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Jan 31 2012

Word.

I’m a fan of Yo, Is This Racist? even if the answer is almost always “YES”. This particular Q&A seemed particularly appropriate.

Anonymous asked: Is it racist that my science teacher sucks balls?

Yo, science education in the US is a fucking political mess of a tragedy, but it’s worth sticking around and at least trying to learn how to apply evidence and logic, because bastardizations of science are basically the favorite tool of the modern racist.

(Wait, is my choice of a common black american slang term for the title of this post racist? Dammit, it is, isn’t it?)

52 comments

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  1. 1
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    This one is also relevant to your interests.

  2. 2
    John Kruger

    Since the title of the entry is only a vague reference to a culture, is not a reference to any actual person, and does not make any generalizations about any group of people, it does not seem racist to me. But heck, maybe it is racist of me not to think it is racist. I can hardly tell any more.

  3. 3
    TonyJ

    I’m a fan of Yo, Is This Racist?

    Well, there’s my afternoon gone.

  4. 4
    René

    Since when is it okay to put a full stop after a title? That’s extremely punctuationist.

    Yours truely,

    The Return Key

  5. 5
    richardelguru

    “Yours truely” [sic]

    Isn’t that hypo-elisionist

  6. 6
    richardelguru

    Or Muphry’s-Law-ist??

  7. 7
    Anthony K

    (Wait, is my choice of a common black american slang term for the title of this post racist? Dammit, it is, isn’t it?)

    Having read the entire site (fuck you very much, Be Scofield), I think I can field this one:

    Anonymous asked: Yo, Is it racist if I just assumed you were black because you say “yo” and “wack” a lot?
    I have gotten this question literally like 1.5 million times, and, I don’t know, for some reason, you win the dummy lottery. Listen, let me put it to you this way: if you think only Black people say “yo” and “wack” you have got to be the most sheltered motherfucker on this dumb, racist planet.

    and

    Anonymous asked: Who else says “Yo” and “Wack” besides black people?
    Fucking all people you stupid motherfucker, have you ever been to, or seen a televised depiction of, any city with more than say, 100,000 people?

    You were probably fine until the commentary that it’s black american slang, since it’s had non-black mainstream use since the 80s.

  8. 8
    janiceintoronto

    Seems like the definition is a moving target. I can hardly keep up with all the arguments, though some are really thought provoking.

    Maybe someday I’ll understand, but then again, maybe not…

    What’s a girl to do?

  9. 9
    Sili

    Since when is it okay to put a full stop after a title?

    “Word.” is not the same word as “word”.

    Not using a full stop would have changed the intended meaning. You sound like the bad kind of copy editor who’s incapable of understanding the author’s intent. Cf. Pullum and The Allusive Butterfly of Love.

    Sorry.

    I meant to say: Fuck you

  10. 10
    echidna

    And “Jå”, sounding like “yaw”, has been standard Austrian dialect for “yes” for centuries. Since a lot of words used as slang in the US seem to have come from German or Yiddish (which is so similar to older Austrian dialects that I can understand it quite easily), even the US origins of “Yo” are not necessarily black. Could even be Skandinavian. All you would need is the musos to mingle.

  11. 11
    Sili

    Or Muphry’s-Law-ist??

    The Bierce-Hartman-Skitt-McKean Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation.

    Or in words René may better understand.

  12. 12
    Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts

    It’s thinking it’s racist that makes it racist. ‘Also makes you ignorant.

    That is if it wasn’t meant to be some kind of wry humour, but I’m not smiling nor is my irony metre going off, so my guess is it wasn’t.

    Anyhow, I haven’t heard slang language like that since the late 90′s and early 00′s when my brother and his friends were deep into a sub-urban mockery of urban culture. I somehow think that the kids these days are using other slang. Word. Honestly! (That would be exasperation.)

  13. 13
    Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts

    Yo, Is This Racist? would be much more succinct, if decidedly less interesting, if the page contained a single sentence:

    If you even have to ask …

    But then, I expect finishing that sentence would be hard for many people, not least those who contribute the questions in the first place.

  14. 14
    Ingdigo Jump

    Actually asking is an important part of the equation I think. Privilege remember. Too many well meaning liberals tend to presume that if they aren’t offended that means it’s not offensive.

  15. 15
    peterh

    Some people are damned well going to be offended no matter what you say or do – possibly even if you say or do nothing.

  16. 16
    Anthony K

    Some people are damned well going to be offended no matter what you say or do – possibly even if you say or do nothing.

    I’ve often heard this.

    Who? Who is going to be offended no matter what you say or do? I want names, or you’re a damn fucking whinging liar.

  17. 17
    davidct

    PZ – of course you are racist. You were born white, raised white, and you have a white job. I am a racist in the same way. The best we can do is recognize a potential for bias and try to resist it as much as possible.

  18. 18
    crocswsocks

    PZ be trippin’.

  19. 19
    eigenperson

    #17 davidct: Is it more racist (a) to be born white, raised white, and have a white job, or (b) to think that being a successful academic is somehow a “white job”, whatever that means?

  20. 20
    robertbaden

    @ eigenperson:

    What is the % of white academics vs their percentage of the population?

  21. 21
    eigenperson

    I actually have no idea.

    But that’s not the point. The point is that I fail to see the difference between saying that being a professor is a “white job”, and saying that it’s a “man’s job”, or that it’s “white man’s work”, or whatever.

    There are plenty of black academics, despite their low represenation as a percentage of the whole field, and they are not doing a “white job”.

  22. 22
    marcus

    @17 Not to be contrary but I am a white not-racist. So they do exist.

  23. 23
    Ingdigo Jump

    Not to be contrary but I am a white not-racist. So they do exist.

    So you were raised in the phantom zone by sexless chrome robots?

  24. 24
    Ingdigo Jump

    Clarification: You are conflating two senses of racist.

    Everyone has a racial bias / has internalized some racist memes from the culture~Lesser endemic racism

    Not everyone is a supremacist or bigot~More common use of the term.

  25. 25
  26. 26
    marcus

    @23 No i was raised in the American Deep South by a racist asshole during the time of Jim Crow, legally-enforced bigotry, and unspeakable violence against innocent people who asked for nothing except basic human respect. It made me very angry.
    @24 I understand what you’re saying and I respect you a great deal, I have difficulty accepting the meme “…everyone has a racial bias,” as a proven fact. I also realize that I am a product of a racist society so I will defer in this instance. After all there is no way for me to prove that I am a not-racist. I will accept being a “not-supremacist, not-bigot” for now.

  27. 27
    a3kr0n

    I don’t even know what “word” means, so how can I perceive it as racist?

  28. 28
    Anthony K

    Marcus, try here for a demonstration of the sort of implicit bias Ing is referring to.

  29. 29
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Possibly the funniest post on that site, ever.

    Peterh: You poor babby. Yep, you just stroll along, minding your own business, and somehow all those militantly politically correct folks take issue with every word that comes out of your mouth, am I right? And then you just stand there and say nothing, and then all those nasty people who don’t look like you or sound like you still get offended, am I right?

    I don’t know, Peter, but for some reason you don’t strike me as a reliable narrator here.

  30. 30
    Anthony K

    “Ing is referring to.”

    Sorry Ing, I shouldn’t assume.

  31. 31
    marcus

    @28 Thank you Brownian. I am familiar with the IAT and have actually taken it several times. I do score “white” (positive) but at the lowest numbers. Perhaps my problem with the word “racism” is merely semantic. There should be a different word for someone who “identifies” white than for someone who thinks that being white is inherently superior. A lot of meanings get piled on that one word “racist” as Ing pointed out. I will end my quibble now. I appreciate your forbearance.

  32. 32
    Ichthyic

    “…everyone has a racial bias,”

    Marcus, they do. There’s no reason to get defensive about it.
    The only really important thing is how one deals with it.

    Seems to me you’ve been working hard.

    *shrug*

  33. 33
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Actually I think Marcus’ point is valid, and applies to discussions of sexism too. It would be useful to have a commonly agreed way to clearly distinguish between background-aware, background-blind and bigoted.

    Where background = we all have it, we can’t help it, we were raised that way. Everyday sexism, racism, classism, ableism etc etc. But it’s very different if you’re aware of it and and try to work against it, than if you’re just plain oblivious. And even being oblivious is not the same as being actively bigoted. Although they work much the same in everyday life, since intent isn’t magic, one is potentially more educable than the other.

  34. 34
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Oops. I just had a #privilegefail up there. The oblivious and the bigoted are much the same in *MY* everyday life, because I am privileged enough not to be afraid of bigots harming me in my everyday life. Not everyone is so lucky.

    Yes, there is a pretty big difference between the bystander who helps, the bystander who does nothing, and the actual basher.

  35. 35
    Ingdigo Jump

    Where background = we all have it, we can’t help it, we were raised that way. Everyday sexism, racism, classism, ableism etc etc. But it’s very different if you’re aware of it and and try to work against it, than if you’re just plain oblivious.

    We do. Racism, Sexism, Classism, Abelism is the unconscious affect.

    Adding bigot to that is for when people are proud or stubborn in it.

    It’s actually important NOT to find a more watered down term. It’s important that even the innocuous low level be regarded as negative to defend against. White guilt can be a good thing, or at least better than liberal stubbornness.

  36. 36
    marcus

    Thanks all. The clarity of mind and precision of thought of the community here is inspiring and gratifying.

  37. 37
    DLC

    Are the G I Joes (the cartoon version) racist because they yell “Yo Joe! ” ?
    Am I racist when I talk like a pirate and say “yo-Ho me hearties!” ?
    Word.

  38. 38
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    I’m not sure the “unconscious affect” is a more understandable term. Or that sexism, racism etc are understood generally to be different from bigotry. And I distinguished 3 classes; but you seem to have 2.

  39. 39
    Chris Booth

    (Wait, is my choice of a common black american slang term for the title of this post racist? Dammit, it is, isn’t it?)

    Not if you deconstruct it.

    ;-)

  40. 40
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Hmm. I didn’t have any idea that “Word.” was black American slang. I’ve only seen it relatively recently and thought it was originally young people’s internet slang. Like LOLCat speak or “fail”. Huh. Learned something new.

  41. 41
    Francisco Bacopa

    I am reminded of one of the best sites of the old days:

    http://www.blackpeopleloveus.com/index.html

    Of course it’s not racist. It’s about people cluelessly thinking of themselves as non-racists while being racist. But read the letters section; Not everyone figured that out.

  42. 42
    SallyStrange

    “Word” has been around for a while. Since the 80s at least. I can attest from direct personal experience that white teenagers in predominantly white rural towns in upstate NY were using it during the 90s.

  43. 43
    Kristof

    By the way – does anyone know what is this “Racist BET Irrational And Unasked For Anger Test For Racist Tendencies”?

  44. 44
    JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    Kristof,

    It’s from an earlier post here:

    http://yoisthisracist.com/post/16416948203/yo-best-racist-litmus-test-s

  45. 45
    JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    Er, I just realized you probably asked since that litmus test refrenced in the current first page, and that original post was linked to there.

    Its due to the shit storm that has been thrown over BET in previous posts,
    http://yoisthisracist.com/post/16161680655/yo-this-chick-in-my-class-back-in-8th-grade-said-that

    http://yoisthisracist.com/post/15716027052/yo-do-some-cultures-need-to-continue-to-relive-past

    I’m sure there is more, but the 2nd link is 40 some pages back. Its an awesome site so going back through when you have time is highly recommended.

  46. 46
    NovaC

    Thanks for the link at #28, Brownian. My IAT score was ‘No automatic preference for African American or European American’. Kind of bears out what I’ve always said: ‘I don’t mind and it doesn’t fucking matter to me what race you are’. I grew up among so many different ethnicities that I really don’t base my judgements of people on race. Idiocy is a different matter.

  47. 47
    JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    Wow, I’ve followed this site for awhile and have been through all of it, but am now stuck going back through it laughing and facepalming.

    Here’s more for the BET bullshit:
    http://yoisthisracist.com/post/14750681211/my-parents-blocked-bet-when-i-was-8-racist

    http://yoisthisracist.com/post/14694805764/ive-always-wondered-how-there-can-be-bet-black

    http://yoisthisracist.com/post/12980742900/they-have-black-entertainment-television-why-cant-we

  48. 48
    JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    The if you have to ask post:

    http://yoisthisracist.com/post/14208351894/couldnt-you-just-replace-this-entire-tumblr-with-if

    And I’m posting this one just because I totally didn’t see the reference. The side by side was like WOW for me.
    http://yoisthisracist.com/post/13178650834/sparkinlarkin-asked-just-showing-how-subliminally

  49. 49
    khms

    Your results are reported below:
    Your data suggest a strong implicit preference for Newt Gingrich compared to Mitt Romney.
    Your data suggest little to no difference in implicit preference between Black People and White People.

    Umm … given that before that test, I’d have had trouble to guess who is who when shown pictures of both, and what I know of either one’s politics seems equally off-putting, this does not exactly inspire confidence in the test – though the other line seems to be right.

    Also, given how often I just plain forgot what exactly I was to select at the moment (and how much time I spent bitching about the test) …

    Well, I do admit that I paused once looking at a picture of Romney to remark on how ugly his grin was, in reference to many supposedly-attractive politician grins I remember seeing that just looked ugly (or used-car-salesman-like) to me.

    (Incidentally, asking a German how liberal he is on X issue seems rather problematic – first, outside the US, “left” or “progressive” is not usually called “liberal” (that’s used more for politics at least superficially like US “libertarian”), and second, right now, that would be rather ill-defined over here even with corrections. We have at least threefour parties in that general area, and they disagree on a number of points; furthermore, parts of the conservatives sometimes also have opinions in that area … I can answer for concrete positions, but a general right-or-left style question does not have a clear answer.)

  50. 50
    SallyStrange

    “Racist BET Irrational And Unasked For Anger Test For Racist Tendencies”

    I’ve never heard of it, but if I had to take a guess, I’d say it probably refers to the commonly asked question, “If there’s Black Entertainment Television, why isn’t there White Entertainment Television? Isn’t that racist?”

    Merely asking the question is racist, since it reveals that the speaker hasn’t thought about–or is deliberately ignoring–the obvious fact that pretty much ALL of the other channels are “White Entertainment Television.”

    Whether the question is asked in genuine puzzlement or in maliciousness, will tell you if the speaker is merely a racist or a genuine racist bigot.

  51. 51
    SallyStrange

    Whoops… I wrote that response a long time before posting it. Of COURSE there were several BET questions on the blog. I just haven’t had enough time browsing it to discover them.

  52. 52
    Anthony K
    “Racist BET Irrational And Unasked For Anger Test For Racist Tendencies”

    I’ve never heard of it, but if I had to take a guess, I’d say it probably refers to the commonly asked question, “If there’s Black Entertainment Television, why isn’t there White Entertainment Television? Isn’t that racist?”

    Yup. Also see peterh’s comment.

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