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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Racial Slurs and the Importance of Context

Ben Smith, whose coverage of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination deserves some sort of prize, posts an image that brought a grin to my face:


Aside from the incongruity of Barack talking to two hasidic men, there is the use of the term in the headline ordinarily thought of as a racial slur: "schvartzer." Of course, the context here is entirely innocuous. "Schvartzer" is simply the yiddish term for black, and the headline is simply making a factual statement that Obama is the "first black presidential candidate."

And context is everything.

54 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see anyone claiming that shvartzer was used inappropriately, why are you making this into something?

6:32 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

anon 6:32

Its called "something amusing because its of context"

3:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

I don't see anyone claiming that shvartzer was used inappropriately, why are you making this into something?"

You're kidding, right?

9:44 AM  
Blogger YMedad said...

Ah, OM hasn't lost any of her grumpy commentators this past half year. BTW, I seem to recall a skit by a comedian tracing the evolution of various terms for those-people-of-dark-skin but coming back to schvartz, but that was before Afro-American became popular (okay, so I'm older).

11:50 AM  
Blogger YMedad said...

Sorry, only three months have passed since your last post. Seemed longer.

11:51 AM  
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4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny...This reminds me of what Jackie Mason said of Mayor David Dinkins.

BTW is there Yiddish terminology for African American? They did manage to spell "candidate" in Yiddish

PS welcome back mom

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not derogatory to use shvartz as an adjective just like it's fine to say someone is black. However it's derogatory to call someone a shvatzer just as it's derogatory to call someone a black (noun) because then you are defining them by their skin color. I am not a white - I am a white person. See the distinction?

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TO: anonymous 9:47

Di bist a "Vasa Mentch".

which means...

you are an albino man

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:34 PM: I think your payas are too tight today.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YOU PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN RACIST!
IT IS JUST NEVER BROUGHT UP WHILE YOU HIDE BEHIND THE LIBERAL FLAG AND CONSTANTLY CRY ABOUT EVERYTHING BEING ANTI SEMITIC

7:54 PM  
Blogger zalel said...

"you people"? I hope it wasn't a brotha who used that expression.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

i'm sure it would be possible to use אַפֿריקאַנער־אַמעריקאַנער or something like that.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please sign a petition to get OM to permanently shut herself down at http://endoforthomom.blogspot.com

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who says its "usually thought of as a racial slur"? That's YOUR opinion. Dont mistake your personal viewpoitns for that of mankind generally.

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

Who says its "usually thought of as a racial slur"? That's YOUR opinion. Dont mistake your personal viewpoitns for that of mankind generally."

Uh, are you saying that the majority of black people would NOT view being called a "Shvartza" as unbelievably offenisve?? That's YOUR opinion, but I happen to think it's so wrong.

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He is not black. he is half aryan

9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got gossip about Orthomom? Visit http://endoforthomom.blogspot.com.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous said...
Please sign a petition to get OM to permanently shut herself down at http://endoforthomom.blogspot.com

2:50 PM

Please stick your head in a micro wave oven. You're too full of hot air.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous James said...

Apparently sometimes context doesn't matter:

http://cityhallblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2008/07/dallas-county-meeting-turns-ra.html

A special meeting about Dallas County traffic tickets turned tense and bizarre this afternoon.

County commissioners were discussing problems with the central collections office that is used to process traffic ticket payments and handle other paperwork normally done by the JP Courts.

Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, who is white, said it seemed that central collections "has become a black hole" because paperwork reportedly has become lost in the office.

Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, interrupted him with a loud "Excuse me!" He then corrected his colleague, saying the office has become a "white hole."

That prompted Judge Thomas Jones, who is black, to demand an apology from Mayfield for his racially insensitive analogy.

Mayfield shot back that it was a figure of speech and a science term. A black hole, according to Webster's, is perhaps "the invisible remains of a collapsed star, with an intense gravitational field from which neither light nor matter can escape."

Other county officials quickly interceded to break it up and get the meeting back on track. TV news cameras were rolling, after all.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe a problem in english too, but it seem to me that africaner-americaner would have the connotation of refering to an african immigrant to the US.

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NEWS FLASH!!!!
Perhap's after now close to two years after the murder of GG, a family owned business that help establish this community perhaps we should now turn toward Rubashskin and the business practices and the FACT the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT has an ongoing investigation of the alleged activites of controlling pricing and crimmal behavior within our wonderful "frum only" membership. I personally can't wait to see the New York Times expose not only the tricky,cheating and stealing that one of your empowered "frum only" members as committed. I pray to live to see the day that the records of Rubashskin are exposed and see how many wonderful Rabbi's are on the payroll in "no show" jobs including Mr. Wonderful himself " Rabbi Yosef Eisen" In life one sometimes must have patience to see that justice is served,I personally especially since Rabbi Eisen started his demon like attacks against GG with the the spear that Rubashskin,though having 3 Supervisions sent in non-chometz, but NOT PASSOVER products into GG during Pesach ofwhich were recieved by the VAAD's own Mashiglach and the owner's were blamed for until a RECORDING, one of many that proved EISEN wrong.I find it extremely suspect after his efforts failed and he looked like a fool after Mark Bolender exposed the truth that he had to find anything,even a chicken, a kosher chicken,a mystery chicken, a chicken which never surfaced,a alleged customer who purchased this never appeared to face questions or produced a reciept?,for what? to re establish his character. May Hashem help us to forgive, but not forget the evil one's, even if they hide behind a black hat.Frum and crook doesn't equal Non-Frum and honest.THIS WAS JUST ONE BIG COVER UP AND SOMEONE GOT PAID MONEY TO PUT GOURMET GLATT OUT- I leave the rest to your thinking of who that may be and who paid for this to happen?, but one thing for sure he,they, must have been "Frum" because this puts them at level above approach. Shame on Orthomom if this is deleted,afterall you do believe in freedom of press.Perhaps this author will be quoted in the New York Times in the future.When Rubashskins go to jail and our acts of kindest wanting to send kosher food, please make sure it is under the Vaad of the Five Towns.

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9:43 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

He is not black , but rather biracial. Moreover, his black half ias not african american but rather Kenyan- no history of slavery, middle passage, Jim Crow. Additionaly after living in Indonesia, he was raised by his very Aryan grandparents. In fact he is more aryan than us.
He pretends to be an African American because he would be a zero otherwise.

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Anonymous Aaron S. said...

There is simply no way for a Yiddish language newspaper to write "first black presidential candidate" WITHOUT using the word schvartzer.

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Blogger joshua said...

Context indeed is everything. I like your presentation.
Keep posting!!

This is Joshua from Israeli Uncensored News

1:41 AM  
Anonymous jame@ Israeli Uncensored News said...

lol, its good he is not called kushi) that would be really politically incorrect

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Anonymous ER's said...

of course that's not a racial slur. very good explanation.

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