For something to be racist, does it have to be intentional?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by anjinha, Mar 30, 2009.

  1. anjinha macrumors 604

    anjinha

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    #1
    I don't know if you guys have seen it but there's a thread in the iPhone forums about an iPhone ad being racist. The ad shows an iPhone app that promotes a restaurant called "Terroni" which apparently is a racist term in italian.

    So my question is this: is it racist if there's no intention behind an offensive word?
     
  2. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #2
    If there is no intention of ill will it is not racist. That being said, many people can look at it in a way in which they WANT it to be racist so they can open up their mouths *cough* Sharpton *cough*.
     
  3. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #3
    You can be unconsciously racist, just as you can be unconsciously sexist, classist or ageist. Our language is full of expressions of prejudice, and often our patterns of thought are conditioned by our patterns of speech.
     
  4. anjinha thread starter macrumors 604

    anjinha

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    #4
    Yeah, but what I mean is if I say a word that is considered racist but I don't know that, maybe because that word has no meaning in my language, am I being racist?
     
  5. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #5
    Refer to my post. If there is no prior knowledge at all and no ill will, its not being racist.
     
  6. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #6
    Why would you say a word that has no meaning in your language?
     
  7. chrmjenkins macrumors 603

    chrmjenkins

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    #7
    What skunk said is definitely true, but when considering a single word rather than a phrase or generalization, it is likely even unintentional racism is not occurring, granted it has no meaning in your language as stated. However, even a word like that could be sufficiently tainted by context without you ever knowing the actual definition.
     
  8. themoonisdown09 macrumors 601

    themoonisdown09

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    #8
    She's referring to something like the title of the iPhone app, "Terroni", which is a racist term in Italian, but not English. I could say that word all day and not know what it means.
     
  9. Raid macrumors 68020

    Raid

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    #9
    Are you referencing the Toronto iPhone / UrbanSpoon ad? It does mention the restaurant "Terroni", which is real btw but I don't think anyone I know has heard about the name being offensive, and I'm sure it would have come up by now.
     
  10. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #10
    It's more derogatory than racist, but I would say that it means nothing derogatory if not used by cittadini referring to contadini. I presume it means a son of the earth, a peasant or a country bumpkin.
     
  11. anjinha thread starter macrumors 604

    anjinha

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    #11
    Sometimes words have different meanings in different languages. The word in we in Portugal use for "girl" in Brazil means prostitute, for example. I actually know that but most people here don't. Also, in my advertising classes we talked about brand names that meant something offensive in other languages.
     
  12. anjinha thread starter macrumors 604

    anjinha

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    #12
    The owners of the restaurant are italian and they don't think it's offensive. I asked an italian friend of mine about it and he said it can be offensive but it can also not be offensive. Mostly it refers to people from the south of Italy.
     
  13. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #13
    You can certainly be unintentionally rude in a foreign language or a different dialect, but if it's a matter of translation , that's just unfortunate, not racist.
     
  14. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #14
    How about anagrams?? There is a war waiting to happen, right there. [​IMG]

    Here's one for the Terroni: Eats Hit.
     
  15. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #15
    There is a difference between being deliberately racist, unwittingly saying something that is seen as racist by another culture or language group, and having something being misrepresented as racist.

    An example of the last instance would be occasional outage over the word niggardly, which is often mistakenly interpreted as being etymologically related to the "n-word", which it is not.
     
  16. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #16
    But those with an agenda failed at spelling, or, at the least, feign the lack of knowledge the difference the "a" makes, instead of an "e". :rolleyes:
     
  17. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #17
    Nowadays, being aware of reality is not a prerequisite for media influence. Just look at Anne Coulter, possibly the most evil person on TV these days.
     
  18. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #18
    Those intermittent power cuts do translate very haphazardly, don't they? :)
     
  19. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #19
    :D

    Heck, if misplaced outrage cause outages, we'd all be sitting in the dark.
     
  20. No1451 macrumors 6502

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    #20
    Based on the definition of racism/racist, yes it would have to be intentional. It just can't be racist if you are unaware of the meaning of a word.

    It might be thought racially insensitive in that you didn't go to an effort to inform yourself, but meh.
     
  21. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #21
    I would argue otherwise, for the following reason: racially loaded terms damage people just like a weapon would - whether intentional or not, it still hurts. It's important for both the speaker and the audience to be aware of context, of course, but it is possible to be unintentionally racist.

    It is also possible to misconstrue a term or phrase as being racist when it is not.

    I came across a good example of this in the context of football (soccer) in the US. In the UK, it's fairly common for a player to be labeled a "donkey" when putting in a poor performance - as far as I know this has no racial origins or connotations. I have heard of instances where the term was used in this context at a US soccer match, and nearby African American fans thought it was a racial slur. Now, as far as I know, there is no history of "donkey" being a common slur for a black person, but I suppose it could be interpreted to be a vague parallel of the "monkey chants" that have been used as a slur against Africans.

    In this case, a person's words were interpreted out of context; despite being at at a soccer match, it was taking place within the US, the African American fans were unaware of the use of the term "donkey" in English football, and equated it with some sort of racist label by comparing a person to an animal.
     
  22. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #22
    But where is the end of it?? If it's not in the lexicon of your country/language, how the Hell can you be held accountable for the gaff???
     
  23. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

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    #23
    Oh, my God! misspelling "gaffe" is racist! :mad:

    ;)
     
  24. anjinha thread starter macrumors 604

    anjinha

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    #24
    But here's the thing: for me racism implies having some sort of prejudice against someone or some ethnicity... If I don't feel any prejudice against someone, am I being racist if I say something that they would consider racist but that has no meaning to me? I agree that it might hurt, but I'm not being racist...
     
  25. Macaddicttt macrumors 6502a

    Macaddicttt

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    #25
    Exactly. The reaction of somebody to something you say/do is not what makes something racist; it has no bearing on whether or not you did something racist. Someone is not deemed racist on the basis of someone else's reaction. It doesn't work like that. By Lord Blackadder's definition, claiming something is racism automatically makes it racism.

    It is not the duty of everyone to learn every potentially racist term so as not to offend someone by chance should a seemingly harmless word escape his lips, be taken racially, and make him a racist.

    In your example, no it was not racist to call them donkeys, not at all. By that same logic, I could call you racist were you to call me "bloke" just because I misunderstood a word not commonly heard in the US. That makes no sense.

    EDIT: And words pronounced inadvertently do not injure the way a weapon does. For one, saying, "Sorry, I didn't know shooting you in the face with a gun would hurt you," does nothing to heal, no matter how sincere, whereas saying, "Sorry, I didn't know it was a racist term and I meant nothing by it," is all that is require to completely heal that kind of hurt.
     

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