Saturday, November 13, 2010

The "R" Word

What is the appeal in the words racism and racist?

The Ontario Human Rights Commission, in its own ungrammatical way, describes Islamophobia as " a contemporary and emerging form of racism".

The U.K. report of the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia presents the case "for seeing Islamophobia as a form of racism".

In explaining Belgium's banning the burqa, a member of parliament claimed, "We are not a racism kind of country".

In a legal dispute over Muslim women wearing veils, a lawyer "raised the spectre of racism".

Airport security screening of turbans called "elements of racial profiling".

A letter to the Toronto Star of June 18, 2014, dealt with our failings towards our aboriginal people. The writer avoided the word racist. The headline writer editorialized this complaint into "our racist history."

Not one of these examples involves race, other than in the minds of the accusers. (In the case of the Toronto Star, in the mind of the editorializer.) Such words trip off the tongue more readily than intolerance or bigotry or racial discrimination. Is it the snake-like sibilance hissing through clenched teeth that appeals? Or because it's but a short linguistic step from fascism and fascist? Or because the perpetrator is linguistically challenged?

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