Author Topic: The power of words (race issues mentioned)  (Read 9374 times)

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Carnation

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #60 on: August 05, 2010, 11:39:29 AM »


To me, a circus-like atmosphere means that something is out of control.

Like:
How was the concert?
It was a circus in there!

The 4th definition from Merriam Webster's dicitonary:  circus: something suggestive of a circus (as in frenzied activity, sensationalism, theatricality, or razzle-dazzle) <a media circus>

So saying a reading event was circus-like was saying that the people attending were in a frenzy and implies that they can't behave themselves in an appropriate manner.


I agree!

It was an unfortunate choice of words.


Kaire

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #61 on: August 05, 2010, 12:02:08 PM »


To me, a circus-like atmosphere means that something is out of control.

Like:
How was the concert?
It was a circus in there!

The 4th definition from Merriam Webster's dicitonary:  circus: something suggestive of a circus (as in frenzied activity, sensationalism, theatricality, or razzle-dazzle) <a media circus>

So saying a reading event was circus-like was saying that the people attending were in a frenzy and implies that they can't behave themselves in an appropriate manner.


I agree!

It was an unfortunate choice of words.



Was it saying that the people attending were in a frenzy or was it implying the razzle-dazzle part of the definition?

Sadly people don't look at the definition as a whole before deciding what something means.

(Oddly enough my initial thought was that only circus performers and employees could find fault in it, because it's quite possible they would not want their big top production compared in any way to something with no circus connections.  Picture an angry clown demanding a retraction because he is a circus performer and that sir was no circus!)

AM in AL

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #62 on: August 05, 2010, 01:02:00 PM »
I don't think that a person with limited understanding should be pandered to.

BINGO.

(Which probably just offended someone.  ;D)
I agree, which is one reason I'm irked at things like people being forced to apologize for the use of perfectly acceptable words - "niggardly" comes to mind. I am amused by Urban Dictionary's definition:
word that will get u fired...even though it doesn't mean anything offensive
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=niggardly

Every time someone take a flying leap toward offense, it just strengthens true bigots - "Those people just aren't happy unless they're oppressed. They just want to hang on to the past and get special treatment!"

whatsanenigma

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #63 on: August 05, 2010, 01:06:25 PM »
Was it saying that the people attending were in a frenzy or was it implying the razzle-dazzle part of the definition?

Strangely enough, my first thought was "controlled chaos", like "look at all the fun they are having, it looks so wild but really everything's been planned out and is under control and has a purpose!"

Sarabande

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #64 on: August 05, 2010, 01:08:13 PM »
I'm glad your CW apologised and it's a shame that his apology was ill-received.

Quote
It's interesting, too, that a PP mentioned that it would be offensive if also applied to a class of mentally disabled children. DS is disabled. His preschool, a few years ago, had a "talent show" with ... you guessed it ... a circus theme. It was a hoot. DS had a blast. I have a ton of pictures. It didn't even occur to me that we could have taken it the wrong way, too, until this thread.

To clarify because I feel I've been misunderstood: I used that example to demonstrate the importance of specificity, and my example applied to a similar situation described in the original post but using different participants (an event that did not have any connection to a circus). Of course holding an explicitly circus-themed event and then turning around and criticising someone for using the same word would be ridiculous, but that wasn't the situation here nor in my hypothetical situation.

Jocelyn and Slartibartfest, thank you for explaining what I've been trying to convey.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2010, 01:10:29 PM by Sarabande »

Giggity

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #65 on: August 05, 2010, 01:14:36 PM »
I don't think that a person with limited understanding should be pandered to.

BINGO.

(Which probably just offended someone.  ;D)
I agree, which is one reason I'm irked at things like people being forced to apologize for the use of perfectly acceptable words - "niggardly" comes to mind. 

I had a post all written out that cited the "niggardly" Washington, DC case, but decided not to post it for fear of causing offense. Thank you for bringing that one up!
Words mean things.

hobish

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #66 on: August 05, 2010, 01:51:03 PM »
I don't think that a person with limited understanding should be pandered to.

BINGO.

(Which probably just offended someone.  ;D)
I agree, which is one reason I'm irked at things like people being forced to apologize for the use of perfectly acceptable words - "niggardly" comes to mind. I am amused by Urban Dictionary's definition:
word that will get u fired...even though it doesn't mean anything offensive
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=niggardly

Every time someone take a flying leap toward offense, it just strengthens true bigots - "Those people just aren't happy unless they're oppressed. They just want to hang on to the past and get special treatment!"

Yep. See my previous post re "helper monkey"

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Hushabye

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #67 on: August 05, 2010, 03:29:14 PM »
I don't think that a person with limited understanding should be pandered to.

BINGO.

(Which probably just offended someone.  ;D)
I agree, which is one reason I'm irked at things like people being forced to apologize for the use of perfectly acceptable words - "niggardly" comes to mind. I am amused by Urban Dictionary's definition:
word that will get u fired...even though it doesn't mean anything offensive
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=niggardly

Every time someone take a flying leap toward offense, it just strengthens true bigots - "Those people just aren't happy unless they're oppressed. They just want to hang on to the past and get special treatment!"

Yep. See my previous post re "helper monkey"



Does that mean I should hide my "analyst monkey" so no one notices him hanging from my computer monitor?

Twik

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #68 on: August 05, 2010, 04:23:06 PM »
Every time someone take a flying leap toward offense, it just strengthens true bigots - "Those people just aren't happy unless they're oppressed. They just want to hang on to the past and get special treatment!"

It also weakens the position of the complainants - if people get used to ridiculous complaints, they often will assume that justified complaints are also ridiculous.

Outrage is an addictive emotion. Like strong painkillers, it should be avoided when it is not really necessary.
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camlan

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #69 on: August 05, 2010, 04:41:25 PM »
It's really impossible for any of us to determine how offensive the term was, taken out of context. We'd need to see the sentence, preferably the paragraph, ideally the entire article, in order to determine that the term was used in a derogatory fashion. Out of context, yes, we can find negative meanings. We can also find positive meanings. Unless we have the entire sentence, we really can't tell what the writer intended.

It does sound as if the writer gave a sincere apology. But perhaps the group lodging the complaint wasn't satisfied with that. What more could the writer have done?
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


demarco

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #70 on: August 05, 2010, 04:53:29 PM »

Outrage is an addictive emotion. Like strong painkillers, it should be avoided when it is not really necessary.

So true. 

baglady

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #71 on: August 05, 2010, 06:01:21 PM »
Quote
...then again, i am the girl who was put on 6 months probation at work and accused of being a racist for using the term helper monkey. Poo throwing and banana eating were also mentioned; but someone still took it upon themselves to assume i was talking about a race of people in a derogatory way.  Angry It still burns me up, and i still think whoever it was that made the complaint was 1) looking for offense 2) trying to get me in trouble 3) has severe self esteem issues ... or all three.

For goodness' sake! If the word "monkey" is racist, then what, pray tell, are we supposed to call actual monkeys? Simian-Americans?

"Circus" has taken on the connotation of something out-of-control in which people behave "like wild animals" -- the term "media circus," for instance. So I can see where people who have been on the receiving end of the "wild animal" stereotype would take offense at the word circus. However, if the writer explained that (a) he had no idea this could offend, and (b) *he* used that word because the event was fun and entertaining, like a day at the circus, then calling for his job (and possibly destroying his career) is over the top.

A paper where I worked took some heat (fortunately, nobody demanded anyone be fired) for using the term "guinea pigs" in a headline. The story was about a product testing company and the people who sign on to be their test subjects -- human guinea pigs. However, the town where the company was located and got most of its subjects happened to have a lot of Italian-Americans.

Another paper got into trouble for referring to Irish-Americans "padding" through churches cataloguing various art and architectural features for a heritage project. "Padding" means walking very quietly, but some thought it was too close to "Paddy," which has been used as a derogatory term for the Irish (as in "paddy wagon"). Never mind that there are actual, living Irish people *named* Paddy.

There are lots of words that are going to offend one person/group or the other. It's not wrong to be offended. But the right thing to do is to state your case, explain the reason the term is offensive, and ask that it not be used again. How is it going to make the complainer's life better that s/he got Joe Reporter fired for an innocent mistake (if you can even call it that) like this?
« Last Edit: August 05, 2010, 06:06:41 PM by baglady »
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whatsanenigma

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #72 on: August 05, 2010, 06:45:40 PM »
There are lots of words that are going to offend one person/group or the other. It's not wrong to be offended. But the right thing to do is to state your case, explain the reason the term is offensive, and ask that it not be used again. How is it going to make the complainer's life better that s/he got Joe Reporter fired for an innocent mistake (if you can even call it that) like this?

I am going to preface this by saying I am white, because I think it's relevant here. And when it's explained why "circus" might be considered offensive in that context...well, okay. I admit I don't fully understand. But I think I get the general point. But also, I would have had not the faintest idea that the word could ever be considered offensive, before this thread.

It seems to me that it's very important to understand that yes, the majority group and the minority groups view the world differently. There are a few very obvious terms that we all know are wrong to use and there is no excuse. But isn't it part of the problem, that we members of the majority view the world differently sometimes and are therefore not always aware of what might offend someone from the minority viewpoint? Isn't that part of why it can be a challenge to be a member of a minority group?

I think it's fair to say that most if not all of us in the majority really really don't want to offend anyone. But if we don't know...we don't know. I think that intense level of offense shown in the OP is just really wrong. Sure, if it's offensive, point it out. And I'm not saying that it should be in some kind of subservient, begging way.  But for goodness sake please give people a chance. We can't fix what we don't know what is wrong. And if we always knew what was wrong...we wouldn't have the culture clashes that we do between majority and minority.

I think the situation in the OP was a sadly missed opportunity for bridging the two groups of people and finding common ground and learning what good can come of it if you assume the best of people and not the worst. Learning to apologize gracefully. And to gracefully accept apologies and move on.

Instead of that, it just turned into a big stupid mess and set things back instead of providing an opportunity for personal and social growth of people on both sides of the issue.

IMHO of course and as usual. I have tried to express myself without giving offense so you have my apologies if I have.

« Last Edit: August 05, 2010, 06:47:49 PM by whatsanenigma »

Balletmom

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #73 on: August 05, 2010, 09:38:23 PM »
Every time someone take a flying leap toward offense, it just strengthens true bigots - "Those people just aren't happy unless they're oppressed. They just want to hang on to the past and get special treatment!"

It also weakens the position of the complainants - if people get used to ridiculous complaints, they often will assume that justified complaints are also ridiculous.

Outrage is an addictive emotion. Like strong painkillers, it should be avoided when it is not really necessary.

POD. There are times when you need Gregory Finch or Jimmy Stewart step in to shut down the howlers.

gaylord500

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Re: The power of words (race issues mentioned)
« Reply #74 on: August 06, 2010, 02:06:27 AM »
Quote
I agree, which is one reason I'm irked at things like people being forced to apologize for the use of perfectly acceptable words - "niggardly" comes to mind. I am amused by Urban Dictionary's definition:
word that will get u fired...even though it doesn't mean anything offensive
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=niggardly

Every time someone take a flying leap toward offense, it just strengthens true bigots - "Those people just aren't happy unless they're oppressed. They just want to hang on to the past and get special treatment!"
I hate to say it, but I've seen people used the word "niggardly" to substitute for the other n-word, knowing and hoping to call people ignorant in a certain way. And some targets have caught onto that, and become sensitive to this word as a result, too.