autumnus: 2 stick figures running around saying "OMG" "ONOZ" (OMG)
I was reading continuation comments to the post I linked earlier and couple of other posts here and there. My original intention was to write about the tone argument, since the comments are now disabled. However what I saw in one of the threads just chilled me to bone.

I apologize in advance for not finding the particular thread again and I promise I will link it as soon as I find it but below is the paraphrase. Thread in question

Person A (non-USA citizen) uses the word lynching instead of mobbing or witch-hunt I guess (although witch-hunt has a nuance which in my opinion makes it a inaccurate word).

Person B mentions that word lynching has a meaning of mob that is non-color.

Person A says that she used the word in her own culture's context and in her own country's context, that it is perfectly valid translation.

Person B "if you cannot use the terms correctly you are being racist and stfu" We came up with the word, use it in right context.

Lets say I finally understood what people mean as feeling oppressed and silenced and wanting to lash out. Well that is not true, I have been in that position before, just... not in fandom.

Speaking the language of a dialogue as a native gives you power in the argument. Often, because situations in one country or simple words do not translate from one side to another exactly, we are left with approximations. It is not that we do not have mastery of English. It is that our thinking is shaped around our language and sometimes thoughts with all of the nuances, do not translate to another language period. It is one thing to, after an initial recoil, say "okay I see what you are trying to say" or if it is really inappropriate to offer an alternative word if there is one (if there not one you are out of luck). However if you use that to attack the person A, or to claim that their argument is invalid because of it even after they clarified what they meant, or to mock them saying "look she is arguing she doesn't even know what the n means". That is derailing and attacking. It is derailing because you are trying to invalidate an argument with something that has nothing to do with the essence of the argument.

It is one thing to expect the oppressing party to give extra leeway in self expression to the oppressed party (tone argument). That is actually what we are arguing about. That if the tone argument is still valid in case of a personal attack, past a passionately angry answer, or in the cause of someone who is not the privileged party (none of which is the point of the current post btw). However, I find it ironic that some of the same people (few not all) who protest against silencing and derailing are doing exactly that against others.

We are not all westerners, all Americans, all US citizens in this discussion. My ancestors have a lot of sins, hell my current government does a lot of idiotic things, has done a lot of idiotic things in past. Some of the bad things, guess what, I believed in them. It took reading, encountering people on the other side of the fence or people who have been in comparable (yet different) situations offering their opinions about those situations to change my mind. Some things I made a complete U-Turn about it. Some things these days I simply don't know what to think. There has been few cases I have been on the hot seat, in one case something I truly did not want to confront: not only to hear the accusations but to be put on the spot to defend my country was extremely uncomfortable but then again I go in tangents.

The westerner understanding of nationality and race does not translate to my reality. This does not mean I exclude it, it means it is added to an existing category of situations in my mind that translates to discrimination. There is this that I know, and I know of the outcome, of pitfalls. Then there that that I know limited amount but that I observe as an outsider and have ideas about. I am also very very aware that there might be more then one right answer.

Since internet does not belong to the citizens of USA, I have a right to dive into the dialogue and try to understand, engage and bring my culture, my point of view as a Turkish citizen, an atheist, a woman. I can bring what worked for me and my country, and why I think something is a pitfall in an international arena, based on my experiences.  I have right to express an idea, criticize what I see and offer alternative solutions to a global issue in a global arena without necessarily knowing every nuance of every word you use and every detail of cultural context you come from. One reason for this is none of us know every single situation first hand (7 years living in this country I just begin to understand the history and context. I doubt you understand any better what is happening in my homeland in Turkey). I am hoping to learn some of it along the way, don't get me wrong. However I do not have to know everything about you to have a valid point or to be treated with respect, to be listened.

Racism and other forms of discrimination do not only happen to you. The word racism and the word discrimination encompasses what has happened to me, to people in my country, to you, to people in your country, to others in different places in different ways. Every context is different. Every individual way of fighting is different, shaped by realities of each situation and our concept of what is acceptable and what is right. Internet is a melting pot for all that. We try to find our way of doing things that is acceptable to most of us. We argue about what is the best way to handle it, find solution, draw lines. It is not surprising, coming from different cultures that we have different ideas and do not exactly understand where each other are coming from.

Plus, some western nations have a history (and current attempts) to understand what is happening in other countries from their points of view and label them without understanding really what is happening so it is not just that I have a right to talk. It is imperative for me to be part of this conversation, to make myself understood and heard to you who are from these countries, for my own well being. For that reason alone, I am a party to this discussion as much as uncomfortable as you can be with me and my opinion.

So disagree if you must, do so passionately. (I would prefer some level of civility but that is something we can argue about, something we are arguing about). However, if you start trying to silence me in your quest to fight against other people silencing you, don't get surprised that I have a major problem with that.

edit: I just realized this post got linked in metafandom. Welcome to anyone who stumbles here. I will be turning the screening off for non-anonymous posts. However please refrain from following: racial/sexual/homophobic/etc slurs, R rated insults, threats.

edit2 (July 06, 2010 2:23pm EST):
Okay several people pointed out to me that the example I chose is not the best illustration of my point in that use of the word lynching in the presence of a PoC is very hurtful and has racist context to that person, in reflecting the blame back. I think I should have made it clear while it is important to not assume everyone will know the context or that the context is set, the author also have a responsibility upon realizing the situation that there is a party who is hurt by it, to apologize and try to steer to a neutral terminology if at all possible. It is important that we are capable of showing reasonable amount of consideration to each other. (This does not invalidate the great discussion we are having here by the way,about which meaning(s) of a word is valid to use under what context and how to support a global discussion because I personally still am not convinced with the "my topic, my language".)

And... on the heels of this last bit a new question to add to the mix: When you need to say that the person you are defending is making a mistake and hurting others, how do you do that without implying "you are to blame for what happened to you" or "what happened to you is right"?

edit3 (July 8, 2010 6:10pm): I realized my former edit might sound like I completely disagree with my initial assessment of the situation. I don't, not really.It is acknowledging that I missed one crucial part of the problem in this particular thread  and emphasizing that listening to each other is a 2 way street. Arrghh it is hard to word this, so I am going to try one last time.

I think that there are multiple fails on this conversation. Icarus not taking the US commenters reaction at face value and not apologizing for the unintentional hurt caused is a problem and it should have been addressed. Even through it is not immediately obvious from the commenters reaction why there is a problem and why the term is hurtful, there should be at least an "I see that you are offended my use of this term" and move toward a more neutral terminology rather than the defensiveness.

On the other hand, this does not also change the fact that the comments are dismissive, hurtful and very US-centric. The fact that they stem from hurt and that the authors are not aware they are not doing it does not justify the lack of apology and acknowledgment. Experience of the internal ethnic conflict of a country by an Irish person is not somehow less valid than history of slavery and lynching because it happened to a person that is white. Neither is the dismissal of a cultural context of the word because it originated from USA acceptable.

I believe in calling out of discriminatory behavior of all sort, and particular hurtful terms so that we can all learn. I do not believe for a second that the request for respect should come at the expense of dismissal of others, or that hurt (intentional or unintentional) for one side justifies another (and this last bit is applicable criticism to both sides on the thread).

Sorry for the long winded edit.





Date: 2010-06-29 08:09 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] cesy
cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)
"lynching" possibly isn't the best term to use as an example, but yeah, this is an important point. The same word can have different meanings in different cultures and contexts. The old "divided by a common language" joke about the US and the UK has a lot of truth in it.

Date: 2010-06-29 01:56 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] cesy
cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)
Nah, it's fine to rant - that's what your journal's for. And yes, the following conversation sounds pretty silly. Language does change and adapt, particularly in different cultures around the world, and although it can be useful to be aware of the history of a word, it also does vary in whether all those connotations carry over every time you use it.

Date: 2010-07-05 11:56 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] jesse_the_k
jesse_the_k: Ultra modern white fabric interlaced to create strong weave (interdependence)
Thank you for speaking your mind in enough public so I can learn what it's like to participate as a second (third! eighth!) language.

Native-English speakers get to dominate discourse on the internet. In return, I think we owe it to everyone to remember that our English is not the only English.

Date: 2010-07-06 02:17 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] ilka
here via metafandom

Thank you for this post!

I'm still trying to find out what the appropiate German translation of "hurt" in the context of the recent discussions is, so I can understand it. :/ I asked around, I posted what several dictionaries said, the different meanings, and people tried to explain it to me - but every time I said, Oh, it's [english->german->english-translation]! they told me, No, it's not, it's more [long description of totally different, unspecific feelings].

But that's why I don't participate in the discussions. My English isn't that good and I don't want to mess up tenses and sentence structure and the like. And, of course, sometimes I don't understand why people find things offensive and when I comment, suddenly my comment is offensive as well, even if I'm taking their side, and then it's "I'm not here to educate you!" even though it's about language. D:
I also think how discussions are handled is different in different cultures.
And, well, I'm pretty sensitive about tone, probably because at first I only had contact with English in school and later in fantasy novels and there you don't really "learn" to speak with many "the fucks" and stuff. :/

Do I understand this right? A, who said "lynching", is German? Would fit, since to be honest, the connotation of the direct translation, "lynchen", isn't that bad. Of course, it's still bad, but it's almost always used as a hyperbol and pretty common in the media.

Date: 2010-07-06 02:39 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] ilka
I totally forgot: there is also "Lynchmob" which basically means "mob". So it's not unexpected that those are used as synonyms in cultural context.

Date: 2010-07-06 05:26 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] fennel
the connotation of the direct translation, "lynchen", isn't that bad.

Actually, it is that bad. (And yes, I am German)

In public memory, lynchen almost entirely stands for atrocities in german usage. It is usually used for horrible things happening during or shortly after the second world war, or for things involving a mob acting with pure hate and rage and killing intent.
The usage in that discussion is actually arguably worse for this, not better or more understandable.

It's quite a strong word. You don't use it for people who just disagree with you, ever.

Date: 2010-07-06 06:05 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] rodo
rodo: chuck on a roof in winter (Default)
I think [personal profile] ilka was referring to the fact that "lynchen" is used even if the lynched person isn't black. It's simply not as restricted as the American term.

You don't use it for people who just disagree with you, ever.

Depends. I don't like it either, but a lot of people use it as a hyperbole similar to "I'm starving" or "you're killing me". In fact, I mostly hear it in this context. "Und dann wird man gleich wegen sowas gelyncht", for example.
Edited Date: 2010-07-06 06:06 am (UTC)

my two cents

Date: 2010-07-06 09:51 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] susanna
susanna: (Default)
I participated too in the discussion at [personal profile] calla's journal, but I have withdrawn after some point. I followed the discussion about "lynchmob" however, and tried to understand the sensibilities, and, yes, I am German too, I wondered about a German equivalent, and I think it's "Pogrom" (which is, too my knowledge, the common word for the atrocities during WWII against Jews, if that's what you're referring to. They were a weird mixture of spontaneous and state-organized, most of all the Reichsprogromnacht, and in the end, it turned out that they were part of a systematic plan. I just wonder about other instances during or shortly after WWII where the word "Lynchen" would be appropriate - I am pretty sure that there are some).

Back to the original topic. As I said, the word that's really sensitive is pogrom which is by the way taken from Russian where there were also progroms against Jews. The word does not even have a verb, and it is normally used very carefully - I have seen it used in referrence to the recent events in Kyrgystan, but I have also read explicite warnings against using the word in referrence to anything Israel does against the Palestines - and I agree that you should not use it in that instance, because often there goes some ten-year-old behaviour with it: "Look, they are doing the same thing now too! Why do you keep blaming us? They are just as bad!"

The word "lynchmob" does not have all these connotation, and it is not burdened by a sense of guilt, at least not for us. There's been racism against Blacks in Germany too, but it is overshadowed by far by racism against Jews, and we don't even have much of a colonial history (though more than zero.)

But when I read the aggressive reaction to the usage of the word "lynchmob" I wondered whether there is a similar history to its usage in the USA as we have it with the word "pogrom" - if there is not an attitude of "look, they are doing the same now, they are just as bad!" POC in the US know very well, while if people from elsewhere use the word, it does not have any connection to racial issues, but is just about a behaviour everyone can display, and the group in question does not need to be unitied by a common race but can just be anything.

I can understand that people are hurt if the word "lynchmob" is used to refer to POC - it makes sense to me in the contest of a discussion in the US. But it does not make sense to me that a person is not willing to take into account that the people she's having a discussion with are not from the US and that they don't use the term "lynchmob" to derail from lynchmobs against POC that occured in the US, and keeps reacting aggressively.

It's why these discussions seem like mine-fields - we are not that sufficiently acquainted with US culture to know about all the points that can come off as offensive.

Date: 2010-07-06 10:41 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] frogspace.livejournal.com
ext_3626: (merlin - dragon spell)
Speaking the language of a dialogue as a native gives you power in the argument. Often, because situations in one country or simple words do not translate from one side to another exactly, we are left with approximations.

True. For example, the fact that all these discussions in fandom always happen in English means discussing it in German is surprisingly difficult. People try to translate these terms and immediately start flailing around because although you can translate race (Rasse), you can't use it in a discussion about race in German as the term itself is considered racist in my language and you have to find another one. However, if you do talk about ethnic minorities or people with a migration background (which would be the correct terms here), you already have a different discussion. Also, if you don't have the words to talk about it, you don't have the words to think about it, which means your approach most likely is a different one and there is nothing you can do about it except total immersion in the culture of the person you are talking to and even then there will be misunderstandings. The sad thing is that the other person usually doesn't notice where the misunderstandings come from because you are both speaking English, so they conclude that you are rude, insensitive, offensive or whatever.

Date: 2010-07-06 08:17 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] oconel
oconel: oconel's Flowers (Default)
Via metafandom

I'm Spanish and I'd have made the same mistake (even the dictionary leads me to "lynch" without any kind of warnings).

I try to stay away from many of the race discussions going on because my experience is so different from the one of the commenters and is so US-centric, there's no way to make my voice heard.

Date: 2010-07-06 09:59 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] allangtegek
allangtegek: a pattern of dirt particles in a puddle of water (cirkels)
Sorry, no. I absolutely agree native (US!) English speakers' linguistic privilege must be addressed, because, hey, I'm not American or a native speaker of English either, but:

1. while the initial offense might be committed out of ignorance (a few years ago, I had no idea of the etymology or the actual dictionary definition in Dutch of the verb "to lynch"--I thought it literally meant "to crowd around someone angrily"--this would not have been an excuse had I used it, especially in a North-American English discourse and anyway I should've known better in the first place), it was still committed. Someone was still hurt, and they have a right to point this out;
2. it isn't actually that hard to say something along the lines of "I'm sorry, I was not aware of the connotations of [offending word] (in English), I will try to be more careful in the future";
3. similarly, it's not that hard to debate without using charged language, especially not when the topics are privilege and oppression;
4. these debates happen in context, and if the context/trigger was about/specific to US American language and culture, that is the frame of the discourse;
5. if we want to make fandom discourse more international, we could, y'know, talk about these things as they are in our own cultures, and right now, most of us don't.

And also? Intersectionality is this thing where you can be privileged on one axis (say, race) and disprivileged on another (like being a non-American, non-native English speaker). And sometimes?

It's kind of not about the one where you don't have privilege, and to try to shift the debate in that direction is derailing.

Date: 2010-07-06 04:47 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] allangtegek
allangtegek: footsteps on the beach (voetstappen)
Okay, first off I want to apologize. Most of the snark in my comment was not, in fact, directed to you but to the (mostly white-ethnic-majority European) people who've been shifting the discussion to semantics and crosslinguistic connotations. *facepalm* (Way to come into a post about how words mean things and then not carefully considering my words to appropriately reflect my point.)

Anyway.

I do see where you're coming from, but I think we disagree on whether or not the initial localization should decide the ongoing conversation.

Date: 2010-07-06 07:21 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] allangtegek
allangtegek: a pattern of dirt particles in a puddle of water (Default)
Nah, it's not that you ended up disagreeing, I was pretty unhappy about the way I phrased it regardless. :)

Date: 2010-07-06 02:23 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] rodo
rodo: chuck on a roof in winter (Default)
... are we actually sure that the discourse is a Northern American one? And when is a discourse Northern American? 75% or more Northern American participants? The racist being Northern American? Does the same apply to non-Northern-American discourses? Is a discourse Northern American when explicitly labelled Northern American (which is rarely the case - many Norhtern American discourses are framed as universal).

Re 2: I think the person who originally used the word actually said something like that after she found out that it was offensive. Some commentors however seemed to say that using the word in a non-USian context is racist in itself because of the erased connotations. Which is plainly not the way language works. "Grammar nazi" would be a similar example of the way words change in different cultures, and one that hasn't had half as long to become accepted as "lynchen".

Re 5: I tried once. It ended badly. It ended badly for a lot of other people as well. I remember this one discussion on an American site about a murder in a German court. The victim was murdered because she was muslim, the murderer is - and this was the point Americans criticized most besides the lack of metal detectors in courts - Russian-German. Americans considered the term "Russian-German" to be a way for Germans to disassociate with him, while to a German the point of that sentence was "he's discriminated against in Germany as well, due to massive anti-Eastern-European xenophobia". Germans tried to explain the nuances and context of that term and were called racist because of it.

Date: 2010-07-07 05:12 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] rodo
rodo: chuck on a roof in winter (Default)
Yeah, the apology could have definitely been handled better and should have been there sooner.
onceamy: Nothing special; just a pixelated rainbow. (Default)
3. similarly, it's not that hard to debate without using charged language, especially not when the topics are privilege and oppression;

Actually, yes, it is. The whole point of [personal profile] autumnus's post is to reflect that difficulty, even when (some variant) of English is your first language. I am Australian, and speak English as my first language. and I would have quite openly used the word 'to lynch'. I probably still will, in talking to people not from North America, as it has none of the racist history attached. It's not racist to use a word known to you in your own culture around people who understand that word as a non-racist concept.

English does not equal North American English. North Americans cannot claim a dictatorship of dialogue on the Web. If they want to, I advise them to stick to non-hypertext means of communication with rules and publishing guidelines, in their own country, presented in North American English.
allangtegek: a pattern of dirt particles in a puddle of water (cirkels)
I meant "charged" as in "hyperbolic", sorry about that. (I don't think it's unreasonable the other way around, either. Fandom's an international place, as we can all agree. :P)
onceamy: (Cars-1)
That's okay! The irony over me getting snitty about your comment when you actually speak English as another language and most likely know what [personal profile] autumnus was talking about is rather embarrassing. So I apologise for the vehemence of my reaction :P

Date: 2010-07-07 01:26 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] deird1
deird1: Fred reading a book (Fred book)
similarly, it's not that hard to debate without using charged language,


Topics I did not realise (until a few months ago) involved racial connotations in America include:
- hair
- chicken
- watermelon

For each of these topics, I have seen people saying "Seriously? You brought up watermelon in a discussion on racism? I can't even be bothered continuing to talk to someone who doesn't see why that's wrong." or similar. (In fact, with two of the three, watching those discussions was how I found out the topics were racially charged.)

Strange as it may seem, when I think of chicken, racism is not the first thing that springs to mind.


It's only easy to avoid charged language if you're aware of what the charged language is.

Date: 2010-07-07 01:49 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] lady_ganesh
lady_ganesh: sakura from Naruto, no text (sakura)
Even I've learned some things in these conversations about racialized terms, and I grew up in the US.

Date: 2010-07-07 06:48 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] susanna
susanna: (Default)
Watermelon? What are the racial connotations of watermelon?

Seriously? You brought up watermelon in a discussion on racism? I can't even be bothered continuing to talk to someone who doesn't see why that's wrong.

I think that the discussion would be much easier if there were some "good faith" - is this the right word? - I mean that your first assumption, most of all if it's a person from outside the US, is that the person is using the word without trying to hurt people.

Date: 2010-07-07 07:21 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] allangtegek
allangtegek: a pattern of dirt particles in a puddle of water (cirkels)
Sorry, wording fail on my part. I meant "charged" more as in "hyperbolic", and gechargeerd in Dutch can take both meanings.

I mostly agree on missing cultural cues, though.

Date: 2010-07-07 07:09 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] tisiphone
tisiphone: (Default)
Fried chicken and watermelon are stereotypical Southern African American foods, it's an old and extremely hurtful racist stereotype.

Here from Metafandom

Date: 2010-07-07 01:56 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] lady_ganesh
lady_ganesh: J. August Richards in a business suit. (jar (Angel))
I think it is very hard for people outside the US to realize just how horrible the connotations of 'lynch mob' are here in the US. But I'm disappointed in how many people in the linked post are eager to say 'BUT IT'S TOTALLY DIFFERENT IN MY COUNTRY' rather than 'wow, I'm sorry it's upsetting, I'll stop using it.'

I hope you don't mind if I bring some context in: Here's a post that showed up in fandom a while ago related to American artist Amanda Palmer. (Note: trigger warnings, disturbing photographs.) There's a photograph of a lynching in that post. White people took pictures and kept them as keepsakes. People had picnics. And a lot of people who survived those times are still alive, or have an uncle or cousin who died because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or looked at a white woman, or someone thought he looked at a white woman. It's a tremendously powerful and shameful history, and it's really not surprising people would act emotionally.

Re: Here from Metafandom

Date: 2010-07-08 01:31 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] lady_ganesh
lady_ganesh: J. August Richards in a business suit. (jar (Angel))
I think it's really hard for people outside the culture here to realize how damn awful it was, which is why I threw the link in-- just to give some context.

I have to say, I really admire non-English speakers for engaging in fandom that's not in your first language-- it makes me really sad it can lead to confusion and trouble like this.

Re: Also Here from Metafandom

Date: 2010-07-08 07:06 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] sally_maria
sally_maria: Daniel Jackson looking sideways (Default)
There's no doubt it's a traumatic topic - but it was interesting to notice how both of the US commenters ignored this comment of [personal profile] icarus_chained's - http://calla.dreamwidth.org/346520.html?thread=1631128#cmt1631128 .

This isn't just somebody using racially charged, hyperbolic language to make a point, this is someone with a real-life understanding of mobs and how terrible they are. I'm British, not Irish, but I was pretty upset by the way that the recent experience of history was dismissed because it didn't fit with the story that was being told of ignorant white people who didn't knowing what they were talking about.

Date: 2010-07-08 11:39 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] sally_maria
sally_maria: Daniel Jackson looking sideways (Default)
Yes, I think you are right.

Fandom didn't get to the place where it is now about other 'isms overnight, so I guess the only thing we can do is speak up. Thank you for doing that in this post.

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autumnus: A purple monochrome portrait of Zoe from Dreamfall, with drawn stars in background and "the Dreamer" written on bottom. (Default)
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