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Misuse of a Powerful Word

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posted on Nov, 6 2009 @ 06:11 PM
****Mods - Wasn't sure where this should reside****

This wild fire that has taken America by storm by labeling anyone and everyone as a racist has annulled yet another English word and thrown it into the abyss of the ever so diminished American vernacular.

From Merriam-Webster
Racism - Definition

1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

2 : racial prejudice or discrimination

Now, I understand that their are two definitions. Most words have two or more definitions and that is fine. But to selectively use one, over the other, without consideration of the main use of the word is lazy, ignorant and destructive. You diminish the effectiveness of the word. You destroy the real meaning and also bring down the people that fit the true definition of a word, down to the lower, less meaningful second definition.

Usually, when a word has one or more usages and/or meanings, you have to take into consideration the context of the subject. Do I have prejudices? Absolutely. I make no qualms regarding that I am human, I judge people. Mainly the judgment is not on the racial level, but there are times where I will make a judgment call, based on the context of the situation, where race is involved.

I will cite and example. This example is in no mean to provoke racial hatred nor am I stating this is a real example. I am doing this to provide meaningful debate and discussion regarding what I think would fit this websites top goals of "Deny Ignorance."

You are standing at an ATM. You are alone, it is dark. You aren't in a bad part of town, but its secluded and somewhat away from the street. A man approaches you. First thing most of us do is make a quick assessment and judgment of the situation. Can you, with 100% certainty tell me that in that judgment you don't include the man's race? I know I cannot, it is a fault of mine. I am not afraid to acknowledge my faults or shortcomings. Other factors though in this situation would be the following: How does the man dress, hair cut, the way he walks, his demeanor, and race all play in the judgment. Does this make you a racist? Or have you stepped into a realm of just judging a situation quickly so as to assess your safety and situation?

To continue this thought exercise, lets move into a more recent realm. The shooting on Fort Hood. It was committed by a man of Muslim faith. Now in another thread here, someone stated something along the lines of 'we should kick all Muslims out of the military'. Quickly people have replied that it is a racist comment! I digress in this notion that it is racist!

Saying such a thing could be classified as ignorant, but to add effect to their argument they throw in the extra racist bit. Again, degradation of a powerful word that should be reserved for those truly deserving of it.

I propose we as a people begin to use a word that better describes such situations. Ignorant actually fits better in situations where mild forms of personal prejudices reside.

The total misuse of the English language to add effect and pizazz by using words with powerful meanings out of context yet again show the intellectual laziness that we have grown accustom to.

What say you?

posted on Nov, 6 2009 @ 06:28 PM
reply to post by ownbestenemy

Another word misused (or overused)-- "Anti-semitic"

posted on Nov, 6 2009 @ 06:31 PM
I am not well versed on it, so I cannot agree or disagree. Any thoughts on the topic at hand though?

posted on Nov, 6 2009 @ 06:51 PM
I have always thought of the term race as a socially constructed definition and not one of biology. While culture may have divided us based on imaginary social definitions racism is real and still going strong.
I think that not all people judge situations in the same manner. I do not personally judge a stranger based on their clothing or skin tone. However, Many do act on unconscious thoughts some may define as racist. We are unable to know based on a circumstance that is scary to a person whether or not they are really racist individuals. We'd need to know 'intent' and fear isn't critical thinking or purposeful.

Media and people in general seem to use words that will sell. Strong, shocking words that draw our attention, whether it is accurate or not...I think I've heard the word 'war' so often it's easy to forget it is a horrible, deathly reality for both parties involved-yet they use it for articles that say things like, "War on food markets!" (just made that up for now)..B.c silly things like this are starting to surface. What's truth and what Sells are two different concepts.

thanks for the post

posted on Nov, 6 2009 @ 06:55 PM
reply to post by Zerra

I respect your views. Social constructs are what we humans do best it seems. We will always classify and place into compartments different parts of society. Have been doing so since the beginning of time I would assume.

Its not so much you are judging the person, but the situation and that might have underlying tones of what type of person is approaching you do you not think so?

The media idea is totally spot on. Its selling out the English language to sell their stories. War is another excellent word that has been misused and cut at the knees in terms of what it actually means. I loved the quick example of War on Food Markets! lol

posted on Nov, 6 2009 @ 07:38 PM
"Its not so much you are judging the person, but the situation and that might have underlying tones of what type of person is approaching you do you not think so?"

Definitely depends on the person, I wouldn't be quick to judge all people as assesing risk based on looks. Think of it in this way, you are walking home from school or work and decide to cut through a local park. It's dark by now and everything is silent. It's so dark you can barely see where you are going, but feel you know the park pretty well that you are fairly confident in the direction you are in. Out of nowhere there's a russling heard in the bushes, foot steps possibly...You can't see....How would most people react?

The unknown is scary when faced with an unknown circumstance no matter who is cornering you-whether it be a man, woman, or dog.

I know that if I put myself in a risky environment no matter who was approaching me I'd be cautious, alarmed or even frightened-Which is how come I don't walk alone in dark places hehe.
I agree though, that people can and do assess a risk based on looks or stereotypes, I just wouldn't suggest that as a blanket statement as more and more people have access to education and diversity.

posted on Nov, 6 2009 @ 08:39 PM
I dunno... while racism has very thick and sensitive roots that run deep across the American tapestry, it is ultimately only a common manifestation of behavior of a much broader subject. I think evolutionary and tribal psychology is on the right path when it suggests that, as an extension of our cognitive tendency to conceptualize numbers and objects into groups and sub-groups by similarities for predictive purposes - our ancestors were particularly prone to gauging new individuals based on similarities. Those who share the greatest number of similarities to you and your tribe (both physically and culturally), are more likely to be closely related or extended family. It was a useful predictive tool for gauging social interaction - whether you should fight, flee, or engage in interaction. Those most different from you and your tribe were more likely to be aggressive or disposed to raid your group.

This is the environment we spent the largest portion of human history in, and those tribal behaviors were reinforced. Civilizations are a rather new and alien concept to humans still. We have trouble conceptualizing more than about 150 or so unique and individual personalities. As a shortcut, our minds tend to group other people outside of our immediate tribes by their most commonly expressed traits, behaviors, and cultural markers. It creates stereotypes.

Stereotypes are not necessarily bad or something we should avoid, but the inherent fact that you are reducing individuals down to collections of characteristics is fundamentally dehumanizing. It would be an error to rely on prejudices to gauge an individual based upon the stereotype of the group they belong to, because despite the relative frequency of traits shared by that group - the individual is not defined by that group. Further, our minds don't weed out actual common traits from perceived or projected traits. Culturally generated exaggerations and demonizations out of a perceived threat from that group can influence perception and attribute with false trends to your stereotype. For example, anti-semetic charactatures often portray Jewish people with large hooked noses - an exaggeration of a commonly shared trait. However, they're often also portrayed with horns or fangs - attributes that Jewish people do NOT possess - but are projected by those who view Jewish people as a threat to their tribe. It distances tribal groups from one another by further expressing differences and heightening the sense of danger they represent. It further dehumanizes a group.

And dehumanization is where the greatest danger lies. It turns men into monsters to be slain - pests to be eradicated. Even closely related (both racially and culturally) ethnic groups such as the Hutu and Tutsi can display an inconceivably vile capability to inflict suffering on their fellow man, when they are convinced each other are not humans to understand... but cockroaches to be exterminated. Soulless monsters to be slain with impunity. It can even be a righteous and pure act.

Conversely, dehumanization can also be applied to yourself and your tribe. When used to "step outside of your humanity" so that you can engage in acts which would break a man's soul by becoming yourself the monster, and then step back into your humanity as easily as a pair of slippers when you wipe off the face paint.

Philip Zimbardo: The Stanford Prison Experiment - Abu Ghraib Tier 1-A abuses - The Lucifer Effect.

The line between good and evil, runs directly through the human heart. And it is far more arbitrary and porous than we would like to think.

We see varying levels of expression of the same irrational behaviors in any situations where "In-Group"/"Out-Group" lines are drawn, promoted, and defended against threats of subversion or against the introduction of "impurities". Prejudice, discrimination, hatred, killings, tortures, genocides, enslavement, etc, - stemming from the various diverse tribes we form, such as Religion, Political Affiliations, Ideological disputes, "Clash of Cultures" (both regional and international), social/economic classes, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Sports Team allegiances, Mafia/Gang organizations, Nationalism... even long lasting family feuds, such as the Hatfields & the McCoys.

Racism is not an innate human behavior, because the identification of skin color and heritage as a tribal differentiation is as arbitrary a distinction as religion or ideology. However, it is a very common - almost universal - emergent expression of our tribal nature due to our vision and hearing being our most depended upon senses for interacting with the world. Skin color, language accents, and cultural expressions in mannerism and clothing offer seductively pronounced ques between peoples between which which we can draw tribal lines.

We are all racist to some degree, because we all form stereotypes and prejudices based on those stereotypes. This is nothing to ashamed of, or berate humanity over. It's certainly nothing to promote or take pride in either. It's just a part of who we are, and I'll leave it to the discretion of religion to promote the abject apology and proselytizing for being born human. But it is something we should all be aware of, and work to mitigate. Not just in matters of skin color, but between all the arbitrary tribal distinctions we draw.

[edit on 6-11-2009 by Lasheic]

posted on Jan, 5 2010 @ 09:40 PM
reply to post by ownbestenemy

I agree, such a word should not be used lightly and should not be used as a weapon
to achieve things, to me that is unconscionable. That being said, it also makes it hard to
to discuss the concept in the real world. Normally I would not address it, sometimes not even recognize a racial implication, but maybe that has been instilled into me?

I would this a good way to eliminate it would be to not talk about it and it will fade,
but maybe I am dead wrong, who knows?

posted on Jan, 7 2010 @ 06:26 PM
Racism is definitely WAY too widely used and is brought up too often. I personally think that discussing racism in its own way racist. That being said, when it is used as a weapon, whoever is using it as a weapon is the real racist because they discuss race as a viable issue. Equal rights is here, lets all move on.

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