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The Language of Civil Rights

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1 The Language of Civil Rights

2 Nigger Origin Derived from the Latin word for the color black, niger Originally used in a non-pejorative manner to describe African slaves By the 1900’s, “nigger” developed a negative connotation and “colored” becomes the acceptable usage in place of “nigger” The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) By the late 1960’s, “colored” and “negro” are also considered disparaging and are replaced by “black” By the 1980’s, “African American” is adopted in the same vein as “Irish American” or “Italian American” While some argue that blacks today “were not born in Africa or even to African immigrants”, others counter that “Irish Americans, Italian Americans, Polish Americans and any other group that has this type of label are not held to the same standard as African Americans in needing to prove connection to a homeland”

3 Kike Origin Slur used against people of Jewish background
Uncertain; early 1900’s Slur used against people of Jewish background Never socially acceptable from its origin Jerome Chanes identifies six stages in the historical development of anti- Semitism: Pre-Christian anti-Judaism in ancient Greece and Rome which was primarily ethnic in nature Christian anti-Semitism in antiquity and the Middle Ages which was religious in nature and has extended into modern times Traditional Muslim anti-Semitism which was nuanced, in that Jews were a protected class Political, social and economic anti-Semitism of Enlightenment and post- Enlightenment Europe which laid the groundwork for racial anti-Semitism Racial anti-Semitism that arose in the 19th century and culminated in Nazism Current anti-Semitism is rooted in racial, political, social and economic thoughts

4 Cracker Origin Multiple theories; 1800’s – 1900’s; possibly based on the sound of whips used to herd animals or based on cracked corn which was a staple food of poor rural whites Slur used against people of poor whites from a rural background Has been used self-descriptively by whites as a term of pride Has also been used in a racially charged manner as an attack on whites Malcolm X in his “Ballot or the Bullet” speech stated: "It's time for you and me to stop sitting in this country, letting some cracker senators, Northern crackers and Southern crackers, sit there in Washington, D.C., and come to a conclusion in their mind that you and I are supposed to have civil rights. There's no white man going to tell me anything about my rights."

5 Faggot Origin Slur used against homosexuals
Multiple theories; late 1600’s; possibly a shortened form of “faggot-gatherer”, where a “faggot” was a bundle of firewood; the shortened “faggot” may be an attempt to emasculate men by comparing them to “faggot-gatherers” who were generally older women Slur used against homosexuals Sociologist CJ Pascoe has found that high school males use the word against one another to emasculate others to feel more masculine 1969 – New York City’s Stonewall Inn, an openly gay bar, is raided by police and riots break out for 6 days in response The Gay Liberation movement begins and pushes for change Slurs such as “dyke”, “fag”, “fairy”, and “queer” have been co-opted by LGBT people in an attempt to delegitimize them as slurs, much like the black community has done with “nigga”

6 Wetback Origin Slur used against Hispanics, usually people from Mexico
Early 1920’s; refers to Hispanic people crossing the Rio Grande illegally Slur used against Hispanics, usually people from Mexico Originally used against illegal farm workers Former farm worker Cesar Chavez forms the National Farm Workers Association to fight for workers’ rights Chavez fights for restricting immigration because it would undermine U.S. workers

7 Retard Origin Slur used against intellectually disabled people
Late 1400’s; a mentally handicapped person (often used as a general term of abuse) Slur used against intellectually disabled people From the Latin retardare (re-back + tardus-slow) to French retarder to English retard “Mental retardation” was formerly used as a clinical diagnosis, but this has changed to “intellectual disability” Used by many as an epithet towards others to say they or their actions are “stupid” Are people with an intellectual disability “stupid”? What if people started calling each other “cracker” or “nigger” to refer to “stupid”? Would that make a difference in how you use the word “retard”? The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 protects “qualified individuals with a disability” from discrimination in public and private arenas

8 Haji Origin Hajji is one who has made a pilgrimage to Mecca In Arab countries, Hajji is used freely to refer to older people Beginning with the war in Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers begin referring to Afghans by using “Haji” in a derogatory manner Following the U.S. entry into Iraq in 2003, U.S. soldiers use “Haji” to refer to Iraqis, Arabs, and those from the Middle East because of the religious definition of the root word “Hajji” and fact that Middle Eastern countries are predominantly Muslim Anti-Islam sentiments have increased in the U.S. since the September 11th attacks and have led to social acceptance of slurs against Muslims (“raghead”, “towelhead”, “sand nigger”) as well as conflating terrorism with non-fundamentalist Muslims

9 Language in Civil Rights Homework
Listen to the two songs from class (Randy Newman’s “Rednecks” and Johnny Rebel’s “Move Them North”) and answer the following questions: What are the similarities in message (e.g. “Move Them North” and its call to move “them” out of the South and “Rednecks” and its message that even though they have moved into the North, they are no more free than they were in the South because of their racially segregated ghettoes) and what is their intent? How is their intent different? What is the purpose of using the term “nigger” in the songs? What does it imply about the person singing the songs? Do you feel it’s justifiable to use the slur to make a political point like in Newman’s “Rednecks”? Why or why not? Do you feel it’s justifiable to use the slur in “Move Them North”? Why or why not? What are the key differences between the songs and their messages?

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