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to not understand the definiton of racism?

(68 Posts)
191011 Wed 19-Oct-11 21:12:51

An obvious namechange here as I understand that this has potential to deteriorate. But please don't let it, this is a construct I am struggling to understand.
I just don't understand how if I said "All Italians are miserable eeijts" how that can technically be construed as racist. Unpleasant, yes, unnecessary, yes, offensive, yes, but it isn't strictly racist is it? I'm not entirely convinced it's xenophobia either, as in my mind, that is dislike/fear of all things foreign.
I know something is defined as racist if someone deems it racist, but, surely, that's got to fit within logical boundaries.
AIBU to want some better minds than mine to help me comprehend this?

troisgarcons Wed 19-Oct-11 21:18:30

I never get the racism' thing either. Its 'racist' to make traditional Irish/Welsh/Scots sterotypes - well Hello! we all have the same traditional racial background so that throws that one out the window.

It might be 'nationalisticism' but it isn't racism.

Religion becoming a 'race' also irritates me to the point I develop piles!

crazynannawitchbitch Wed 19-Oct-11 21:25:32

I think if you base a generalised opinion based on race,and race alone,it is deemed as racist. maybe same for xenophobia...I am not that literate though,but i know what I am trying to say.
<well that's as clear as mud,then>

EricNorthmansMistress Wed 19-Oct-11 21:44:52

'Race' is a social construct. It exists as much as we decide it exists. So during the war Italians were 'other' because they were on the other side, and there were horrible, derogatory stereotypes about Italians around, greasy, stupid, 'wop' for eg. This was racism inasmuch as it is denigrating a group of people based on perceived characteristics.

You can share ethnic origins with a group of people yet still be racist towards them. Irish travellers for eg - they are a distinct group and are denigrated due to their identity. The fact that their skin is white doesn't mean they don't experience 'racism' as much as a black person might.

Italians are ethnically different from north europeans anyway, so although both stratas of caucasian they are different from white brits in that respect, so if you define 'race' by skin colour then you can be racist towards them.

But essentially, there is no 'technically' in defining racism, as race is socially defined and not a 'technical' definition/entity at all.

EllaDee Wed 19-Oct-11 21:50:49

I agree with Eric that race is a social construct. And often politically skewed - for example, Hitler privately believed Italians were not really Aryan but 'Negroid' (horrible term, sorry, but it is true), and yet politically, Nazi Germany accepted Italy as an ally and its citizens as quasi-Aryan. If you realize that even the Nazis could use political necessity to skew their ideas of race, you get some sense of how blurry it all is!

Besides which, even if you use the broadest categorization possible, of course the statement in your OP could be racist, depending who said it. Or do you assume we're all white?

EllaDee Wed 19-Oct-11 21:53:31

(Sorry, that question came out snooty and I meant it rhetorically - just that obviously if you are a Pakistani British person talking about white Italians, that comment is racist by any yardstick you care to use ... the idea it would be less offensive if spoken by a white British person about a white Italian, or a black British person about a black Italian, is just obviously not true, you can imagine how it would feel to hear it and know that it is not true.)

SolidGoldVampireBat Wed 19-Oct-11 21:54:01

Bigotry makes you a fucking idiot whether you express it in terms of race, nationality, sexual orientation, sex, age or appearance.

Birdsgottafly Wed 19-Oct-11 21:54:58

People use the term 'racist' to simplify the action/speech, it is in fact , discrimination.

The Race Relations Act used to cover unfair treatment on the grounds of; Race, National or Ethnic origin,. There were other acts to cover other form of discrimination.

Now the Equailty Act has filled in all of the gaps and covers;
gender reassignment;
marriage and civil partnership;
pregnancy and maternity;
religion or belief;
sexual orientation.

To expand the law further there are other acts including; inciting racial hatred and hate crime, in general.

So the comment about Italians was covered under both Acts as they share a national origin, or ethnicity.

gordyslovesheep Wed 19-Oct-11 21:57:11

what SGVB said really - aributing a negative quality of behaviour to an entire nation of people is stupid and offensive smile that that from a noe robbing, none hubcap stealing, none shell suit owning Scouser

gordyslovesheep Wed 19-Oct-11 21:57:37

oh my fat finger - atributing and OR

fortyplus Wed 19-Oct-11 22:00:49

Racism also refers to minority groups - so as far as I know you can't be disciplined at work etc if you make 'racist' comments about white Anglo Saxon Protestants. The ethnic origin of the person making the racist comment is immaterial. So if, for example, an Asian person made derogatory remarks about black Africans in the presence of a white person it would still be racism.

gordyslovesheep Wed 19-Oct-11 22:03:27

if you as a white anglo saxon WHERE the minority in the work place then the same would apply to you - IE you could be racially abused - if the language used was racist eg being called 'white trash'

a lot of racially agrivated reported crime is toward white people - mainly eastern europeans but not all

Peachy Wed 19-Oct-11 22:06:16

Some religions are also races technially- not all by a very long stretch of course.

It might have little anthropological value but Brhamanic tradition considers Hinduism a race; and you can argue until the metaphors come home about whether Judaism is a race!

But yes, what SGB said. Every time.

fortyplus Wed 19-Oct-11 22:10:58

gordyslovesheep - you're right of course but it works on the basis that you can't discriminate against the majority.

troisgarcons Wed 19-Oct-11 22:12:22

I must be having my Thickety Thich head on again.

"I hate Blacks" - racisct - no question about that
"I hate Nigerians, all intenet scammers" - misinformed, undoubtedly - but I don;t see that it is racist.
But some people would say the 2nd comment is a racist comment. I think its a particularly stupid comment, and one that is often bandied about, but it isnt racist.

floweryblue Wed 19-Oct-11 22:13:27

I don't like the word 'racist', it implies that just thinking racial stereotypes may be true is discriminatory. Using the example of Italians, as above, my general thoughts are that Italians are charming, seductive, love children and great cooks, oh and they are probably short and likely to pinch my bottom. Is this 'racist' or is it just an interpretation of racial stereotypes that may, or may not, be rooted in history, art, social mores etc. 'Racial discrimination', clearly defined in the law, is different from making general assumptions or having prejudices.

Birdsgottafly Wed 19-Oct-11 22:14:41

"you can't be disciplined at work etc if you make 'racist' comments about white Anglo Saxon Protestants"

You can be disiplined in work if you make any disparaging remarks about any group of people that can be linked by any definition under the Equality Act.

As religion is protected under its own category then you would pursue the offence under the religious section for those that are of the Jewish faith.

Andrewofgg Wed 19-Oct-11 22:17:11

Racism also refers to minority groups - so as far as I know you can't be disciplined at work etc if you make 'racist' comments about white Anglo Saxon Protestants.

Wrong. You can be and should be. Even if they are in the majority in the workplace.

Birdsgottafly Wed 19-Oct-11 22:17:18

Flowery- thinking things is prejudice. You have to act on it for it to be discrimination. So you can think what you like, but not say it out loud as then you are acting on your stereotyping beliefs.

EllaDee Wed 19-Oct-11 22:19:56

How is it not racist, trois?

Or rather, what distinction are you making?

'Race' is a concept which, when people first got into the idea of 'racism', it was thought you could tell by looking at someone. We now know this is not true, and there is also a lot of mobility of people across the world. We'd now object (rightly) that someone could be Nigerian by nationality despite having two white parents born in Austria, so 'Nigerian' isn't a race.

I think anyone who makes a comment about 'all' the people in a country is unlikely to be thinking 'yes, and I mean not only the majority who are black but also that 1% who are of Chinese origin, and 5% who are ethnically Jewish, and ...' are they?! People who generalize in a derogatory way (she says, generalizing) probably don't give a shit who they offend.

gordyslovesheep Wed 19-Oct-11 22:20:44

yes andrew is correct - I should have added that!

OTheHugeWerewolef Wed 19-Oct-11 22:21:33

I find the idea that something is racist merely if someone thinks it is really weird and actually quite disturbing.

I mean, if I say 'Good morning' and someone thinks I've said it in a racist way, does that mean I'm a racist? It's a silly example, but a serious point: if someone is a bit paranoid and sees racism in even innocuous remarks, are those remarks then racist? And should I then be punished?

Making a crime something that's subjective rather than objective, and enshrining the primacy of one person's subjectivity over another's the basis of their ethnicity, seems to me to violate the fundamental principle of equality before the law. The fact that it's doing so in the name of equality makes it no less disturbing.

Peachy Wed 19-Oct-11 22:24:13

'"I hate Nigerians, all intenet scammers" - misinformed, undoubtedly - but I don;t see that it is racist.

Really uou don't?

I do.

Uppity Wed 19-Oct-11 22:24:53

I think it's difficult to understand the definition of racism because it keeps changing

It used to mean defining people by race and assuming that the people in that group broadly held certain characteristics because of their race. So Winston Churchill was a fearful racist as was the ghastly Marie Stopes (she married or was lovers with - I can't remember - a Japanese man and part of his attraction for her, was that she believed that the Japanese were one of the most superior races on Earth. She cut relations with her son because he married a girl who wore glasses, which she considered an outrageous insult to her genes - the gel was defective, FGS, what was her perfect Aryan son doing marrying her and horror of horrors, reproducing with her?)

And the word has gone through phases of being used to mean xenophobic, prejudiced or just downright boorish and insufferable with a bit of hopeless racist ignorance thrown in.

So it's not unreasonable to confused by what it means. However if you're a person of goodwill and reasonable disposition, the best thing to do viz racism, is to listen to the voices of those who are subjected to it on a regular basis, because they're the ones who know how it feels to experience it and they're the ones who can advise how best not to offend, hurt or just outright piss someone off by expressing ideas which might be construed as racist.

Uppity Wed 19-Oct-11 22:27:32

I'm not sure that "I hate Nigerians" is a racist in the classical sense of the word racist, but technically, I'd classify it as fuckwitted.

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