Monday, 3 August 2015

Racism vs Abuse

I was called racist yesterday for using the term paddy wagon in Satruday's post - well, actually, ignorant and racist. I was going to leave racism for another day, but.....

Leaving aside for a moment that one can't be ignorant of a perfectly innocuous use of a term offending someone and simultaneously being racist for using it, there must be an intent to be abusive. The term racist is much overused - especially when the offender and offended are of the same race. It may be unwittingly abusive or discriminatory, but certainly not racist, unless one wishes to designate the Irish as a totally different race from Western Europeans - which would be stretching the bounds of credulity beyond reason. There again, the meaning of words do change with time and sometimes so fast that you can't keep up with them, so I'll accept the accusation of ignorance.

If I were using the term paddy wagon in a racist or abusive manner, I would surely have a hatred of Irish people, which I don't. Some of my best friends are Irish (and I'll come back to that last statement in a minute). besides which I've heard Irish friends of my acquaintance using the term without batting an eyelid. That said, black Americans use the word Nigger between themselves with abandon, but woe betide any white person using it.

When does a term become abusive? How many have to take offence for it to be considered abusive - is one sufficient? Researching the term paddy wagon reveals no-one is quite sure how it evolved, but it did evolve in America. It also revealed that some people of Irish descent consider it abusive but many don't. Any term can be considered abusive if the person reading it or hearing it decides to designate it as such, and thus there's a high degree of arbitrariness about defining a term as abusive. As we know, a number of people like to be offended by virtually anything and seem almost to have a vested interest in being offended. It would seem from the foregoing that the only way of defining a term as abusive is the intent of the deliverer. In my use of the term, an association with the Irish wasn't even in my conscious mind, so I reject the accusation of racism on a number of fronts. If you are Irish, are you offended?

Take the word pommie. It can be used generally (and unabusively), but it can also be used abusively. Where do you draw the line? Surely it can only be decided by intent. To designate the word as abusive in every context just because a minority use it abusively is ludicrous - or is it?

Returning to racism, in my lexicon it is the hatred of all members of another race for no other reason than their defining racial characteristics, and thus irrational. Rational hatred, and any resulting abuse, whether caused by a particular behaviour, ideology or bad experience that inductive reasoning has generalised (and induction from a few instances is never recommended), cannot really be called racism - there is a concrete reason for the hatred, be that mistaken or genuine. 

I contend that most people who are labeled racist would generally have no problem with people of a different race who's behaviour, mode of speech or general demeanour is identical to their own. How many times have we heard the words; "I'm not racist - I have a lot of black friends - but.....," followed by what is commonly referred to as a racist remark. It's not the other person's race that is actually the issue, it's more an aspect of their culture. Skin colour or eye shape is immaterial. These people have rationalised their hatred, albeit on a stereotype. Humans, however, are very good at recognising patterns - it's how we interpret and make sense of the world around us - and hence the stereotype.

The trendy left is overly fond of labeling people as racist at the drop of a hat - it's the new black - and it is used to deflect the course of an argument away from the pertinent or uncomfortable facts. Local councils place ethnic minority orphans with foster families of the same ethnicity. I ask whether that is in itself racist - I'm not saying it is or it isn't, I merely ask the question while pointing out that the decision is not colour blind, The usual argument is that the child should not lose contact with its culture - but we are not born with a culture, it's assimilated as we grow up and can change with environment.

The pleasing thing is that the accusation of racism was not leveled at me for my comments on Islam - the reason being that Islam is an ideology and not specific to any race. For recognition of that fact I applaud my accuser.

1 comment:

  1. There's a tourism related company here that operates a van called the Paddy Wagon, the name is painted all over it in big letters. As far as I'm concerned it's not offensive, rather funny and witty instead. It makes me smile when I see it!