Re: 'race' and 'racism'

David Driscoll (driscoll@LUNA.CAS.USF.EDU)
Sat, 22 Oct 1994 14:21:40 -0400

On Sat, 22 Oct 1994, Sandy Hawk wrote:

> To me at least, the usage shifts are suggestive. They seem
> to intersect with European expansion and colonization, and
> the religious/scientific/and social shifts that accompanied
> it. It also seems that in this case, shifts in the world lead
> to shifts in the language, which lead to more shifts in the
> world... It's like a peek at a hermeneutical cycle in action.

Absolutely. As Pier Giglioli remarked in _Language and Social Context_,
"Language is not only a good indicator in social change, but also an
important cause of it" (1972:309). It is also never value neutral.

In this case, however, the usage shifts as reflected in your OED (around
1880) may correspond less with European expansion and colonization than
with the effects of abolition and egalitarianism on a paranoid, formerly
racially homogeneous society (just my opinion of course).

Your message raises an interesting point. Is "racism" undergoing yet
another usage shift to correspond to Hick's and Golden's definition,
(roughly akin to oppression)? I'll admit to having heard it in the past,
but once again wonder if there is a term for racial discrimination on the
part of those individuals with no institutional backing or power? And
would this term, whatever it is, apply to individuals of any race who are
unable to improve their condition due to a vicious circle of poverty,
ignorance, and crime be they in the inner-city or Appalachia?

Thank You,
David L. Driscoll
University of South Florida
Department of Applied Anthropology