log (2011/01/14 to 2011/01/20)

This year (awhile back, now, somehow) we made 219 dumplings, which is yet again a new record. Onward and upward in dumpling numbers! Dumplings are good.

So is "gringo" offensive?

On NPR yesterday or sometime, they were doing their usual "listener comments" bit, and apparently they got quite a few outraged letters from listeners about a piece where a Hispanic woman expressed how she'd felt relief on finding out that the shooter in Arizona wasn't Hispanic, and used the word "gringo" more than once to say what it turned out he actually was.

I don't feel particularly offended by "gringo", or "honkey" or "haole". I especially don't feel offended when they're used apparently without malice, but really I'm not all that offended even if there's some possible malice in the use. I mean, the malice may be offputting, but the choice of word doesn't bother me personally.

On the other hand, I am bothered when people use malicious words for members of various other groups. I don't know if this is just because it bothers me more when someone is mean to someone else and perhaps causes injury, than when someone tries and fails to be mean to me, or if there'something subtler behind it.

One possible narrative that might lie behind not being offended by "gringo" is a narrative that I don't think I want to participate in. This narrative says that "gringo" isn't offensive because it's used by comparatively powerless groups against comparatively powerful ones, and when comparatively powerless groups try to do things like that, it's not important. Because those groups, being powerless, can say whatever they want and who really cares after all.

That's not a nice narrative. People in general matter, and what people in one group do shouldn't matter, just because of what group it is, more or less than what people in some other group do.

Which means that, if this narrative is salient here, I ought to mind that the Hispanic woman used the word "gringo", to the extent that some people found it offensive, or had their feelings hurt, or felt disrespected. Because, if I don't mind, I may be saying that what the Hispanic woman does isn't important, in the way that a white person using an ethnic slur in casual conversation would be.

Whether or not that narrative is in fact salient here I haven't decided. But I thought I'd write it down...

I am sitting and typing this in the music school waiting room while the little boy is in there having a make-up lesson because of snow or something. I am typing on the fancy new laptop (alluded to previously), and various children have admired the alien heads and glowing purple keyboard. Also I am on the Interwebs via an unsecured router called "netgear", which one hopes belongs to the music school for the use of its patrons; or perhaps I am just hijacking bandwidth from some careless neighbor. Or alternately I am communicating through some subtle and clever malicious proxy-network, which is watching me use the 'net and hoping to catch some credit card numbers or something going by. In which case it is out of luck.

My usual Jehovah's Witness friend came by this morning, as usual. We are still working our way through their little "What does the Bible really teach?" book (although my friend knows that I am not actually at the stage of caring greatly what the Bible really teaches, 'cause I think it is just some words written by people, like all th' other books).

Today we finished up the How to Make Your Family Life Happy chapter, which is full of fine advice about love and respect and all, and also significant amounts of pernicious stuff about how the husband is the head of the wife, which I gave him a certain amount of trouble about. His attitude is that well yeah but this is what God wants; from my point of view on the other hand this is just more evidence that the book was written by some dudes a long time ago, writing down what they thought at the time. But we are both nice people, so as usual we parted amicably.

I wonder what happens after we finish the book?

Speaking of books, I've done some more browsing around the web, and as I somewhat suspected last time pretty much everyone but Idries Shah describes the Sufi as a relatively straightforward mystical (i.e. stressing direct experience of the Godhead rather than books and institutions) branch of Islam, rather than an eternal secret society of adepts who will say whatever is necessary at any given time or place to further some mysterious ultimate goal.

Of course maybe that's just What They Want Us To Think!