- Anonymous asked
Totally honest explanation:
In the US, white people like to use Caucasian instead of white because it sounds more neutral and scientific and it makes them less uncomfortable to think that they belong to a race, because they’re not used to racialization (they think of themselves as the default, and everybody else as racialized).
A lot of POC will also use Caucasian simply because we know that white people don’t like to be called white. So we might use the word white ourselves, but if a white person is around, and we need to be polite to them, we’ll use Caucasian so they don’t get mad, but we think it’s kind of silly.
Unfortunately, the word Caucasian is super inaccurate. There are a lot of people in the actual real Caucasus region many of whom have only tenuous white privilege in the US, especially Muslims. So using the word Caucasian to mean “white as determined in the US” leads to a lot of confusion for everyone. Honestly, though, because of our education system, most people who use the word “Caucasian” in the US are only dimly aware of foreign countries and don’t even know that a region called “the Caucasus” even exists.
There’s nothing wrong with using the word “white,” other than the fact that it makes many white people uncomfortable to be called white. It’s the simplest and most neutral word we have available in a limited toolkit. “Caucasian” as a racial descriptor is potentially racism-reinforcing and always inaccurate.
I would just like to point out, as I always do, that Mulan isn’t a princess. She didn’t even marry into royalty. Pocahontas passes because as a chief’s daughter, she’s an Indian princess. Just something that’s annoying to me.
What an excellent public service. Yes, do please continue pointing out that Disney has some gumption to cram these women of color into the Eurocentric construct of royalty— I mean, by golly, Mulan’s princess status should clearly be defined by “having an important dad” or “marrying an important man.”
Extra credit for sorting Pocahontas into the mythical “Indian princess” category instead of into Gryffindor.
Why do you have to be rude? Mulan isn’t a princess. By any definition (“Eurocentric” or not). She didn’t get with the emperor. Her mom hadn’t been with the emperor. Her dad was in the military. And not such a high ranking member that he could have gotten out of fighting with a few words or a bribe or something.
Seriously, make a more valid argument than the whitewashing of Disney because I’d love to hear it. I know it exists. But that is no excuse to cram a woman of color onto something with that label just because if her race.Also, Mulan is something better than a princess. She did what she could to bring honor and freedom to her family and country. Not everyone has to be the princess.
Yeah, let’s show girls that not everyone has to be a princess by taking Mulan all of the merchandise!
Quick search of etymology of the word “princess” shows that the word began to fall into colloquial use to refer to girls (not just royalty) around 1924. It is of course a feminine version of the word “prince” which comes from Latin “princeps” which is a combination of the word primus (which means first) and capere (to take, as in the word capable). (the foremost of capable people?) In the 1900s it began to be used colloquially to mean an “admirable or generous person”
If the definition of princess is solely defined by a woman’s relationships to her father or husband, then sure, Mulan is not a “princess” and I’m sure that is yet another excellent message for Disney to convey to girls. Disney can then send the mixed message that “every girl can be a princess” (literally the name of an inane song on one of the Disney Princess CDs) while also communicating that it’s only if your dad or husband are royalty.
If the definition of a princess is expanded to include the actual history of the word then included in the concept are terms like being really good at something or being really capable or taking leadership, being admirable and generous, etc. Prin (first) ce (capable) ss (woman). Given all of China bows to Mulan and considers her their savior in the Disney version, surely she fits the definition more than other characters who were just born into or married into a “title.”
"Why do you have to be rude?"
Rude like rolling into a conversation about how characters of color are marginalized and reminding everyone that the characters of color weren’t really legitimate inclusions in the franchise anyway using patriarchal constructs?
Most people think of them as the walking dead, a being without a soul or someone with no free will. This is true. But the zombie is not an alien enemy who’s been CGI-ed by Hollywood. He is a New World phenomenon that arose from the mixture of old African religious beliefs and the pain of slavery, especially the notoriously merciless and coldblooded slavery of French-run, pre-independence Haiti. In Africa, a dying person’s soul might be stolen and stoppered up in a ritual bottle for later use. But the full-blown zombie was a very logical offspring of New World slavery.
For the slave under French rule in Haiti — then Saint-Domingue — in the 17th and 18th centuries, life was brutal: hunger, extreme overwork and cruel discipline were the rule. Slaves often could not consume enough calories to allow for normal rates of reproduction; what children they did have might easily starve. That was not of great concern to the plantation masters, who felt that children were a waste of resources, since they weren’t able to work properly until they reached 10 or so. More manpower could always be imported from the Middle Passage.
The only escape from the sugar plantations was death, which was seen as a return to Africa, or lan guinée (literally Guinea, or West Africa). This is the phrase in Haitian Creole that even now means heaven. The plantation meant a life in servitude; lan guinée meant freedom. Death was feared but also wished for. Not surprisingly, suicide was a frequent recourse of the slaves, who were handy with poisons and powders. The plantation masters thought of suicide as the worst kind of thievery, since it deprived the master not only of a slave’s service, but also of his or her person, which was, after all, the master’s property. Suicide was the slave’s only way to take control over his or her own body.
And yet, the fear of becoming a zombie might stop them from doing so. The zombie is a dead person who cannot get across to lan guinée. This final rest — in green, leafy, heavenly Africa, with no sugarcane to cut and no master to appease or serve — is unavailable to the zombie. To become a zombie was the slave’s worst nightmare: to be dead and still a slave, an eternal field hand. It is thought that slave drivers on the plantations, who were usually slaves themselves and sometimes Voodoo priests, used this fear of zombification to keep recalcitrant slaves in order and to warn those who were despondent not to go too far.
I am not in the Avatar: The Legend of Korra fandom, but purely through hysteria on my dash from those who are in this fandom, I can see that there is huge conflict and debate over Korra’s race/skin colour. I’m not going to give my input on the matter, because it probably wouldn’t count for anything and I’m not even in the fandom. But can I just ask a question to those who are in the fandom?
… Why is this such a big deal? Why does it matter what race she’s determined as? I’m genuinely curious why there is a need for so much dispute over this.
You tell us. B|
Honestly. I adore this fandom a lot, but then there’s the really idiotic A:TLA fandumb to deal with. For such a mature show, too much of our fandom is amazingly immature.
It’s not idiotic to want to be represented right in fan works.
This is a lot to unpack. A lot of other fans on tumblr have done a good job of explaining why racial representation is meaningful (because the absence of representation of people of color is a form of representation, one that systemically privileges certain groups over others, etc.)
Instead, I wanted to draw attention the way ablelist language is used to try and shame, discredit, invalidate, marginalize conversations about race and discrimination.
This is touched upon briefly in the Academy Awards article on our website as a critique of the “too sensitive” accusation. If an opinion is labeled as “idiotic” or “immature” or “hysterical” then the implication is that it is no longer worth listening to.
But let’s also explore the roots of those words, because our language is not devoid of historical context. For example, can you really separate society’s sexism from the way we use the metaphorical phrases “you’re such a pussy’ or “you’ve got balls” from framing “being like a woman” as a weakness, and “being like a man” as a strength?
The modern use of word hysteria stems from the Latin word hystera (which means womb or uterus.) The Greeks thought hysterikos was a condition that happened when women’s uteruses were left empty for to long. They believed that the uterus would detach from its normal position and float around the insides of women’s bodies, bumping into their livers and lungs and brains and drive women crazy, etc.
Sounds ridiculous, but the concept of hysterikos evolved into hysteria, a concept that has been used in a lot of messed up ways to disempower “uppity” women. It was used to burn women accused of being witches at the stake. Creepy doctors would claim that they could “cure” hysteria through sexually assaulting their patients. Outspoken women were diagnosed with the mental illness of hysteria and locked away in asylums.
This language was powerful, it was used to silence, disempower, and kill women. Blogger Abby Jean at FORWARD sums it up:
When I am told I am hysterical, there is both 1) the implication that I am excessively or unreasonably emotional AND 2) the implication that my condition is unique to my femaleness.
It’s also 3) implied that hysterical statements (or even statements from hysterical people) should be discounted and hysterical people need to change in order to participate in the discussion, or should be removed from it entirely.
#3 is also reflected in statements like “idiotic fandumb” and “amazingly immature.”
The word dumb was adapted from it’s original use (silent, mute, unable to speak) in Old English to it’s modern meaning today (foolish, ignorant), clearly showcasing society’s assumption that people who cannot speak verbally are less intelligent. The use the word “dumb” to demean people trying to “speak out” is pretty ironic. The word idiotis used in a similar way as the word dumb but was derived more from this idea that people who are idiots are uneducated or ignorant. (Kind of the opposite of people who are trying to engage in conversations about racism in fandom.)
The word immature comes up a lot in Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom in general, not just when it comes to discussions about racebending. For example, older teen, young adult, and adult Avatar fans are often maligned as “immature” for liking a “children’s show.” When used in a derisive manner the word immature has been used to dismiss concerns about issues like ageism and adultism.
The same goes for words like “tan.” It’s about thinking about the context behind what you say and why other people might feel strongly against Korra being labeled as merely “tan.”
This is the etymology of the word tan:
Late Old English: tannian “to convert hide into leather” (by steeping it in tannin) Medieval Latin: tannare “tan, dye, a tawny color” (c.900), from tannum “crushed oak bark,” used in tanning leather, probably from a Celtic source (e.g. Breton tann “oak tree”). The meaning “make brown by exposure to the sun” first recorded 1520s. To tan (someone’s) hide in the figurative sense is from 1660s. The adj. tan “of the color of tanned leather” is recorded from 1660s; the noun sense of “bronze color imparted to skin by exposure to sun” is from 1749; as a simple name for a brownish color, in any context, it is recorded from 1888. Related: Tanned; tanning.
Originally, the word tan was used to describe a process of darkening. First, it was through using tannin dye to darken and cure dead animal skin into leather as it dries in the sun. Later, it would be adopted to also mean the process of darkening human skin in the sun. Only after over 200 years before its original use was the word tan also used to refer to a brownish color, presumably because it was the same color as what happens when you darken skin with dye, or in the sun.
When you use the word “tan” to describe Korra, you are also carrying the baggage that comes with the word tan: this idea that light skin color is adaptable through dye or sunning, this idea that dark skin color is the result of an artificial process. This word is historically loaded. It is more than just a color.
The unfortunate reality is that the words we use in every day conversation all have history. While of course anyone can use whatever language they want, one of the least “idiotic” and most “mature” things we can do, as fans, is to try and understand why words can sting.