I have never really understood racism and what the function it serves in society is. I come from an area of the United States that has a high level of racism, meaning that average people on the whole find some particular race offensive in some way. This is common in most of the suburban and rural US, though not uncommon in the cities.
With the upcoming elections in the US I have wondered if a black president will increase or decrease the level of racism in American society. I guess it depends on how he does and what he does while he is there.
I have since my earliest memories been very disgusted by racism, witnessing it constantly in my youth and having been asked repeatedly if I had a problem with a specific race – either by someone of that origin or by someone against that origin. The use of derogatory words is something that has offend me my whole life.
But the US is not the only place I have been with a racism problem. Currently the Danish government is controlled by an openly racist political party hell bent on returning itself to an isolationist country in the near future. I witnessed the last elections in Copenhagen first hand and watched as my filmmaker and otherwise cultural friends stared into their beers ashamed at what the winning political party was saying at that moment on the television screens. It amounted to “We will get ride of the brown people!” [in Europe this translates to Muslims]
At that moment I thought, “Wow, you could never, ever get away with that in the US – even if you stood for that line of thinking.” [On the one hand it brings into question America’s actual rights of speech and its self censoring habits – on the other it raises the question of how bad racism can be when it goes beyond cultural ignorance and unfamiliarity.]
But what function does racism serve? To whose benefit does racism pander? When we look at the pattern of racism, how it controls financial and social structures and what it means in terms of general power in society, who is gaining?
The power of a word. What gives a racist comment its power? How do the words ‘nigger’, ‘spic’, ‘yid’, mean what they do and who empowers it in a specific context? [Why does profanity at all have power? Why create words one should not say? Besides racist ideas what gives the words ‘fuck’ ‘wanker’ and ‘cunt’ power as well?]
We do. We lend our associations to these words. We use them with disgust or are disgusted by them for the very same reason. Because of what we say they mean.