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I probably shouldn't have followed the link. 
31st-Jul-2007 02:28 pm
fandoms suck sometimes
You see, people? This is why I just don't do fandom.*

But the refusal of a bunch of LJ-community mods to take responsibility for their use of loaded terminology is not the most racist thing I've seen today.

Nor is this story of racism in a Louisiana small town

This is.

That's right, ladies, and gents, Far East Asians** are like Downs Sufferers. I couldn't make up this shit.

* Some of the peripheral responses I've read include the horrified declaration that the term in question is used as an umbrella term to describe pairings that cross not only race, but also sentient species. This has given me the overwhelming urge to bust out my anthropocentrism-rant hat and point out that Tonks/Lupin is not the same as Aberforth/Goat, thankyouverymuch.

**Someone - I think it might even have been schiarire, come to think of it, told me that 'Oriental' is an offensive word to some, and for the love of all things I can't remember why. So I use Far East Asian to denote the peoples of that particular anthropological grouping. I don't like the phrase though. It's clunky.
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31st-Jul-2007 01:34 pm (UTC)
I've never used the term ever, nor heard it outisde of my sketchy Americon legal history knowledge, but I believe that, although my instinct before reading around would be to assume it meant 'forbidden love' - like muggle/wizard, or werewolf/witch or something else taboo in wizarding society. But if it was pointed out to me "oh hai, that's offensive," I'dnot use it anymore, yanno.

I will try and remember to use Rishasthra more. I think it's a Niven term. But the only Pournelle I've read was co-authored with Niven anyway, so.

I think it was Marcus Brigstoke who siad that since the death of Bernard Manning, Prince Philip has taken the place as the nation's favourite comedy racist.
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31st-Jul-2007 01:43 pm (UTC)
Fantasy makes everything complicated. Not just because our (or perhaps my) squick filters kick in before they possibly would for an occupant of worlds in which sentient species co-exist.

Human/mermaid, for example, squicks the hell out of me.
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31st-Jul-2007 01:59 pm (UTC)
which ended up with one of my friends asking me, "So, does this mean Aquaman and a dolphin would be okay?" and me saying "Probably not, since he's the King of the Sea and power issues would come into play that might make free consent a little dubious on the dolphin's part"

How does it feel to be so freaking awesome?
31st-Jul-2007 02:06 pm (UTC)
I insist they are all mammalian anyway. For a start, fish and human biology are not compatible internally like that.

The most damning piece of evidence, though, is that mermaids universally have a fluke that flaps dorso-ventrally, while fish tails move mediolaterally. The 'scales' on a mermaid's tail are therefore probably made of kerotin, like a pangolins.

Incidentally, I don't think merfolk are even cetacean. Visual representations and skeletal finds suggest the fluke is homologous to the paired hindlimbs, having fused at some point in their evolution, having lost their post anal tail altogether. Dolphins and other whales have a fluke that's adapted from a post-anal tail, and the hindlimbs are much reduced.
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2nd-Aug-2007 04:35 pm (UTC) - What about pseudomammalforms?

No alien species would technically be mammalian even if they functioned in the same way we do and had basically convergent-evolved bodies, but is it still okay?
31st-Jul-2007 02:08 pm (UTC)
Yeah, but did the dolphin hit on Aquaman first?

On the human/mermaid front, that totally depends on how the mer-species is biologically designed. It's possible that the tails may look fishlike but be mamalian, because the upper body of a mermaid suggests that she would nurse her young (live-bearing might not be entirely necessary, but having only one or two offspring at a time would), and there's the semi-amphibious nature of the breed to consider-- they can, traditionally, sit on the beach and breathe okay, it's the moving-around that gets tricky.

#4 might be a little tricky, yes, depending on what the merperson part of the equation considers pleasurable, but if there's warmth of feeling as well as hot blood between the two participants, I'm not sure there's anything wrong with 'here, I'll do this thing you really like for you and you can do this thing I really like for me,' and basically taking turns with giving and receiving pleasure. It might not be the ideal, but if there's a relationship and not just a carrying-off of sailors, it's probably worth it to the couple to compromise.

(For the record, thank you, Disney, the first merfolk that spring to mind are the Ariel-and-company sort, with the long hair and the seashell bras and the brightly-colored tails-- though Madison from Splash runs a close second. Both had the sort of horizontal tails that I associate with aquatic mammals rather than fish, even if the tails were brightly-colored and scaly.)
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1st-Aug-2007 01:01 pm (UTC)
Niven: Mentioned in "Ringworld", I think, but a major theme of "The Ringworld Engineers".

31st-Jul-2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
Definitely Niven - Ringworld.
31st-Jul-2007 01:31 pm (UTC)
Oriental has fallen out of favor and is generally seen as okay for objects, "Oriental rug," but not for people. I don't think there's a concrete reason--just the linguistic treadmill again.

You're right that the alternatives suck.
31st-Jul-2007 03:58 pm (UTC)
Andrew just told me last night, because I had to ask, that the difference between Scotch and Scottish is that Scotch is only okay for "legacy" things like whisky and eggs, which are sort of grandfathered in because they've been called that for a long time and so that's their name now, but the rule these days is that it's not something you want to call a person. I get the same idea about Oriental, at least in America. In America they're called Asians, but that gets confusing in the UK, for the same reason that "jumper" and "pants" do: the word's already taken up for something completely different.
31st-Jul-2007 02:03 pm (UTC)
Oh dear sweet Lord, they did NOT seriously use "miscegenation." They did NOT.

How- Why- Who thought this was a good term to use?!

PS: Regarding "Oriental," I think it's the same general reason why "Negro" is frowned upon- it's got too much precedent of being used in a shitty way. (It's also a sort of catchall term for anything east of, say, Britain, that isn't Russia, so it's not terribly useful.)
31st-Jul-2007 02:09 pm (UTC)
Both of which terms are original anthropological terms. 'Negro' has evolved into 'black' in everyday speech to describe someone of recent African descent, but when people say 'Asian', I think subcontinental, mostly because that's the ancestry of most of the kids where I grew up.

I kind of understand, it's just a shame.
31st-Jul-2007 02:14 pm (UTC)
Oh! I just remember part of it. *is sleepy*

Part of it, at least, is that while there are Europeans and there are Asians, the opposite of Oriental is not really Occidental so much as "normal." As in, "the Orient" is ---> over there, where those weirdos live. White people don't live in the Occident, they live in the center of the world. Hence the term orientalism, as well.
31st-Jul-2007 02:18 pm (UTC)
Ah. Etymology. OK, that didn't even occur to me, truth be told.
31st-Jul-2007 02:56 pm (UTC)
Orientalism by Edward Said is pretty much the seminal work in explaining it.
31st-Jul-2007 02:18 pm (UTC)
It's related to the anthropological root, I understand, since the original use appears to have been "and here are these subspecies which are not as human as we whitefokes are," more or less.

It is rather a shame, but I do prefer "Far East Asian" as a term despite the unwieldy bit, simply because I know EXACTLY which area is being referred to.
31st-Jul-2007 02:23 pm (UTC)
See, the division was not to give lesser huamn status, but to describe the groups. IIRC from my palaeoanthropology class, H. sap was divided into ?5 'subspecies' (meaning a division smaller than a species). It doesn't mean anyone's less human. It's just a way of comparing groups biologically.

It's just that you can't talk about human biology without sociology interfering. This is a good thing, but it makes the cold hard scientist in me sad.
31st-Jul-2007 02:29 pm (UTC)
From what I've seen, the original division was abused pretty badly in a racist manner, mainly because the folks doing the dividing at the time were living in a racist society.

I personally am cool with dividing humans into visual subgroups according to, er, "breed," mainly because it helps in understanding of physical traits, but it's got so damn many pitfalls because we still suck at separating physical things from anything else.
2nd-Aug-2007 06:43 pm (UTC) - Interesting...
The word Negro is derived from the Portuguese Negra, which translates literally as black. The Spanish/Latin variation of that word is Nigra, which gave rise to a far, far more offensive term in turn...
31st-Jul-2007 02:38 pm (UTC)
Re 'miscegenation': Maybe I'm just an insensitive Internet jerk, but it always seemed to me that causing maximal amounts of drama over old racist connotations of words only serves to reinforce those connotations and is thus entirely unproductive. So... whatever, really.

Using the same term for both interracial and interspecies boinking is certainly tasteless, though, and I wonder which was the primary intent; in fact, it occurs to me that the wizarding world would be likely to have only a vague awareness of race, surrounded as they are by such a stronger contrast both with the non-magical and with various other sentient species.

Re Louisiana: lol louisiana. Ugh.

Re.. whatever the hell that is: wow. I'm not sure that's racism; I think it might just be insanity.
31st-Jul-2007 04:17 pm (UTC)
Re Louisiana: lol louisiana. Ugh.

Sorry in advance if this comes across as wanky, but for the record? I've lived in Louisiana all my life. I'm still shocked and disgusted by the Jena thing.
31st-Jul-2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
I've lived there and have some fond memories, but it's still the sort of thing that seems much more likely to happen in the south :/
31st-Jul-2007 04:38 pm (UTC)
*nod* I have a sore spot about statements that strike me as generalizing/dismissive, but...yeah. :/
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31st-Jul-2007 05:25 pm (UTC)
Interestinglyt in Japan Down's Syndrome is/was known as "Englishism".
1st-Aug-2007 06:27 pm (UTC)
I was just reading The Mismeasure of Man on the way to and from Millicon, too. Gould goes into why Down's Syndrome was at first described as "mongoloid:" precisely because Down, being racist because of his culture, subscribed to the idea that Those People Way Over There? Evolution left them inferior, and here we have proof! Among us people crop up who sort of look like them if you've never seen one of them, or if you want to avoid them.

I do think renaming it "Down's Syndrome" was a good modern correction; recognise him for the work he did, but still not let the former label stay.
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