A Thought on Racism

I put this here instead of Great Debates, because I don’t intend this question to be really “heavy”, as it were. I’m just wondering how people feel about it.

We all know that if someone makes a denegrating remark about a group of people, based on their skin color or ethnicity, he is guilty of racism. On that, I think we all agree. The question is, is it racism if you say something “nice” about a group of people based on skin color or ethnicity.
For example, I’ve heard, in various forums and situations, statements such as - “I think Asian women are sexy as hell” or “Latin’s are such good lovers”. Isn’t this in the same league as saying African-Americans are great dancers?
Does anyone get upset when they hear statements such as these.

“I think Asian women are ugly as all hell.”
“Latin’s are such bad lovers.”
“African-Americans are terrible dancers”

These examples, just like those you selected, are sweeping generalizations that are often made by those who have had limited exposure to that upon which they are commenting.

In applying definition 1 from the above, one can easily state that any such comments are, in fact, racist in nature.

M-W’s primary definition of “racism” is:
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

So put that way I suppose your sample phrases COULD be construed to be racist. Any time you make note of a group’s traits based on the race, you are bound to be considered to be making a racist comment.

The problem then becomes, what happens if your comment happens to be about a characteristic that is based on race? “Asians all have dark hair.” Maybe that’s not a racist comment… unless it’s within the context of a discussion about how the only pretty women are all blond (thus implying that Asian women are ugly BECAUSE they’re Asian).

If you ask me, this PCification has just gone way overboard. We’ve gotten so sensitized to not making any comments about race, that we can’t even mention it at all? Silly.

I was getting ready to posta response to the effect that they’re totally different, but then decided to look it up and here’s what I got

  1. animosity toward other races: prejudice or animosity against people who belong to other races “I am a Muslim and … my religion makes me against all forms of racism.” Malcolm X Speech, Prospects for Freedom (1965)

  2. belief in racial superiority: the belief that people of different races have different qualities and abilities, and that some races are inherently superior or inferior
    Based on the second definition, I guess they’re the same, though Ive never thought of it that way. Being black Ive experinced both versions including your exact comment at the end of the OP. The worst case of course made me feel bad. The good case just made me want to correct a misrepresentation.

I could prove it was wrong cause I can’t dance :smiley:

Actually, the same goes if you apply definition 2: Prejudice literally means judgement made before [firsthand acquaintance withan individual].

Fair enough. Thanks, blessedwolf.

This is all very interesting.
I was curious about my own thoughts, if thats possible. As I said, I’ve been in situations where someone has said “I find {this race or that race} sexy”, and said to myself, “Well I can certainly see your point.” I’ve also been in situations where someone has said, “The only reason he’s good at {stereotypical function} is because he is of {this race or that race}”, and said to myself, “Jeez, what a putz.”
Perhaps Political Correctness has caught up with me. I find my self doubting my sensitivity if I agree with the first statement, or at least express an understanding of the sentiment.
Do I need to go to sensitivty training? Is it even a matter of Political Correctness. Are Asian women actually sexy?
Ponderous questions, one and all.

That stereotypes are based in truth. Of course there are (many) individuals that don’t fit the stereotype. In the words of my favorite comedian, Chris Rock, “White people don’t like niggers? GUESS WHAT? Black people don’t like niggers either!” We all have stereotypes. The white redneck with 3 skoal stained teeth. The mexican with orange pants and a lime green shirt. The black guy on the corner selling crack. The Asian man/woman that can barely see over the dashboard driving 10 mph in a posted 45. A woman that won’t shut up (ok, maybe that’s not a stereotype. maybe it’s how they all are). And the fact is, all of these “stereotypes” exist.

I find Asian women to be the most beautiful women. But I have seen some really ugly ones as well. I think a big thing that attracts men to Asian women is their “perceived submissiveness”. They have nice eyes too, imho. I’ve known a few white women that date only black men. And all of them told me it was because of 2 things: 1. “black men all have big…” Well you know what I mean. And 2. They treat them better then white men ever did.

Stereotypes do exist. In quite large numbers actually. Individuals should be judged on their character though.

I’m not a racist. I hate all people equally.

That’s a joke, BTW.

Of course we are. How dare you even wonder!! :smiley:

Maybe this is trivial, but doesn’t it depend on whether the trait really correlates with race or not? If someone asserts that blacks are much superior to other races at dealing with sun exposure without getting melanomas, is that racism? It meets the above definition (#1), but somehow I have trouble thinking of it as racist.

While I agree with most of what’s been said, and believe racism covers any aspect of unfairly generalized perceived difference, I think there’s one part that is a bit harder to define as racism. Definitions of beauty can, in some sense, be tied to race if it of course refers to some common physical aspect (which is what we usually choose to define race as anyways).

What I mean is that people are allowed to have taste, and taste in those they find attractive. No one would think you were being offensive if you said, “I don’t like women with long legs.” Similarly one could find certain features more or less desirable if they are physical, and race may be a factor. Of course, the idea of race per se is probably too broad for most of these characteristics, as an average woman from Western Africa is quite different from an average woman from Eastern Africa, though both would be called ‘black’ (and ‘African-American’ by the ill-informed). But maybe in pointing out the specific features you like or dislike, you’ve moved entirely away from race altogether, and forming more specific groups.

So, if I say, “I like Asian women for their dark hair,” it’s hard to say that is racist since those we consider as Asian women have dark red/black hair. I have to qualify it more if I say, “I love the golden skin of Asian women,” since there’s much more variation in skin tone among so-called Asians, so maybe I should say, “I love golden-skinned Asian women,” and that might have more meaning (and using ‘Asian’ provides more description).
However, if I say, “I like Asian women because they’re short,” it’s still more generalizing, since Asian women are not automatically short. Someone who says, “I like tall, skinny white men,” simply has specific tastes, though.
Statements about ability based on race are unfair generalizing, like “Latin lovers are the best” or “them black people sure do dance well”.

IMHO, one shouldn’t be too taste-bound anyway and should be open to as much beauty as possible. Although I can describe the sorts of things I like on the surface, I wouldn’t use it as a criterion for someone I’d date or fall in love with.

panama jack

Panama Jack,
I like the way you throw them words around. Your argument is well thought out and eloquent. Good job.
{I have a theory about people named Jack, ask me about it sometime - hint: it relates to intellegence}

But I have a bit of a problem with BlockHead’s arguments.
(Your gonna have to forgive for not quoting - I’m too lazy and I really don’t feel it necessary to cut and paste an entire post)

Yes, I realize that stereotypes exist. But I think we as a society are guilty of perpetuating those stereotypes, moreso than - well they just exist. Which seemed to be the crux of your argument. Yes some black people sell crack. So do a lot of white people. In fact every stereotype you listed are perpetrated by every race imaginable. But we as a society have chosen to attribute these stereotype to certain races. And damnit, we sure as hell seem to be stickin’ to our collective stories.
As for Mr. Rock. I think he’s funny as hell. But I don’t care what color a person is, I don’t like the word “nigger”. Just because it is a black person making an observation about other black people doesn’t make it any less racist.

(In retrospect, maybe this should be in GD. Eh, that’s what moderators are for I guess)

Thank you for your time. Now I feel the need to answer really pressing questions. I’m sure there’s a thread somewhere wondering what the biggest booger you’ve ever seen is or something inane like that. I like inane. Hurts my brain less.

The problem with statments like “Latins are such good lovers” or “Black people are all good dancers” (or how about “those Asians are so smart”?)is it’s turn a large number of people one monolithic block.The people in my group (the regular people) are all different, some are stupd, some are smart, some can dance, some can bearly stand up, some are great lovers, some of them just lie there. But that other group (the black-human, the asian-humans) are all just one thing. And I don’t have to think about them as particular individuals. At least that’s the danger of that kind of thinking.


Racism = Noticing differences + Negative Bias

Just mentioning the differences themselves is not necessarily racist. I really think it’s the thoughts that prompt them and the actions one takes because of those thoughts that make that determination.

Yer pal,

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My family and I just got back from a camping trip on the Florida coast [Suwanee River area]. Yeah, we are new to the area and didn’t realize that we would be victims of a massive mosquito massacre; we will be anemic for at least a week.

Anyway, to cut the story short, the man who operated the fish camp asked how we spent the night…ugh,mosquitos … and he made comment on how those bugs love dark meat [Mr Kiffa is African American]. Chuckle, Chuckle. He didn’t seem to laugh so hard when I mentioned that his mosquitos were color blind because I got bit to shit as well.

As we walked to the car, Mr Kiffa made a comment on how this old Bubba HAD to mention his race. I hadn’t thought about that aspect but I now understand that it happens alot and yet Mr Kiffa doesn’t refer to these Bubbas whiteness.
Hhhhmmmmm when will this all end?