What constitutes a racist word

Lately the word keleng has appeared more often than usual and quoted as a racist term used by the non Indians on the Indians. The Indians have also often been called mama or mamak, also seen as racist by some Indians. Are these words really racist in intent? What were their origins? Actually I don’t know. Some relate the word keleng to Kling, a battery of Indian soldiers during the colonial days. Today I heard it was from the word Kilinga or Kaligina, an Indian warrior tribe, which cannot be derogatory. I could still remember a long long time ago when I heard my mother referred to the Indians as kelengna. And when she used the word, there was not the faintest trace of racism or dismissal. It was just a word to call the Indians by the illiterate.

Many tend to forget that the early immigrants here were mainly from the uneducated peasant class who knew of very few things and words. They just adopted and made use of whatever words in their limited vocabulary to get by their daily lives. And in those days, people were simply hungry and had no time for anything but just to work and sleep. Racism was not in the mind of hungry migrants. It is not a luxury of the pseudo affluence or nouveau riche.

Just like the word mama or mamak. It was just picked up in the pasar by the non Indians without even knowing what it meant, a convenience of ignorance. Fortunately when I later found out, it was meant to be uncle in Indian. But the illiterate and unschooled would not know and would not know if it is intended to be racist. And it is unbelieveable that some Indians took offence for being called mama or mamak. I hope some can enlighten on this perception.

I used to call the Hongkongers Hongkie for convenience. But Hongkie was used by many with a tinge of insult. I used it for convenience just like I substitute Singaporeans, a tongue twister to Sinkie, sometimes with full innocence, sometimes with a tinge of mischief.

You are so cheena. Now that word is used in the right sense, not very friendly. The word China was traced to all kinds of origins by apologetic scholars not to offend the Chinese, linking to Chin Dynasty and some other craps. But it was used by the Brits to insult the Chinese as a people as breakable as clay. And since they wrote the maps, they conveniently used it, China for a country that the Chinese used to call Zhongquo or by dynastic names, never China. China was never a Chinese word except used by the Brits to describe a kind of porcelain. Likewise India was likely to be a British creation like they called the American natives Red Indians. Some said the word Indian is derogatory too. Of course the same apologetic scholars will link it to something like the Indus River or something like that.

Many words were created or used by users without knowing what they originally meant. But to the receivers, depending on how sensitive or highly sensitive they are, they can be offended and think that it is an insult or racism. Hongkie is in a way less naughty than chinky or chink. Chink or chinky will definitely fall clearly to the derogatory category and more so than Keleng or mama or mamak.

How many Chinese are called PRC chink or Sinkie chink and just ignored it without screaming racism? Many a time, such words were uttered by an individual against another, and yes, sometimes with racist bias. A laundry tag is racist mind you, if one understands its origin and the context when it is used. The Brits have a lot of racist terms incorporated into their dictionary as acceptable usage but really racist in origin and intent. Yellow culture, yellow press and turning yellow are their racist terms for anything Chinese. But many banana Chinese are using these terms happily without knowing why.

So, what is a racist word will depend partly on how racist a person is, the user and the target. Sensible people would not relate every word said to racism. Often it may be due to ignorance or density.


Veritas said...

Indian is the worst racist in the whole universe. Everywhere Hindic civilization goes, it brought toxic racism disguise as caste system.

The greatest victim of Indian racism are those Dalits. Next in the list are yellow people. Indian hate yellow. They think yellow are sub-human. The white man can conquer Indian, and even that, most Indian will lick up white man ass.

The white man can deliberately starve to death 4 millions Indians as in Bangal famine 1943.(Few knew the famine is due to British policy rather than natural disaster. Nobel winner Amatya Sen has demonstrated that)

Despite of that India masochist cant hope to get further screwed from white man. But when India lost Sino-Indian war in 1962, every of their intellect turn mad dog against China up till today.

Indian racist are the most ungrateful scum in whole universe. They run their country into shit. Singapore give them a shelter. They turn against us and accuse Singaporeans racist.

Indian racist hates the yellow people in their country. Few actually know that these yellow are cousin of Chinese speaking a dialect of Sino-Tibetan. If you look at Indian forum or newspaper comment about yellow, Indian use the derogatory term "Chinky".

India conduct culture genocide against yellow. A significant of yellow are actually Tibetans. With collusion of traitor Dalai lama, Indian invented artificial identity for these Tibetans using exotic names like "lepcha", "Ladaki", "Monpa". Indian hope that these people will forget that they are Tibetan are will slave to Indian people, under caste system.

The lower land sino-tibetans like those in Assam (north east) region are under the worst discrimination that get conspiracy of silence from all western press. Their land are taken by migrants Hindus or Muslim. They are subjected to extra-judicial killings from Indian military. They are despise all over India.

Already major Indian newspaper started to publish their plight abit. See links below for some of these writings.

Let's stop pretending there's no racism in India

Indian racist like to feign victims put on innocent look, and accuse the white man of discriminating them.

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Hi Veritas, your scholarly research on Indian history is noted. Let's try to discuss this issue of racism and dismiss the myths that have been perpetuated by the ignorants and the racists among us, and hopefully we are all wiser and more sensible without throwing punches at each other.

Veritas said...

Ya RB, you are right. The next time I wrote about Indian racial issues of Assam, Arunchal, Ladakh, I will try not using the street tone.

I think the western press conspire on ignoring these issues. Many of these areas was under suzerainty of China, and has big potential to sucede if India breaks up.

Even if it does not, Prachanda in Nepal has shown that Nepal could actually move closer to China orbit. (It was stop last minute by India. India probably bough Prachanda. That cause a split in Maoist Party)

I wish to inform my country man about the true geopolitical situation.

Anonymous said...

Racism is every where. its the degree that makes the difference. I do agree with RB that those names that we call different races actually started off as being ignorant and did not mean to harm the other races.

Anonymous said...

Chin Leng,

What's important to understand is these words were not offensive in the past.Not at all.

Take "Keling," for example. Castanheda, the Portuguese navigator used this to describe migrants from Kalinga who used to stream into the major trading hubs in Malacca and the Molocus.

So words such as Keling or even Niger was really just part of the normal everday parlance of the period.

Even today, if you pick up a copy of Thackeray's Vanity fair or any of Mark Twain's works. They are redolent with what we would normally consider as racist descriptions today. Along with possibly perpetuating the idea of white supremacy.

But these days, I really don't see how these words can be used in their original context any longer -they have morphed to such an extent with the chastening passage of time - that today they carry a completely different connotation. To such an extent that to even use them these days is really inviting trouble.

So these words are indeed racist today in every sense of the word.

Darkness 2012

Veritas said...

The classical Chinese 2000 years ago and many of the revered Buddhist scriptures address India as "身毒“, literally "poison body". There are no racist or derogatory connotation on that, on the contrary, they are full of admiration of India. China even adopted Buddhism. Subsequent monks uses the above characters to describe India as well.

And pronouncing the above character on ancient Chinese is closer phonetically to Indus, rather than the 印度 (India) that is being used today.

The father of Chinese Historian Sima Qian wrote as below in classical Chinese.

《史记.大宛列传》:“﹝大夏﹞东南有身毒国 。

Let Truth Dispel Racism

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

This is the first time I heard of India in that ancient name. The ancients are less likely to be racist then. The exchanges of culture between India and China were natural. Imagine a dark skin Indian could walk into Shaolin monastry and became its abbot and taught the monks buddhism and martial arts, and held in reverence till today.

Racism was seriously practised by the European powers as they regarded the Africans as near to beasts. And the superiority of their religion to save the world. The Zheng He voyage was an eye opener to the thinking and philosophy of the Chinese with regards to race and inter state relations in the 15th century.

Racism is getting worst today. When Darkness chose to use this nick, I am sure racism was the last thing in his mind. And Darkness obviously meant very different things to him. I address him as Darkness without a thought of racism at all.

But Darkness can be a very sensitive word to those who want to see racism in it, just like the toothpaste Darkie. Imagine Darkness walking in Little India and introducing himself as Darkness.

Veritas said...

For writing my blogs on topics of India as well as commenting, I have been accused as racist. In reality I am sort of a fan of Indian culture. I am sure I have read more Buddhist text (in classical Chinese as those sutras are lost in India) than 99% of Indians.

I enjoy the cosmos of Buddhism, though I am not a Buddhist. I have read nothing that on par with Buddhist scriptures that are so penetrating on human psychology.

What I loath is the rampant racism and discrimination I saw when I travelled in India. Next, I am really sick of FT Indians attacking Singaporeans as racist with their lies.

Matilah_Singapura said...

Offence is never "given". It is take: one TAKES offence.

i.e. you have to TAKE OFFENCE at someone else's speech. Since speech is free, or should be free, the person uttering "offensive speech" is not really to blame.


Because it is your own mind (brain) which inscribes MEANING to words. In other words, you make your own emotions, therefore you deal with it.

Got maturity?

Anonymous said...

So can scold everyone and offence not taken ok?

Matilah_Singapura said...