Mixing It Up

Observations and ideas about race, ethnicity and mixing.

Certain Words Do Not Belong to Everyone

Rajkumari Singh defines a Coolie “To be an Indian or Chinese laborer who has emigrated under contract to a foreign land”. I never really heard of this word nor its origin until I read the text, “I am a Coolie”. Although I am completely in agreeance of Guyanese people reclaiming of the word proudly, I can also see why many of them along with other people of East Indian descent from Guyana would prefer to leave the word in the past. The word, coolie, was “a European’s name for a hired native labourer in India or China” as Singh described. Any word coined by Europeans in relation to marginalized groups is motivated by racist ideology or this sense of racial superiority. For example, during the height of slavery in the 18th century, The n-word with the “-er” attached, was referred to not just any slave but a black slave as way to belittle them while empowering whites as a superior race. Today, the context of the word has changed and many people especially the popular culture (music industry) are pushing for the frequent usage of the word as a source of empowerment. I think this word should be left in the past along with slavery. Slavery is one of the most brutalities that I know of and feels very personal so whenever I hear someone use the word regardless of what race the person is makes me very uncomfortable and deeply disturbed. I am surprised in the first place that this word still lingers today and is even more popular in youth’s vocabulary. Many people defend the word’s usage as meaning, “a friend” and even some go to the extend of saying that the ending of the word has been changed from”-er” to “-a” and therefore, the meaning is not the same. Regardless of how it is spelt today or what it means today should not be an excuse for anyone other than black to use the word. I don’t even think the black community should be using the word because, it motivates other races especially whites to feel the need to use it too. A white person asked to stop using the word would argue that someone is using the word and therefore it is okay and they don’t want to “feel left out”. Even words used to target LGBTQ communities such as “queer” and the f-word are also now being reclaimed as terms of endearment when those words used to be derogatories that have been used against them in the past. Now today, some people use the n-word, the f-word, and “queer” in the historical context to attack the targeted groups. Every marginalized groups should have the choice to decide whether or not they want to accept certain terms in the context of words of endearments. Within marginalized groups, there are varieties of opinions and experiences so the fact that one is fine with one term doesn’t mean all of the group is fine with that term.

1 Comment

  1. I think you make valid points that come from personal sentiment and historical knowledge. Words that come from a colonizer and racist stance is a negative connotation. Today, people are reclaiming these nouns to combat the original intent. I do not feel comfortable telling a person within that marginalized group not say a word because it is not place. I only allow myself to chime in when I recognize a person outside of that community has no entitlement to that language.

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