Articles on racial and ethnic slurs for high school student?
May 2, 2007 5:28 PM   Subscribe

In search of articles about racial and ethnic slurs accessible to bright high school student (fluent in English but English is second language).

My 16-year-old foster kid, born in the US but raised in Taiwan, has recently discovered racial and ethic slurs and is a bit obsessed with the whole topic -- slurs about X, slurs about Y, slurs in English, slurs in other languages, etc., etc. She's particularly interested in slurs about Asian groups, and trying to figure out what "kind of Asian" she is.

She wants to write her research paper for her psychology class on slurs. I am hoping that some actual research and thinking may move this, ahem, interesting phase into a more positive direction. Suggestions?
posted by ClaudiaCenter to Education (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
rsbd? Not much No analysis, but pretty exhaustive list of slurs with brief (and possibly unreliable) origin explanations.
posted by contraption at 5:57 PM on May 2, 2007

the Insult Monger [NSFW] has vulgarities in pretty much any language you can imagine. Many of these end up being racial slurs.
posted by quin at 6:02 PM on May 2, 2007

One of my favorite bloggers/essayists is Kiwi Tze Ming Mok, whose interests range from the political to human rights to cultural studies. Many of her blog columns (Yellow Peril) are dense and focus on local (NZ) issues, so perhaps the best intro to her stuff — which is quite smart, interesting and offhandedly funny — is her set of 2006 columns in the Sunday Star Times.

Here's how her last SST column, entitled "Smile, and the Whole World Steps on You," began:
I’m in Indonesia right now, and Westerners out here love the locals. This place has been battered by disaster after disaster: the tsunami, an earthquake, a volcanic eruption, another tsunami, another earthquake, and now a massive unstoppable flow of stinking toxic geothermal mud accidentally unleashed by a negligent gas-mining company with ties to the government, swamping East Java. “And look, they’re still smiling” say the tourists and travellers. One tourist says “They’re so friendly. They sure can put up with a lot – it’s like some kind of spiritual acceptance or something.”

Well yeah, of course people smile at visitors. In this vein, I think the image of the simple ‘spiritual’ Southeast Asians acquiescing to their fate is coloured by the tourist experience. In the most infantilising example of these kinds of projections, at a quake-stricken village I visited, one Western rubble-clearing volunteer repeatedly referred to the grateful local (adult) villagers living in tents next to their destroyed houses as “so cute!” I didn’t know what to say, but managed not to throw up.

posted by rob511 at 6:26 PM on May 2, 2007 [3 favorites]

Sorry, CC, you asked specifically about slurs, and you can definitely find them in Tze Ming's stuff, but I got a bit sidetracked. Delete if unhelpful.
posted by rob511 at 6:29 PM on May 2, 2007

Kids have been expelled for this kind of thing. She should probably talk to her teacher about her plans for this paper before she invests a lot of time in it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:08 PM on May 2, 2007

I can't think of a specific source, but maybe you and/or her should hit the nearest university library. They should have a good selection of articles about ethnic slurs from academic and non-academic periodicals and books. The library might also have access to certain electronic databases that you can't get otherwise.

University libraries can vary on whether people not directly affiliated with the school can check out stuff (usually not, but that's why they have photocopiers) but it's worth checking the website or with a librarian. You can also see if the university has an Asian Studies department to find some info.

And if teachers are the same as ever, a few blogs and a list from a website isn't going to be sufficient for her research-even a regular library would be better.
posted by deinemutti at 7:14 PM on May 2, 2007

There's a bunch of work in philosophy on the meaning of racial epithets and how their meaning comes about. The work that I know of is that of Chris Hom, which I think also discusses other theories. However, this approach to understanding epithets may be fairly abstract to a 16 year old.
posted by advil at 7:25 PM on May 2, 2007

Thanks for the lists -- interesting (and I'm sure she'll love them) but I'm particularly looking for articles that discuss the role of slurs, origins, impact, etc. Basic stuff -- I don't think she'll understand the philosophy of Combinatorial Externalism at this time.

Yes, SCDB, it's an approved topic.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:31 PM on May 2, 2007

NPR: Are All Slurs Created Equal? Link

Also, maybe this this article from the Journal of Language and Social Psychology. (Might be hard to find, and somewhat advanced, though.)

This is interesting (and short) but accessable: 'Freak' -- harmless term or abusive slur?

Look for this book at a library:
An Encyclopedia of Swearing: The Social History of Oaths, Profanity, Foul Language, And Ethnic Slurs in the English-speaking World

These are pretty US-centric, though.

Also, try asking for suggestions at a local library.
posted by sentient at 9:12 PM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thanks, sentient -- the NPR piece reminded me (duh, obvious) to show her articles on all of the topical slur scandals (Imus, Isaiah, Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, wasn't there a t-shirt thing with Abercrombie? etc.). I'm pretty sure most of those will be new to her and good material.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:17 PM on May 2, 2007

Yes, SCDB, it's an approved topic.

Glad to hear it, because in the Offendable Aughts, there are lots of people around on a hair trigger about that kind of thing.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:24 AM on May 3, 2007

wasn't there a t-shirt thing with Abercrombie?

Yes. Snopes page with a few citations here, lots more about it on the web and in print. It's more to do with stereotypes than language/slurs, but that might be a good angle anyway?
posted by clavicle at 7:17 AM on May 3, 2007

/derail: We talked about the Abercrombie thing here in the blue as well.
posted by quin at 9:52 AM on May 3, 2007

Here too.
posted by quin at 9:54 AM on May 3, 2007

Wikipedia has a rather exhaustive list with an interesting restriction: slurs must have citations. Stemming from a "I'm sure they don't have ......., oh, I guess they would" line of inquiry.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:57 AM on May 3, 2007

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