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The World - People & Culture - Some notes on Blacks, and whites and Romani people

Some notes on Blacks, and whites and Romani people
by michelle (2010), for her Avanzado 2 students - Expanding our cultural awareness

Social developments in our world have resulted in numerous changes in the way we name different groups of people.

When I think of racism, I cannot help thinking of sexism. Naming events related to fighting racism developed even before naming events related to fighting sexism. (Fortunately, today we are finally consolidating non-sexist uses of language. In Spain there is even a law pushing, among other things, for the use of non-sexist language by the Administration, la Ley Orgánica para la Igualdad Efectiva external link. A good resource on this in Spanish is the Mujer Palabra page on Lenguaje inclusivo external link)

Here is some information about names for black people.

We should not speak any more in terms of "races" – there is just one race, the human race. So the term culturally-sensitive people use is "ethnic communities" or "ethnic groups". Scientific analyses [sing. analysis] include "race" in the description of the different groups coming from Homo Sapiens, including Mongoloid, Negroid and Caucasoid, but the use of "race" here has nothing to do with the use of "race" by populations, which has been vicious – intended to hurt – throughout centuries.

Blacks, African American, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans / American Indians / Native Indians, Black-Latinos, Afro-Asians, Black-Indians… Read here to learn about Afro-Latinas external link, as an example.

The first thing that comes to my mind is Lenny Bruce's piece "Blacks". Read the text (the audio is just an excerpt) and find out what his proposal was, in terms of fighting our vicious way of using words.

In the past, Black people (as they prefer to be called today) in the USA, for instance, were called Afro-Americans / African Americans and before that, Negro Americans, and still before that, Colored People.

Skin colors range from light brown to nearly black. In literature – say Alice Walker's, the author of The Color Purple, a novel Spielberg turned into a movie, or Toni Morrison's – you can find amazing descriptions of black skin colors. (Food for Thought: how many shades of white can we find among white people?) There are light-skinned blacks, or lighter-skinned blacks… Listen to this 8-minute radio program on Shades (hues) of Blackness external link (Jan 2010).

Black is beautiful is a cultural movement that "began in the United States of America in the 1960s by African Americans. It later spread to much of the black world, most prominently in the writings of the Black Consciousness Movement of Steve Biko in South Africa. It aims to dispel the notion in many world cultures that black people's natural features such as skin color, facial features and hair are inherently ugly." (Wikipedia)

In the 60s, afro hairstyles (coming from afro-hair: thick, bushy, woolly hair, kinky hair):  "an Afro, sometimes shorted to 'fro and also known as a "natural", is a hairstyle worn naturally by people with lengthy kinky hair texture or specifically styled in such a fashion by individuals with naturally curly or straight hair. The hairstyle is created by combing the hair away from the scalp, allowing the hair to extend out from the head in a large, rounded shape, much like a halo, cloud or ball." (Wikipedia) Incidentally, you might learn: "dreadlocks". "Also called locks, a ras, or dreads, dreadlocks are matted coils of hair. Dreadlocks are usually intentionally formed; because of the variety of different hair textures, various methods are used to encourage the formation of locks such as backcombing sections of the hair, twisting or a process involving the weaving of the hair with a crochet hook to form knots. Dreadlocks are associated most closely with the Rastafari movement" (Wikipedia)

In 1970, Toni Morrison, a writer from the Black Is Beautiful movement (she was awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1993), wrote The Bluest Eye, where she "depicts the effects of the legacy of 19th century racism for poor black people in the United States. The novel tells of how the daughter of a poor black family, Pecola Breedlove, internalizes white standards of beauty to the point where she goes mad. Her fervent wish for blue eyes comes to stand for her wish to escape the poor, unloving, racist environment in which she lives."

The Romani people are divided into a number of distinct populations, the largest being the Roma, located originally, and currently still mostly, in Central and Eastern Europe. They came from India. The Spanish Romani, who arrived in Spain in the 15th century from Northern Africa, are called "gitanos, gitanas", or the Iberian Kale (Calé). Flamenco, the heart of Gitano culture, is a mixture of Moorish, Arabic and Sephardic Jewish influences.

Recent news on events against Roma people in France raise* the issue of racism and xenophobia: law should persecute [perseguir legalmente] criminals, not peoples. In other words, not all the members of a people [de un pueblo] are criminals. The fact that the percentage of criminals in relation to a people is perceived, or is, higher relates to poverty and racism, not to their culture producing criminals. Consider this from a different angle: if there are far more men rapping women in the world than women rapping men, does this mean that all men are rapists? (If you think that is so, then the question would be, And why is that?) If there are more black people in prison in the USA, does this mean black people are criminals, worse human beings? If alcoholism affects a great percentage of Indian populations living on reservations, does this mean that Indians are alcoholics?

*the news is – singular; the news are – plural