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Dec. 8th, 2004

Is there any way I was too harsh in my response to this post? I don't think so, but you never know. I can't believe someone just admitted to automatically calling Japanese people "nips"....


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 8th, 2004 02:48 am (UTC)
No. Definitely not.
Dec. 8th, 2004 02:55 am (UTC)
The worst thing is, she says "the list goes on"! How many racial slurs does she have in her vocabulary?
Dec. 8th, 2004 02:49 am (UTC)
No, I think you were quite kind, considering. I mean, either the person is actually racist, or else doesn't realize that those terms are offensive and needs to have that pointed out.

I personally think of myself as a "Paddy". Or perhaps a "Bog Trotter".
Dec. 8th, 2004 02:53 am (UTC)
I go for "filthy Mick', myself. Or maybe "Fenian".
Dec. 8th, 2004 02:54 am (UTC)
No. Well done.
Dec. 8th, 2004 02:56 am (UTC)
Well, I figure that the reason certain words are racist rather than just generally unpleasant is because they refer to a group which is economically or socially disadvantaged. So "frogs", whilst irritating and generally indicative of a vague small-minded xenophobia on the part of the user, doesn't actually strike me as racist because the French are more or less economic equals, and they have an equally rambunctious relationship to us ("us" meaning the British in this case.) I'd see a difference between calling the French frogs and calling the Irish paddies, for example, because of the colonial relationship.

"Nips" and "wogs" are chiefly offensive because they're American terms, and they were definitely terms of abuse for Japanese Americans and Italian Americans when these groups were socially and economically disadvantaged. Hence, not just offensive and irritating, but actually imbued with institutional power.

I don't know whether they have the same connotation in Australia. It's possible that Australians use "nips" and "wogs" in a way that isn't racist: if, for example, Australians first association with "nips" is a major, rich, and relatively near country like Japan, rather than the Japanese as an ethnic minority within Australia. I mean, technically, the word's origins aren't offensive - as far as I know, it just refers to the Japanese name for Japan, which is Nippon. So it might be as harmless as "pom" for Britons, and it's just because our first association is with the American use that it strikes us as racist.

But it strikes me as unlikely.
Dec. 8th, 2004 03:01 am (UTC)
I've never heard of the term wog. I've heard of wop, even been called it once, in an incident that left me too flabbergasted to be insulted.
Dec. 8th, 2004 03:05 am (UTC)
"Wog" apparently used to be an acronym for "westernised Oriental gentleman" and was applied to mostly people of Chinese origin, but now I'd say it was a hardcore racist term used mostly at black people. Obviously applies differently in Australia, though I'd've thought the person's Greek friends would be more likely to have reclaimed "wop", which I've heard applied to Greek as well as Italian people, and the poster is just... a bit thick.
Dec. 8th, 2004 03:08 am (UTC)
Yeah, I didn't want to quibble with the racist definitions, but I too thought "wop" was for Mediteranean people and 'wog" was used for non-white people. Although yes, it might be different in Australia. We need wonderlanded for this!
Dec. 8th, 2004 06:01 am (UTC)
Will I do? In my experience, 'wop' isn't used in Australia, but 'wog' is (or was) used widely, to refer to people of Mediterranean and possible also Levantine descent.

(I'd also say that I encountered more causal racism in Australia than I have in this country. Most of it is 'well-meant', i.e. used jokingly rather than viciously; not that that makes it any better, but could explain the attitude of the original poster in that thread. It's also a very Australian trait to make fun of oneself, and often people from non Anglo backgrounds are looked on more fondly if they mock themselves, by referring to themselves as 'wogs' or 'chinks' of whatever. The original poster is also from a part of Sydney that is extremely multicultural; while I think that you were totally right to respond in the way you did, because s/he has to learn that these terms are offensive, it's entirely possible that s/he is surrounded by people of different ethnic backgrounds, who refer to themselves in certain ways that s/he never realised were offensive.)
Dec. 8th, 2004 06:04 am (UTC)
...and typos abound! 'casual', rather than 'causal' racism, I meant.
Dec. 8th, 2004 03:10 am (UTC)
Ah, thank you.

the poster is just... a bit thick

*g* Just a bit.
Dec. 8th, 2004 03:23 am (UTC)
Yes, sorry, that's what I was thinking of. "Wog" is a shortened form of "golliwog" and is used for anyone with dark skin. For some reason, it strikes me as an extremely 1970s West Midlands word, but it's never really been current slang in my lifetime (thank God!) Likewise, "wop" doesn't get used over here either.
Dec. 8th, 2004 03:28 am (UTC)
I didn't think "wop" had been used by anyone except The Sun since the 1940s. To me it has definite wartime propaganda connotations, like refering to Germans as the Hun.
Dec. 8th, 2004 03:34 am (UTC)
Quite probably, as I've mostly heard it used by my grandfather and his contemporaries to affectionately rag on one another.

It's all moot, I suppose, as they're both offensive.
Dec. 8th, 2004 03:02 am (UTC)
But it strikes me as unlikely.

Yep, me too. Particularly since I've heard my Australian relatives on the subject of Japanese immigrants and... well, if their attitudes aren't unique, I don't think there's much of a benign accepting jokiness there.
Dec. 8th, 2004 03:17 am (UTC)
Yes, I agree.

You're right about the different shades of xenophobia; I suppose I always think of any slang terms for specific nationalities are kind of dodgy - I've never used the term "Brit", for example, because it has dodgy connotations here, thanks to being used by Republican bigots. And I only use "yank" when joking with American friends.
Dec. 8th, 2004 03:29 am (UTC)
Yes, I'd stay away from them all, as well! And, of course, I'd be equally irritated by sweeping statements about various nationalities even if they used perfectly politically correct language.

Having said that, I could see my dad deciding that "frogs" was a perfectly acceptable way of talking about the French after a couple of glasses of (probably French) wine in closed company, whereas he'd have passed out before he started to think that "wog" was acceptable.
Dec. 8th, 2004 06:20 am (UTC)
I think that to a certain extent the offensiveness of the various terms does depend on the context/region - in Canada, 'frogs' is considered very offensive and derogatory, because of the history of relations between English and French Canada.

With the global nature of the world these days, even if a term such as 'nips' didn't come with a racist connotation in one part of the world, it stills seems like a bad choice of word, because of how it's used elsewhere.

Dec. 8th, 2004 03:07 am (UTC)
No, I think you were remarkably restrained.
Dec. 8th, 2004 03:31 am (UTC)
Same here.

Dec. 8th, 2004 07:51 am (UTC)
You were massively polite and restrained while gently guiding the person in the correct direction.

Though, having seen how active the discussion was and how the poster still seems to not see the error of her ways, maybe a good swift kick would have been better. Not that people respond well to being called a racist fuck, but if the shoe fits...

(and I will admit it's possible to have no idea that certain words are offensive, because until wonderlanded I never associated spaz or spastic with anything derogatory, but I don't take that long to catch on.)
Dec. 8th, 2004 08:29 am (UTC)
Actually, I think the original poster did start to realise people's point. She was still a bit flippant, but she is very young, and as Jess says further up, it's entirely possible that she lives in a fairly small culture where racial/ethnic terms are part of the common currency because everyone's from some sort of minority ethnic group. But hopefully she's learnt that they don't go down so well outside of her friendship group...
Dec. 8th, 2004 08:33 am (UTC)
You have an excellent point, but...I think if she was really getting it, she'd remove the racist ones like 'paddy', and make it clear that she was looking to see what sort of terms people use with polite affection.
Dec. 8th, 2004 08:34 am (UTC)
But I'm also hungry and cranky and achy and have a headache, so I may not be very understanding right now.
Dec. 10th, 2004 01:46 pm (UTC)
Definitely not.

For myself, I've started a personal campaign on Xbox live, where I use the VoIP headset and bigoted insults are common, i.e. "This level is gay!", "You stole my kill, fag!" etc. (You might think this is just "accidental" homophobia, that they might not know they're being uncool, but I did have one kid in Crimson Skies explain to me that he had nothing against fags, but he wouldn't ever talk to one.) Normally, I just say something along the lines of "Can we keep the homophobia to a minimum, please?", after the first homophobic insult, and between coming from a voice that's actually, you know, broken (as opposed to the frequent teenage pipings I hear) and calling people on something they know really isn't acceptable off line, it's usually enough to ensure a homophobia free session.

But then you get some assholes who don't take the hint. "Homophobic! What the fuck are you talking about? Fag!" Because I usually play ad-hoc team games, these jerks often end up on my own team, so after a few verbal exchanges, they never see it coming when I just give up tell them that I can't stand bigots -- and drop a grenade on their ass, or a shotgun to their head. Having a traitor on your team makes it very, very difficult to win, and their disbelieving cries as I explain it's not okay to use "gay" to mean "crap" while returning the hard-won enemy team's flag to the enemy base, give me a warm, fuzzy, glow. I really think for some of them it's the first time a peer has called them on this, let alone punished them socially for it. Who knows? Maybe next time they play and want to win a team game, it'll actually occur to them that some words are objectionable and to be a little bit more careful about risking pissing off strangers.

So, if I can go round jerking the chain of idiot gamers, I think it's perfectly okay for you to post a reasonable response in a public journal.
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )


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