Confound it! The batteries are dead!

Random thoughts

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Random thought no. 1: In Norway we aren’t allowed to call people from Africa negros (“negre” in Norwegian). We aren’t allowed to call gypsies for  gypsies or dwarfs for dwarfs, but these are simple to find other words for (if not necessarily easy to remember). You can call the gypsies “romas” or you talk about the romani people. You can call dwarfs for shortly built people or… something. I couldn’t remember anything else. I do however, even though I support this rule wholeheartedly, have a problem with finding substitutes for negro. The term negro is undoubtedly a negative term with a lot of harsh and horrible history, but what should I call people with blacker skin than mine that comes from Africa? In the US they call them African-Americans or Afro-American. Can I call an African in Norway “Afro-European”, or “Afro-Scandinavian”? Would Africans in Asia be called “Afro-Asians”? Or in Oceania: Afro-Oceanians? But my friends with heritage from Africa, they are not Africans! They are Norwegians!

I know that I’ve on multiple occasions have been called “that white guy” or something like that. But if I were to say the same thing about “a black guy” I could be threading over a line. Now, I do believe, perhaps in good spirit, that if I call my friends “negro” they wouldn’t really care. They know my opinions and they know how I feel about them, but if I ever step out of my little circle of friends and point at a general direction and say “look at that beautiful negro” or “hey, I think I know that black guy”, I could really be discriminating!

Now, I said it before, but I’m going to repeat myself: I support this law, I know “negro” can be as horrible or worse than being branded as gay or being called “mongoloid” or something similar to some people, especially in some given circumstances. I wish it wasn’t like this, but hey, that doesn’t help much. I find myself however sitting here tongue-tied, what should I say?

We are allowed to call policemen “fucking homo” in Norway however…

[Update: I asked one of my African/Norwegian friends about this, and she told me she would get kind of annoyed and insulted if anyone called her Afro-Scandinavian or Afro-European. She also told me that they don’t really call people Afro-American any more, but African American… As an end note she said that “In Somalia I am Norwegian, in Norway I am Somalian. I would never call myself Norwegian within Norwegian national border.” I sincerely do not understand the logic of any of this, and will ask and dig untill I get a real answer, which I will hopefully post here.]

Random thought no. 2: Every National ID number in Norway has your birthdate + 5 digits, the third of these last 5 tell you if your a man (odd numbers) or a woman (even numbers). However, If you change your sex nothing happens! This, for some unexplainable reason, annoyes me! And if you give birth to a hermaphrodite you actually have to choose if you want an odd or an even number in his/her National ID number. Strange…

Random (thought) no. 3: Tonight I was dreaming of geographical shapes and structures and strange movements of space and time and mass. I can’t explain how it was, how they all looked, how amazing it was, because… well they weren’t in 3D I think… I can really recommend these videos, though apparently they might have some side effects. My favorite polyhedron (3D) is the dodecahedron, and the equivalent in 4D is the rhombicosidodecahedron. Amazing… I wonder if I’ll start dreaming about the next dimentions when I see the next movies (I’ve only seen the third movie till now)?


Written by Aslak

September 25, 2008 at 11:54

2 Responses

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  1. There is at least one big problem with the word negro, and that is that a lot of people don’t know that it simply means “black”. So they attach additional meanings to the word. Things they associate with black people. Which might very well be racist associations.

    The best solution I can see is to use a word with more self-evidently restricted meaning. Like “black”. The alternatives, most of which are euphemisms, are worse, because these can be hard to comprehend for some people (probably the very same people as the ones designated above). And so the friendly and neutral terms decay over time as these people start associating their racist beliefs with the terms and contaminating wider society with their framing.

    But the word “black” isn’t perfect; there is one big complication: This is a word that is intuitively connected with something bad. Like “down” in comparison with “up” is a bad thing, so is “black” in comparison with “white”. Metaphorically speaking, of course, but never the less, this is a significant association with the word. I still think it is better to use “black” than “negro” or some twelve syllable euphemism, but it’s clearly not ideal.


    September 26, 2008 at 21:52

  2. Well, these additional attachments over time often becomes the new meaning of the word. I believe that there are a lot of words that had a positive meaning a long time ago, but turned negative over time by adding meanings to it (like the Norwegian word “kjerring” which is the same as “bitch” in English, yet simply meant “wife” 50 years ago).

    I haven’t thought about the up-down, white-black connection, but that is an interesting perspective, though I doubt it would really matter more than in the subconsciousness. Which is bad enough.

    But I think you have to remove the whole reason for saying/calling a person “black” or “negro”. I know, as I say in the blog, that I’ve been called “the white guy” and similar things, but only when the immediate area around me was dominated by non-white people. It would serve me no purpose to say “that black guy” in a bar with only black people, because… well, everybody fits the description. You say it to distinguish between subject A and subject B, and the first thing that comes in mind is skin color. Which can be discrimination…

    So what we can do is: a) distinguish by other means, like clothes, hairdo, funny observation (“that guy that is picking his nose” or “that girl that is constantly smoking, but only half of her cigarettes”) or b) get every country to make sure that there is an equal amount of white, black, white-black, yellow, red, whatever other colors there is, people! With 50-50% white and black people the few that would be discriminated would be Asians! If we simply remove all reasons to distinguish and discriminate! A-ha! I am a genius!


    September 28, 2008 at 15:51

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