Politically Correct Terms For Race

It’s irresponsible to ignore race (May 29 2018)

Your recent column (“Denby Fawcett: Politically Correct Terms for Race Are Racist Themselves”) lacked consideration of 1) the implications of publishing such a stance, 2) empirical research concerning the topic, and 3) the privilege to hold such an ideology.

There is plenty of research to support that espousing a “color-blind” or “I don’t see race” approach actually backfires, and instead makes you appear more prejudiced. Research has found that this type of ideology also harms people of color. Furthermore, there is research that suggests “color-blind” messaging may lead to underreporting of instances of racial/ethnic discrimination.

Given the racial strife in our society, I believe it is irresponsible to incite people to ignore race or ethnicity. Particularly since people of color are often the ones who bear the consequences of these beliefs.

— Chanel Meyers, Honolulu

It’s really all about power (May 29, 2018)

Denby Fawcett is getting more and more conservative as time goes on. 

First, how does a self-identified “white” person get to decide what terms those who aren’t white are identified as such? Fawcett virtually ignores the issue that there’s a group with all the power and then the “rest.”

Using terms that denote that someone is not part of the power structure helps note that dynamic. The issue isn’t really about color of skin, or ancestral origin, it’s about power and who has it and who doesn’t.

First outing of the day from Kailuana Place to Bellows AFB beach we saw a rainbow from the travel pool bus over Kaneohe Bay. 3 jan 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
There’s nothing to be gained by ignoring skin color, some letter-writers say. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The fact that she doesn’t want to address race at all, instead using terms that make a person somewhat anonymous given “the person in the blue shirt” she referred, ignores history when certain colors were reserved for certain classes in different cultures. Purple was only for royalty in England, etc.

I don’t understand the need to run away from what’s right in front of us: Race is an issue and needs to be discussed. That discussion should make those with power (i.e., Fawcett) uncomfortable. It’s how that discomfort is handled that shows the make-up of that person.

— Craig Rasmussen, Waikiki

It’s about social constructs, or the census (May 29, 2018)

Denby Fawcett spouts the liberal mantra that race is merely a social construct, not biological fact. She says it’s OK to describe someone as “that woman in front of the store.”

But nowadays gender is also a social construct — people born as male/female decide to adopt not only the clothing, hairstyle and mannerisms of their female/male aspirational gender but might also engineer the corresponding body parts (breasts, vagina, penis, beard, etc.) Hawaii transgenders, even without surgery, can get historically revised birth certificates reflecting current aspirational gender rather than birth gender (cannot yet do that for race; sorry Rachel Dolezal).  

The 2020 census has big trouble on traditional identity questions: race, gender, citizenship, national origin. Activists persuade people to identify themselves as what they aspire to be rather than how they were born. Census questions are unclear whether responses should be biological fact or emotional aspiration. Census workers are trained to never challenge responders’ accuracy.

In both 2000 and 2010 there were over 80,000 “pure Hawaiians”; i.e., people who said “Native Hawaiian” is their only ancestry. Amazing!

Pity future researchers who treat race and gender data as fact when there’s a statistically significant component of fantasy.

— Kenneth R. Conklin, Kaneohe

It’s about human nature and DNA (May 29, 2018)

Your piece is sensible and no doubt heartfelt.

My experience with racial discrimination was first encountered while I was  a young airman stationed in rural Japan in 1962. It was a moment of realization, and ripening.

Years later I spent some time living in rural Idaho, among a totally white (apparently) populace. I found that people would separate themselves from, and discriminate against others by hair color, teeth, clothing style, vehicle, money, job, etc., in order to separate themselves. Even family, friends and neighbors.

Another of my life’s many continuing lessons brought forth. Now that I’m 75, I’m certain human nature and some primeval instincts are written into our genes at this evolutionary junction.

— Ted Orssten, Pahoa

It’s mostly a “tone-deaf” effort (May 30, 2018)

Denby Fawcett’s column might have come from a place of intellectual curiosity, but it lands as another tone-deaf effort by Caucasians to minimize the urgent racial issues in the country and in Hawaii.

Fawcett and Walter Dods sitting around talking about race lacked the much-needed diversity that these discussions demand, and the takeaway from that encounter — “the silly way we classify skin color” — could have been amusing if it wasn’t so horrifying. Fawcett and Dods haven’t given “the talk” to their children or been handcuffed and escorted out of Starbucks.

My son’s drill sergeant gave him great advice: “Never miss an opportunity to shut the (expletive) up.” Rather than “whitesplain” racism, let’s listen to those whose skin color and experiences are different. White people like Fawcett, Dods and me have work to do. Let’s not waste time gaslighting over the words used.

— Powell Berger, Kakaako

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