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(CBC)   Since all over forms of racial discrimination have been dealt with, Nova Scotia's human rights board asks Supreme Court to decide if "Kemosabe" is a racist term. Lone Ranger surrenders   ( divider line
    More: Stupid  
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3149 clicks; posted to Main » on 22 Dec 2004 at 10:50 PM (12 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2004-12-23 01:39:16 AM  
Jokes aside -- and some were actually funny -- this is stupid on more levels that are, at present, officially recognized. I have made up tens of words, maybe hundreds, that some might find offensive, but since I have kept them, mostly, to myself, I have never been sued.
2004-12-23 01:44:06 AM  
And even if it is rascist, so what? Why are the courts even involved. In Canada, is it illegal to use rascist words? In the US, it may be wrong, but it certainly isn't a crime.
2004-12-23 01:57:47 AM  
I always thought it was "moldy cabbage" but oh well looks like the American Native website has no idea'r other so all my years impressing chicks with that knowledge can still be defended.
2004-12-23 02:07:38 AM  
"The board of inquiry spent one day looking at old Lone Ranger shows, eventually concluding that the term was never used in a derogatory way and that Tonto and the Lone Ranger treated each other with respect."

I bet $100 if I worked with several Indians and I started calling all of them "Tonto" I'd be shelling out damages to each of them.

Even though, it was never used in a derogatory way on the show either.
2004-12-23 02:50:25 AM  
i know trying to constructively discuss issues of race and privilege on FARK is probably a recipe for disaster, but here goes...

The focus of discussion herein seems to be on the inherent qualities of the word 'kemosabe', which, in my estimation, is a total miscalculation: is the word inherently offensive? Is it inherently innocuous? This line of thinking is patently absurd, as any kind of attention to everyday speech ought to illustrate. Lots of marginalized groups regularly re-appropriate the slurs used against them, i.e.: 'queer' or 'nubian' or what have you. These words, designed to offend and oppress, are used as markers of identity. In these cases, the offensive conotations of the words in question are negated by the adoption of the words as symbols of pride or inclusivity. Thus, even 'inherently' offensive terms can be turned against their traditional meaning.

The same holds true for some supposedly inoffensive terms. Again, while 'kemosabe' might not be designed as a racial slur, that's not to say it can't be used as one in specific contexts. Imagine referring to a white employee as a WASP. While WASP is a purely descriptive term and might even possibly be an accurate description, reducing someone to those traits could definitely be considered offensive. What if your boss referred to a Black employee as 'homey'? That seems more directly analogous to the case in question. Sure, it might be part of a shared rapport or humor, where the boss is 'whitey' or something, but if it's not, it sure seems like a case of someone in a position of power, i.e.: the boss, essentializing about his/her employees, reducing them to their ethnicity or what have you: "Well, hell, this is how you INDIANS say friend, isn't it?" The point is that the meaning, the ability to offend, isn't tied to the word itself, but the use of the word in the context of a relation between people. Two Indians jokingly referring to each other as kemosabe obviously isn't racist, but your boss yelling "Yo! Kemosabe! Clean up on aisle three!" certainly seems that way.

Now, the question is is the use of words like this part of a broader pattern of misconduct. The facts, as presented in the article, are pretty spare. It's impossible to say, based on what i read, whether the boss in question is being a racist asshole or not. However, it's certainly more than a little tasteless and is kinda racist in that it shows a pronounced tendency to identify people based on their race and their race alone. Like i said earlier, did the employees get to call him whitey to his face? This isn't the sarcastic exchange of a few friends, but a boss, who holds the power to fire you, essentially thinking of you as 'that Indian who works for me'. It may not be racist in the cross-burning sort of way, but it definitely shows a marked residual racism, whereby people in power pick out a certain trait and identify people beneath them based on said trait. Can you imagine calling a queer employee by yelling "Hey! Homosexual!"? Again, nothing inherently offensive about the word, but someone looking at you and just seeing you as a homosexual, a trait irrelevant to your ability to do your job, can definitely be offensive.

All this attention to the history and etymology of the word is largely (but not to say totally) irrelevant to my mind. Context is what matters, the context of relations between the employee and her boss. And even if he's the jolliest, nicest man in the world, without an overt racist belief in his body, i'd still say the use of the word is, if imposed on his employees without the context of a friendly exchange, marginally racist. It says "I see you as an Indian first and foremost", something someone in a position of power, in a society pretty shagging racist against Native peoples (last acceptable racism, donchaknow) really should be more aware of. Being continually unaware of said fact can certainly contribute to an unhealthy and intimidating atmosphere, even if the person in power thinks his use of the term totally blameless.

So, yeah, i think there's some substance to her complaint, even if most of the rest of FARK seems unable to look beyond the "OMFG PEE-CEE GONE 2 FAR!11!" spin. A little empathy and common sense ought to demonstrate how even innocent seeming words like 'kemosabe' can be used in offensive and oppressive contexts. Just a thought.
2004-12-23 03:08:39 AM  
Wow, quining. You overdosed on the Magic Pundit Pills again, didn't you?

You know, for some reason this thing, unlike most similar cases, doesn't seem PC to me.

Because the guy was using that word ONLY because they were Native American. Now let's grant that it's not actually an offensive term per se, that it simply means "friend". Rats. It's still PC, I hadn't thought it through. I was thinking that by drawing attention to the person's ethnicity every time the word was spoken, it would be like a white guy working with a bunch of black guys, all of whom prefaced anything they said to the white guy with "hello white friend." The term itself isn't offensive, but I would think that would feel pretty uncomfortable on the receiving end. And therefore it's not something that should be condoned.

But then I realized what the guy was saying was essentially his stupid version of "hello" in "Native American." That being the case, wouldn't it also be "racist" then if I said "bonjour" every morning to a French colleague?

Ruling: PC run wild.

/those pills really work
2004-12-23 03:48:40 AM  
Should have used the term, "dirty redskin".
2004-12-23 04:04:35 AM  
So I guess "Bigchief Scalpmaster" is right out?
2004-12-23 04:49:52 AM  

That being the case, wouldn't it also be "racist" then if I said "bonjour" every morning to a French colleague?

Not racist, but possibly in poor taste. That's pretty much a given. What's more, really, i think racism implies a certain power or privilege that's not really present in relations between French people and Americans; you can be an asshole to a French person, sure, but in everyday relations, it's hard to be a racist because, well, the French aren't a 'race'. That aside, however, 'bonjour' is a legitimate greeting in French. Sure, it can be used in an insulting manner, but it's pretty hard to come up with contexts in which it could clearly be understood to be as much. And, if it was clear to both parties it was to be understood as insulting, especially in the context of a power relationship like boss/employee, then i'd say that's pretty farked up.

Furthermore, if you used that kind of tasteless dynamic to draw attention to someone's race, then, yeah, i'd say you're being racist. I mean, even you said the boss was using a stupid version of hello in "Native American". Someone making an attempt to greet you in your native tongue is pretty different from reducing you and your culture/heritage/identity to a caricature. Again, the point is, as you said, the boss' 'stupid version' of understanding the point-of-view of his employees. That stupidity, that reduction, is a veiled form of racism. Reducing someone to a cultural stereotype, a caricature based on their race, is racism. Again, what about a white guy calling some random black guy 'homey' or a black woman 'Mammy'? Neither word is offensive on its own, but, shiat, c'mon, that kind of reduction to a stereotype is pretty offensive in the context of random stranger walking up to you and uttering it. My point, i guess, is that even seemingly innocent gestures can bespeak a racist disposition toward essentializing and stereotyping. I don't know if this boss had a raging hard-on full of hate against Native people or anything, but i do know that when he actually had to deal with real, live Native people, all he could think of was the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Maybe he consciously meant nothing by it, but that doesn't mean it can't make people uncomfortable or feel singled out. Racism isn't just cross-burning and white hoods. It's also how our attitudes and beliefs are formed around the social category of 'race' and how we apply those beliefs in our everyday lives. And when someone who holds the power to cut off your paycheck reduces you to a sidekick character in an ancient TV show as an innocent joke, i can see how somebody might be a little pissed at that, especially because you can't just deck him or scream back or whatever.

Also: pundit pills? That's just lazy. FUNY != YUO
2004-12-23 05:54:01 AM  
Must be a slow week to have so many damn repeats.
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2004-12-23 08:04:31 AM  
Can I declare any word to be a racial slur and make my boss stop using it?
2004-12-23 08:42:52 AM  
Quining, RTFA, he didn't just call her that, he called everyone in the office that. Take your white guilt to a soup kitchen or something.
2004-12-23 09:13:50 AM  
That article doesn't mention it, but in this one Montreal Gazette

It does point out that she quit in 1999 and was so incensed she waited six months to file a complaint - hard time getting pogey? This is a payday.
2004-12-23 09:30:21 AM  
The Lone Rnager
And Tonto rode the trail
Catching outlaws
And putting them in jail
The Lone Ranger
Shot Tonto, so it seems
'Cause he found out what 'kemo sabe' means

Homer & Jethro
2004-12-23 09:45:44 AM  
I live in Nova Scotia and let me tell you we have about had it with the kemosabes around here. They do nothing but watch television and snort glue all day. Then they expect a government handout. There are so many kemosabes on the streets of Halifax at night that you can't go ten feet without them hassling you. They oughta build a big boat and ship 'em all back to Kemosabeland.
2004-12-23 09:50:36 AM  
How about the Fightin' Whities!

[image from too old to be available]

[image from too old to be available]
2004-12-23 11:19:20 AM  
Kemosabe is a bastardization of "Como Sabe" which means "the one who knows." its a positive thing.

Stand and Deliver...they all called Edward James Almos "Quimo"

2004-12-23 11:27:49 AM  
Racism still exists. coonts.

/me shakes head at stupidity
2004-12-23 11:50:45 AM  
anonymous: Racism still exists. coonts.

/me shakes head at stupidity

So does the plague, doesn't mean everyone who gets sick has it.
2004-12-23 12:11:45 PM  
This is not the equivalent of saying bonjour to a frenchman or calling an Irishman Paddy, this is the equivalent of calling a black man Massah. Yes it was a term of "respect" back in the day, but try it a few times and see if it goes over. Since the idiot in question does not know what kemosabe is supposed to mean, and since it's made up and not a real indian word (whatever that means, the native americans had over five hundred distinct languages), what this guy is doing is applying what is in his mind a stereotype, albeit in reverse. It's not discrimination but it's certainly insulting and in poor taste. If you knew a guy of Japanese descent named Bobby and you called him Bobby-san all the time, that only serves to highlight differences, not promote harmony.

The guy's not a criminal, he's just like a lot of people, a clueless idiot.
2004-12-23 12:32:26 PM  
Don't know 'bout the other Native Americans out there, but as your friendly neighborhood Kiowa/Comanche/Arapaho/Choctaw, I never found Kemo-Sabe offensive. Heck, I even met Jay Silverheels a looonnnngg time ago, and he was a nice guy. Someone in Canada is worried about a liguistically vague word from fiction that took place in the American Old West? Some folk just go around looking to be offended. I would go talk to those government guys but I wouldn't know who to address, all you white people look alike to me.

/just kidding, some of my best friends are white.
2004-12-23 01:27:58 PM  

Your logic speaks to me. I agree with this breakdown.
2004-12-23 02:45:36 PM  
Canada - a liberals' paradise...

/BTW, wonder how that US to Canada migration is going?
2004-12-23 04:18:35 PM  

Not really. Not in the US sense of the word liberal. John Kerry is very right wing by Canadian standards. Kind of the reason why I don't like the idea of blue voters moving to Canada, because I don't think they actually like Canada as it is and would want it to be more right wing.
2004-12-23 07:39:06 PM  
2004-12-23 10:34:57 PM  
This wasn't news six months ago.
2004-12-24 12:17:40 AM  
Last February, a human rights board of inquiry ruled Moore was not discriminated against because she hadn't shown she was offended by the word, nor did she ask her boss to stop using it.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal upheld that ruling in October, saying Moore had not shown the term was "notoriously offensive."

So every court so far has ruled against Moore and the supreme court has not yet decided if they are even going to hear the case. Hardly a liberal paradise.
2004-12-24 11:32:20 AM  
Being a member of the "offended" group I think this case is total BS, the owner of the store greeted everyone that way, not just natives. The term in the show wasn't used to describe Indians it was used as a term of friendship or recognition, now on the other hand if the owner has calling her Tonto everyday thats a different story all together, still a funny one but different.
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