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Racism in the English language

Racism in the English language

When I read the title of Moore’s article I thought to myself, “great another far left critical analysis with extreme claims and unsubstantial evidence;? however, my first assumption was proven wrong after I started to read the article. The “A Short Play on ‘Black’ and ‘White’ Words? is cleverly written and pointed out the obvious inaccuracy in our language. Although the comparisons of white and black words are obvious they many not be realized by the general public, myself included. I am reminded of a quote: “the only thing a fish cannot see is the water it swims in.? We are submerged in our language. We use it every day to express our ideas, feelings, and perspective through a verbal system in hopes to be more deeply understood. Moore points out that language is “an integral part of any culture? and moreover then just daily use our language “develops in conjunction with a society’s historical, economic, and political evolution; it also reflects that’s society’s attitudes and thinking? (p. 524). So I am compelled to ask: What does our language say about our own culture? I am not a linguist nor a scholar in the English language, so I will not attempt to answer the question for you, I will, however, answer it for myself. It appears, through the examples used in Moore’s article that we are far from a color blind society. Although I would argue that “white? is not always portrayed in a positive light (white devil and pasty pop into mind) as suggested by Moore, I would; however, agree that on average that “white? is associated with more positive connotations relative to that of “black.?
But subtle connotations and denotations of racial superiority/inferiority found within the language is not the only way in which “racism? is structured in English. In the section Ethnocentrism or From a White Perspective, Moore points out that certain words are used to “distort the understanding of the reader or listener? (527). Specifically he points out how the usage of the term “slave? takes away the humanity of the black men, women, and children, who suffered under complete control of slavery. It was suggested that the term “slave? be substituted for a more accurate clause describing the issues at hand. “Black people forced to work for no pay? or “African people held in captivity? where suggested. I have found that when I substituted these phrases, a definite shift of meaning occurred. The humanity of the people enslaved was brought back and the true horror of slavery becomes more evident and not so sugar coated.
Also the way we chose words and formulate sentences, can have an underlying racist tone. A quote from McGraw-Hill’s text states, “At first it was slaves who worked the cane and they got only food for it. Now men work cane and get money? (p. 527). The above statement suggests that slaves (“black people forced to work for no pay? or “African people held in captivity?) were less then human. Slaves worked in the fields before men. To be completely honest I had to re-read the quote because I missed the point Moore tried to make. To many the word choice may obviously be racist, but I doubt for those who skim text or are young would have caught the subtlety.