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What is Racism?
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Author:  Penelope [ Sun Feb 03, 2008 9:43 am ]
Post subject:  What is Racism?

Do you think we could define what constitutes racism?

When I go back to my homeground - not Cheshire, but Lancashire where there is a large Asian community, I get really annoyed by elderly Asian ladies who push in front of me when shopping, jostle me - and don't do orderly queuing. I am an elderly English lady - I queue, in an orderly fashion. I have been indignant in France when queuing for bread too, and in Italy!!! They don't seem to do orderly queus either. But I am not cross with the Asian lady because she is Pakistani, I am cross just because she is jostling me. Is that racist?

If I am lost in the middle of Manchester - do you know to whom I go to ask for help and directions? I look for a group of Asian young boys! Because I know that unlike our own British 'Oiks', the Asian boys will treat me with respect and kindness - because I am an elderly lady. Now what is that? Is that 'Positive Racism'? :doze:

Author:  Ophelia [ Sun Feb 03, 2008 4:07 pm ]
Post subject: 

Penelope,

My view is that it would be simpler if we did not think in terms of racism so often.
You notice and appreciate some cultural differences around you, why should there be anything suspicious about this?
You enjoy the politeness Asian boys show you, and you like the orderly way the British queue rather than the informal technique used, say, in France or southern European countries. Perhaps you feel impatient at times, but your behaviour is tolerant, that's all we need to live happily in our daily lives!

PS: Ophelia's cultural note about queuing: I have been on Ramblers' Holidays with British people many times in Southern Europe. I was always amused to see that the British were the only ones who queued in an orderly fashion for local buses, and were of course ignored by the locals, who went about it in "business as usual" fashion. The British Ramblers would often make remarks about this to each other. Did the locals feel stressed or belligerent towards one another about the way they entered the bus? No way!
The way we, on the Continent, organize in such circumstances is not ideal, but not devoid of a kind of order (you need special glasses to see it). Very rarely does the system provoke anger. Those are things that you notice only when you've heard someone from another culture describe it. :)

Author:  Penelope [ Sun Feb 03, 2008 4:58 pm ]
Post subject: 

An Asian stallholder on the Market - where I was feeling indignant at being pushed out of the way by another elderly lady....said - 'she can remember being hungry.......'

Perhaps orderly queuing goes out of the window when your children are starving eh?

Author:  DWill [ Thu Feb 07, 2008 8:05 pm ]
Post subject: 

I don't think there are any racial differences at all (I mean as character differences); everything that may appear to be a racial difference is really a cultural difference. Where we come to racsism is in making ourselves believe that those who may look different from us also are marked by inferiority in some way, or they at least have some trait that justifies our scorn of them.

I was talking to an agency client who had just had a small altercation with a black woman. He referred to her as a "nigger bitch." What could her skin color have possibly had to do with her behavior?, I asked him. Well, he said, those people are more likely to act that way, in his experience. I guess this shows how our survival skill of visual identification leads us readily to lump people into categories.

Will

Author:  Penelope [ Fri Feb 08, 2008 11:28 am ]
Post subject: 

My ma and pa in law. Once noted that my little boy - who is now 33yrs old, was playing in our back garden with 'two little niggers' - they did not mean to be racist....that was just what they were to them. That was just what these two old warm-hearted Lancashire old people called people with dark skins.

My Mum - said her new coat was 'Nigger Brown' and didn't understand when I berated her. Oh.....innocent times.....

Author:  Penelope [ Fri Feb 08, 2008 12:23 pm ]
Post subject: 

You see, my Mum thought 'Nigger Brown' was a very nice colour....

In fact, she was right.....it is

Author:  Ophelia [ Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:33 pm ]
Post subject: 

Penelope,


What you wrote about your in-laws made me think (it is an indirect link) of two books with two stories which may help me on the way to an answer to your original question-- what is racism?


The first book was crime fiction by a British female writer (this is all I remember).
One of the characters was a physician who visited an elderly couple.
The husband had Alzheimer's disease, and the wife was telling the doctor about one aspect of his changed behaviour: the health worker/home help who came to help every day was a Black woman, who was devoted in her care. The wife was greatly distressed because her husband kept shouting racial abuse at this woman, although he had never had racist views before, using terms she had never heard from it in all their years of marriage. The health worker understood that he was sick and did not take offense, but a charitable neighbour had informed her that there were laws about such language and she would tell the Council about her husband.

The second story is from a book by Amy Tan (I can't remember which one, can somebody tell me?) . The narrator's mother had Alzheimer's disease, her daughter related a visit to the doctor's in which the physician asked her questions to find about her condition. The daughter's worst suspicions were confirmed when the mother gave a wrong answer to the question "When were you born?". So, her mother couldn't even remember the date of her own birth! She got many other answers right though.

Much later, she found somebody who could translate her mother's diary from Chinese into English, and she found out about her mother's past: when she had emigrated to the US, the mother had given a wrong date of birth, making herself a few years younger -- perhaps to improve her prospects of marriage.
The narrator wrote that her mother's answer to the doctor was correct; because of Alzheimer's, the mother had simply stopped lying about her true date of birth.


Those two example are from fiction, but I thought the writers would have researched about the disease before writing.


This brings me back to human nature: heart of darkness...?


I'm not saying I think we are all colonialists, imperialists and Ku-Klux-Klanists below the surface, but I guess these two stories are worth a thought.

In the first story, the husband could have been a repressed racist, or he could have stored decades of dreadful terms and feelings in some part of his unconscious memory; feelings that were those of his family, his social group, or his own too, that he had not acknowledged.

Author:  Penelope [ Fri Feb 08, 2008 6:15 pm ]
Post subject: 

I think I have read most of Amy Tan's books. I think you might be referring to 'The Kitchen God's Wife'.

But what remarkable women they were - admirable in my estimation.

Let's have a list of admirable women!!!

Author:  WildCityWoman [ Thu Feb 14, 2008 7:03 pm ]
Post subject: 

Penelope wrote:
An Asian stallholder on the Market - where I was feeling indignant at being pushed out of the way by another elderly lady....said - 'she can remember being hungry.......'

Perhaps orderly queuing goes out of the window when your children are starving eh?


Yep - when you've had to fight and scrabble for your food all your life, you can't stop doing it, I guess.

I remember when Jeff took a course at one of the colleges here - at graduation, they put out snacks on tables for everyone - a lot of the 'immigrants', mostly Sri Lankans, at the time, went swarming to the tables like it was the last thing they would get to eat.

I never got a thing from those tables - couldn't get near the food! But I understood what was happening and felt kinda' bad for those people.

I hope now, that they've been here long enough, they know you don't have to do that to get goodies when they're laid out at a function.

And I hope they never again have to swarm like that for food.

------------

Another memory I have - two Asian girls (Taiwan, not sure) were on the subway when I was going somewhere. One had a bag of fruit. Both of them were so happy, eating from that bag of fruit.

It was only fruit, for petey sake! How excited they were over a few plums, peaches, grapes, etc.

When I thought about it later, I realized how it was for them - they probably came a place where the only time they saw fruit was when they packaged it up for other people - people who could buy it.

Here they could eat all they wanted.

I thought it was wonderful, and was happy that I'd seen these young women enjoying that fruit - it left a warm place in my heart.

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