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You won’t kill racism by replacing words

Posted in Stuff

An episode of the late 1970s Faulty Towers, the clearly outdated Gone with the Wind. Both removed from online streaming platforms, at least temporarily. When something happens, it’s always to ask why. Why did that cop sit on an innocent man’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds? Why do people justify looting and rioting with that original sin? And why do we as humans think that rewriting history is how we fix racism?

I feel like it’s what happens when people detach intent from actions, from words. Don’t say that word, don’t play that joke, call me this, call me that. We are consistently blacklisting words and dissociate them from behavior and intent. For example, people use the infamous “n-word” nowadays both as a term of endearment and hatred. This depends on the relationship between the speaker and the receiver. To be more specific, it depends on the speaker’s intent.

You can ban the word because of its history but people will take other words and make them their own driven the same intent. What do we achieve then? Yes, the word is now in a list so people don’t use it but people will find a new word. So long as they have the intent to convey something negative if they need to. The intent is driven by ideas and ideas don’t just die through censorship. Racism won’t die through censorship or deleting old movies from our history. Ideas when not confronted tend to grow and strive undetected and may return even stronger than before. Racism takes roots in ignorance. Whether you’re racist or not, playing the ignorance card won’t make it go away. Replacing words and suppressing digital content is playing the ignorance card. Unlike not like the monster under the bed.

The same way, removing audiovisual content from the past century won’t fix today’s racism. Replacing old words with new words because of how charged we think they are won’t fix racism. In my experience, the only context where replacing a word with another is when the understanding of the said word is not shared. If I say blacklist or whitelist talking about domain names filtering for servers it would be nonsense to believe I am referring to race. Suggesting to replace these with allow list and deny list is nonsense.

Let’s say that people do use the blacklist and whitelist words came in a racist way. Replacing these with blocklist and allow-list isn’t going to fix a violent white cop sitting on a black man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The worst is that I don’t believe 100% that those pushing these suggestions mean to help tackle the issue at hand. It seems more like an attempt to make them feel better and gain social points. But there will always be another word as long as a racist intent is there.

If you want real change, education works better than blind punishment or bans. Talk about the colonial past for what it really was rather than pushing it under the rug, talk about how the African debt inception. I am still flabbergasted when I think about how African countries have a massive debt towards western countries as they got out of colonization. One would think France and the likes would think after taking advantage of underdeveloped countries for decades: “Okay no debt for you guys, are we cool now?”. This wouldn’t be cool but at least it would be a start. Maybe that’s where we should be looking rather than making up nonsense words. Let’s stop wasting time with bullshit.

Stole the bit on the left of the cover from this Reddit thread:

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