?

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 10-Jun-11 17:19:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 17:19:50

ragged, you know you are being an arse. Give it up, it's boring.

VictorGollancz Fri 10-Jun-11 17:20:21

Why do you need to use the term 'chinky'? Are there not other words that describe your eyes? You use 'Chinese' in your post - why not use that? You say you like the idea of being Chinese - why not ally yourself with actual Chinese culture instead of a term that has been used to belittle actual Chinese people?

JoySzasz Fri 10-Jun-11 17:20:30

ragged but that term hurts so many confused

plus,Chinese eyes come in all different shapes ... as do Japanese.

What really would you be describing?

Out of interest,do Chinese people call themselves chinky?

ragged Fri 10-Jun-11 17:21:44

Not in our family (not ever used as a racist term, I mean).
I have heard the word Kiwi used as an angry slur, mind.
Not sure about Brit being used as an insult... "Drunk Brits abroad", that kind of thing. Definitely a nationalist bias when it's said that way.

ellodarlin Fri 10-Jun-11 17:23:44

Its not a bad thing to like Chinese eyes. It is a bad thing to use a word that means chink/slit in a negative way and that was used widely to oppress Chinese people who were effectively enslaved in North America. They didn't call them chinks in honor of their chink shaped eyes, or in an affectionate sense they called them chinks to dehumanise them.

VictorGollancz Fri 10-Jun-11 17:24:37

Apply the test! I'm not talking about slurs, I'm talking about systematic deployment of a word - backed up by scientific investigations, political ideologies, medical theories, etc - in order to dehumanise an entire race of people so that (usually) white people don't have to feel bad about taking their national resources, invading them, or wiping them out.

Again, if you can't see that 'Drunken Brits' carries less political, historical and cultural baggage than 'chinkey eyes' then you haven't thought this through.

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 10-Jun-11 17:27:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PrincessTamTam Fri 10-Jun-11 17:30:19

Its just rude. It sounds rude therefore it's racist, I agree it doesn't matter how it was intended if it is received as racist/offensive. We have a responsibility to edit ourselves so as not to offend others, it's basic manners.

Mablesyrup Fri 10-Jun-11 17:30:50

VictorG have a swift G and T, a deep breath and keep goingsmile

BrianAndHisBalls Fri 10-Jun-11 17:31:30

chinky eyes hmm wtf is up with these posters??

ragged Fri 10-Jun-11 17:32:26

No, I'm not being an arse. But it's so culturally dependent... when these terms are deemed racist or not. So then you delve into PC-think, with some kind of self-appointed elite trying to declare this or that is okay and that and the other aren't -- when actually it only comes down to intentions not the exact words. It's like the feminist boards on MN, debating hotly whether you can really be a feminist and also tolerate X, Y or Z. Makes my head hurt. I dare say when you come from a truly multi-cultural society you soon learn that the whole thing is very unstable. In the 1980s I introduced myself as a Gringa to Mexicans in southern California (fine, never taken badly by anybody), but Latinos from northern California were horrified when I said that -- to them it was like a black person introducing themselves to white people as a "stupid N****r". I struggled to understand the big deal then, too.

There can be no reliable standard of what is or isn't racist language, just a kind of groping arbitrary constantly changing guesswork.. and I think I'm getting too old to keep up.

WineAndPizza Fri 10-Jun-11 17:33:51

Again, slitty eyed has been used offensively to describe people from several different backgrounds and groups them all together based on a physical attribute. It is never appropriate.

Freudian I agree with you, but the terms used here are even worse as your weight (generally) is something you have control over whereas race is not.

Chinky is offensive. All of you who think it's not because it's 'just a short form of Chinese' or 'that's what we call the Chinese restaurant in our family'...too bad, it IS offensive.

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 10-Jun-11 17:34:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

cupnoodle Fri 10-Jun-11 17:35:07

Message withdrawn

cupnoodle Fri 10-Jun-11 17:37:32

Message withdrawn

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 17:40:28

ragged, would you like a fixed list then so that language should never change to save your head hurting?

I do not believe for a minute that you find it too confusing to keep up.

You are deliberately choosing to use phrases without a moment's thought and if I didn't know you were a regular poster I would say that you are just bored and up for an argument like any common or garden MN troll.

MillyR Fri 10-Jun-11 17:45:22

Well a lot of people do want a fixed list. They seem to think that some kind of 'Rules of Life: what to do in every situation you ever end up in' was handed out in school. I must have been off ill that day.

So instead I have to make an effort to pay attention to other people and take their feelings into account. I don't spend all my time making up or perpetuating the use of random nicknames for people or for groups of people that I don't belong to even when many of them have said that they don't like it.

Spuddybean Fri 10-Jun-11 17:46:52

Something my partner told me which stunned me to a spluttering standstill was (he is in the army, and) when he was first deployed to afghan they had a debrief where someone 'trained' them on how to be sensitive and gel with the locals.
They were told that they couldn't call the afghani's certain words like 'dune coons' etc (i would seriously hope there was no one there who even would think that term in their mind let alone say it out loud). BUT they were allowed to say 'rag-heads' as apparently 'that was a straight forward descriptive term'.
My DP was shock to say the least.
According to the army guy there would be nothing wrong with a label as long as it was descriptive. He did not consider the position it was coming from as having any bearing.
This is clearly why we do so well in our forays abroad - winning hearts and minds people!!

WineAndPizza Fri 10-Jun-11 17:49:20

MillyR - totally agree. There may well be occasions when we all could upset someone by accident if we're not aware of the connotations of what we're saying - the difference is once you are made aware that it is upsetting and why, that you stop using it.

People who carry on using terms like Paki and Chinky despite being told that it is offensive are arrogant and rude. How difficult is it to say Chinese?

heleninahandcart Fri 10-Jun-11 18:20:41

Was going to post but have no idea where to start. OP I find it very hard to believe you don't understand what the problem is.

Tenacity Fri 10-Jun-11 18:31:58

OP I cannot believe you are asking this at all. Are you a bit thick? Do you realise that slit also means c**t? shock blush

VictorGollancz Fri 10-Jun-11 18:54:02

Cheers mablesyrup

And ragged, whatever on earth I was going to say next has been said much better by StewieGriffithsMom.

Adversecamber Fri 10-Jun-11 19:46:12

I have been called chinky, slitty eyes, chopsticks. I hate them all with a passion, it takes me right back to the playground. I think no one should ever be labelled as anything apart from being a human being.

roundthehouses Fri 10-Jun-11 20:00:03

what a strange question, "slitty" isn´t even a nice description, even if you don´t know if it is racist or not, it just doesn´t even sound nice.

I am white caucasian and have very almond shaped eyes and if anyone ever described them as "slitty" I would assume the person was being wilfully offensive. It would be like saying "wow your eyes are really mud coloured, aren´t they?"

MissBetsyTrotwood Fri 10-Jun-11 20:00:39

Yes.

MissBetsyTrotwood Fri 10-Jun-11 20:00:59

I mean yes to the original question.

etude Sat 11-Jun-11 20:53:38

I'm of Japanese descent and can only tell you from my own personal experience that as I was growing up, other kids used the term 'slit eyes' in a derogatory way to make fun of me and exclude me. It hurt.

Even now I find that some inconsiderate/silly grown ups use it to 'tease' me. Even if some people think that they are not being derogatory, it comes across as such.

My eyes are certainly not a slit, they open to more than a slit (how would I be able to see otherwise - just as Caucasian eyes are not round circles (wouldn't those eyes fall out from the face??).

When you discuss issues about race/terminology, it's not enough to say that you personally find it ok (especially if you are Caucasian yourself), but you have to consider how it is perceived by the recipient. And in my opinion, if you disregard the recipient's perspective (and I've had to listen to plenty of those), you are basically not prepared to treat those other people with basic politeness and respect.

comeandseetallulah Sat 11-Jun-11 21:12:44

Paki is a hugely ignorant term that was bandied around playgrounds in the 1970's and 80's. It was MOST DEFINITELY said as a insult, especially where I grew up where all the asians were from India.

Previous Scots posters couldn't understand that it could be an insult, but how would you like the inaccuracy of being called Welsh or Irish, or even English!!!

LeninGrad Sat 11-Jun-11 21:20:49

If this was my website I would delete threads like this straightaway and ask OPs to rephrase or reconsider or just think a bit.

It is getting very tedious now.

LeninGrad Sat 11-Jun-11 21:28:05

Maybe we could just respond to all threads like this by saying that if you have to ask it probably is, hth, bye.

Paki is racist, Pakistani is not.
Chink is racist, Chinese is not.
Slitty eyed is racist, almond shaped eyes is not.

How can you live in Britain today and seriously not know that? FFS.

HellAtWork Sat 11-Jun-11 22:45:11

Sensi V interesting - I was just thinking before I read your post that there is something about the word slitty that is unpleasant, and not just its racist connotations.

MillyR very well put. Agree totally. My ex is Pakistani and when we had French people to stay they left a lovely note saying what a lovely time they'd had and how much they had enjoyed the delicious Paki they had last night. They'd had an Indian takeaway! We found it really funny but it struck home how peculiar Paki is as a perjorative/derogatory word in the UK. My ex also refers to Pakistan as PakiLand (stan meaning land) to amuse himself. I don't!

A good few years ago I was told by an Australian woman that Oriental is a definite no-no and until then I hadn't considered it as being racist, but she explained that in Australia (obv much closer to S-E Asia so lots more contact/immigration and therefore also racism) it is v frowned upon. I hadn't thought about it too much until then (had always thought of oriental/occidental as just meaning east/west) but when I reflected I thought yep, well, how often have I ever used the word occidental to describe anyone so I dropped it. Would hate to unintentionally make someone feel excluded/hurt. I do think I would still use it to describe art or a style or decor though, just not people.

OP - Have you lived in UK for a long time? Maybe it is a peculiarly British insult for S-E Asians? That's why posters above can shrug at being called ghost etc. Perhaps if they were the one 'ghost' in a whole country of non-ghosts they'd feel differently (plus a history of being persecuted, vilified and segregated for being 'ghosts' of course).

fluffybutt Sat 11-Jun-11 23:20:14

My DH is Chinese. In his opinion, (I just phoned to ask him), Chink is horrible, saying he has slitty eyes is really annoying, but tolerable depending on tone used. He suffers racist abuse on a daily basis, some of it, he feels, is meant lightheartedly, I really believe that some people do not realise they are causing offence.

My DD looks very oriental, and also suffers from the name calling at school, we have complained to the school, but they feel there's not alot they can do, as it's not really racist, apparently it's no worse than calling a child with red hair, Ginger. And apparently thats acceptable shock

dustwhatdust Sat 11-Jun-11 23:54:07

I'm intrigued , hellatwork, with your reference to the term oriental being offensive .

my grandmother was chinese and i have what i describe quite strong oriental features and characteristics ( eg going very red with one glass of wine !
- as it is a trait amongst east asians : their intolerance to alcohol )

I have frequently referred to the strong oriental genes i have as the best way to describe things as i don't really consider my self mixed race .
why is oriental offensive ?
I dont' understand your reference 'occidental/oriental' - obviously showing my ignorance: must get the OED out !

HellAtWork Sun 12-Jun-11 00:27:40

Dustwhatdust I think what I understood from Australian friend (any Aussies on here?) was that in the context of Australia, (like Paki and UK) Oriental had become perjorative/derogatory. Now this might be wrong (it was 1 person who told me this - she might have gorn PC mad) but it made me think and for me, I kind of weighed it up and thought, well, actually I don't call 'westerners' 'westerners' or Occidental and therefore I thought I should stop using 'Oriental' to describe people.

It's tricky though because when describing people you can be offensive by either casting too wide - e.g. applying an entire continent to people 'African' or 'Asian' when white people don't really get called Europeans so much (I can probably take a good guess on knowing if someone is Pakistani, as opposed to Indian, as opposed to Sri Lankan - I would also know someone was Japanese as opposed to Chinese - however I would not know if someone was Korean for example - Somalians and Ghanians I would also be able to guess - but all of these are only because I have friends from these backgrounds) or guessing the wrong country, so you're back to continents - which to me just feels like saying - all the brown people and all the black people. But it seems to be the accepted way of referring to colour without actually referring to colour. Language evolves is the answer I guess and also, as communities become more mixed, they become more sophisticated in 'knowing' one another, e.g. I know my Portuguese from my Spaniards from living in East London (ooh I would kill for a Portuguese custard creme flan thing right now - why did I move?)

StewieGriffinsMom Sun 12-Jun-11 09:17:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HellAtWork Sun 12-Jun-11 09:48:59

Ahhh interesting SGM. It's just about being sensitive to a particular context and listening to people about what they want to be called.

I think there are quite a few of the older generation in the UK who struggle with using the word Black - it sounds very stark and rude to them and - 'coloured' (which the rest of us would view as offensive) seems politer. But like MillyR pointed out there is no rulebook, and agreed SGM, surely once someone is advised that a particular term is often used/taken offensively then they revise the language they use.

(ps. also when I was thinking about oriental it did remind me of things like stereotypes of evil chinese villains in Sherlock Holmes and Peter Ustinov in that Who stole our dinosaurs film and made me think about longer standing negativity perhaps stemming back to when the good old British empire [hmmm] was busy fighting people over Opium supplies!)

woopsidaisy Sun 12-Jun-11 10:07:07

My lovely mum must be the only person in the world who thought that saying someone had "slitty eyes" was a compliment!
A friend of mine called to my house with a work mate.I had met this girl a few times before,she was Irish,from Irish White parents. She had beautiful sallow skin,and brown almond shaped eyes.
My mum was chatting away to her and asked her where she was from. She said a place in Dublin. My mum goes but where originally?
Alarm bells start ringing in my head,as the girl says Ireland.My mum is all incredulous,and says are your parents Irish? You look so exotic and beautiful etc. Anyway the girl was laughing. She probably wouldn't have laughed if she heard what my mum said to me later.
I said " mum,you kind of embarrassed that girl. She is Irish,and her parents are Irish"
My mum said," But she has those beautiful slitty eyes!"
Me-faint!
And my mums despises racism! She was upset when I said that was very racist. She genuinely thought it was an everyday term that was ok.

Kiwimumm Sun 12-Jun-11 10:28:14

What ever you say, you'll offend some one, some where. Slitty is maybe just makes you sound a little more un-educated/less PC but also is kind of a realist way of talking.

StewieGriffinsMom Sun 12-Jun-11 10:33:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Kiwimumm Sun 12-Jun-11 11:37:36

Ok Stewie so you are calling every one that thinks slitty eyes isnt offensive a racist? What does that say about your intelligence!!!?

Unless youre personally attacking some one using it as a derogatory statement, i really dont thing saying slitty eyes is racist!!! Personally tho i wouldnt use that word it just in case some one misinterpreted it that way, but if some one said it to me about someone, i wouldnt just assume they were racist.

StewieGriffinsMom Sun 12-Jun-11 11:40:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

GabbyLoggon Sun 12-Jun-11 11:51:33

Rich men making crude statement about poor people is not new. But its hardly a compliment

jasminetom Sun 12-Jun-11 14:49:53

I know this isn't the same but why is it ok for people to comment daily on my genetically inherited huge black eye bags. "oh you look tired, what's wrong" "Are you ill?" or my absolute favourite from a tosser idiot "Isn't funny how you always look like you are dying of AIDS". I suppose that is the nearest I can come to understanding how it feels to be pointed at as different and it is shit. I still think that people saying things without intention to offend are not the same as out and out racists though. In the Middle East everyone is described by their race "go to see the Pakistani man in the bank" do you know the fillipino lady in Boots type of stuff. I used to find it weird until I learned that it is only the British who breastbeat over simple words quite so much.

British people are now more aware of the damaging effect of the use of language because it was used so cleverly to put across the message that those that were different (black, facial features etc) were inferior. Otherwise we could not have so easily happy to do what we had to do to build the Empire. Our society (UK, like Nazi Germany) had structure and understanding, so it should not have happened but did because of internalised beliefs which language stregthened.

hipsdontlie Sun 12-Jun-11 15:10:03

I've always wondered why Paki is derogatory but Brit isn't. I see them both just as abbreviations. Aussie, Argie, Yank. Why are some viewed as so awful and others not?

oh dear.....is this for real? when in the playground and streets I had taunts of "paki go home" even though I wasn't from Pakistan?

I can't believe people are still questioning these things. We haven't moved on much in 30 years.

thefirstMrsDeVere Sun 12-Jun-11 15:18:44

THere is nothing wrong in describing someone's race. Why do people insist that their is?

My neighbour who most definately, without doubt IS racist refuses to say the word 'black' out loud because 'they dont like it'. She mouths it though. She is only in her 20s so cannot use the excuse of the confusion caused in the 70s when language was being challenged/debated.

I dont know any black person who would be offended. Its not a bad thing is it? Its like when people my mum says 'Oh we dont think of you as a black person' to my OH and they think its a compliment!

The black guy with the red tshirt -whats wrong with that?
That fucking paki over there - does anyone really need to have that explained to them?

ZZZenAgain Sun 12-Jun-11 15:20:21

she mouths it...

snort

thefirstMrsDeVere Sun 12-Jun-11 15:42:47

She does, like fecking Les Dawson.

bupcakesandcunting Sun 12-Jun-11 19:15:49

"Its like when people my mum says 'Oh we dont think of you as a black person' to my OH and they think its a compliment!"

shock

She doesn't mean "Oh, we love you so much that we don't even see you as a "colour", just a person?" That type of thing? <clutching at straws>

My mother is a fucking casual racist. Not malicious, just ignorant. I hate that she uses her age (she is only 52) as an excuse to not learn about not being a bigot. My MIL is 65 and isn't a big bastard racist. It's one of the things that I truly, truly detest about my mother. sad

thefirstMrsDeVere Sun 12-Jun-11 21:23:09

I am not sure to be honest but it was said with such an air of 'arnt we fab to think like that?'

To be fair she is much better now. She was always that sort of casual racist that a lot of people of her generation were. Ignorance. I remember her watching top of pops and Ruby Flipper were dancing. They had some black male dancers. She said 'I dont mind them but I cant stand it when they touch our girls' shock

She would NEVER say something like that now or even think it. I think it came down to not knowing any black people and being easily influenced. She tend to soak up the views of those she mixes with. She likes to be liked IYSWIM.

She doted on my DD who was her first grandchild. She loves my OH. It just took a bit of education. I know OH feels this way about a lot of racisim. He was in the army so had to deal with it a lot.

BTW your mum is only 8 years older than me so her age is definately not an excuse!

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