Thursday, April 7, 2011

Racial Language

For several months now I've been bothered by the usage of race-based language in the culture, though in a grammatical, not racist, sense. I may not be interested in linguistics anymore -- I was once inspired to contemplate it by Anthony Burgess -- but the topic of words nonetheless enter my thoughts on occasion. As you may know, I'm quite big on using concepts properly and making sure they're fully grounded in valid knowledge. What bothers me here is that I know how to properly use these concepts, only I'm afraid of the implications given the current culture.

Case in point: "African-American." In this age of political correctness it has become considered the "polite" term in speaking of someone of that particular genetic deposition, but it irks me with its inaccuracy. When people say African-American they actually mean something else, so they're using the wrong terminology. African-American denotes someone's continent of descent, not their physical features. Given this essential meaning, it's entirely possible for a Caucasian person to be born in Africa and then legally immigrate to America and become an "African-American," and yet if most people were confronted with this acknowledgement they'd obviously say that's not what they meant by the term; they're referring to a person's genetic features, which by their logic excludes the possibility that a Caucasian could be an African-American.

As far as my knowledge goes, the proper terminology when referring to that particular person by their genetic features is negro. This concept not only denotes their skin color, but their skeletal structure, hair type, eye colors, and other combinations that are essential to this race and not found in others. An African climate may have given rise to their features, but the continent itself is not essential to the concept. Yet, I experience great hesitation in trying to use this concept, as if it were equivalent to the N-word. And still yet, I am not aware of it having an offensive history. It's simply the proper concept to use, but I am emotionally resistant to using it.

The reason why I desire such a correction is because I detest any sort of approximation in my concepts. Approximation can only lead to more approximation, not further precision, so to allow for it is to erode one's precision in thinking, which I won't allow myself. Conceptual precision is desirable at all times and necessary for the advancement of one's intellect.  I especially dislike it when people mix terms like African-American and Caucasian in the same sentences, because they're conceptually different and refer to different things, making for a mixing of incongruous terms. 

What do you think?

(P.S. I also dislike calling people "black" or "white.")

1 comment:


    You may find some of his work enlightening on this matter.


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