07.21.20

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Changing Words Can Change History (or How It’s Seen), But May Not Solve Any of the Underlying Problems

Posted in GNU/Linux, Kernel at 5:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

History is viewed for/by what’s left of it (to be seen or read)

El Valle de los caidos

Summary: Money and war shape the debate about racism; instead of tackling some of the biggest issues at hand we’re told that downright cosmetic changes will change society and get rid of racism (it’s far too simplistic a view)

“Audio on Linux can still be a pain in the ass, but at least it won’t offend you now,” said this first comment in Phoronix Forums last night. We also discussed this in IRC. The context of this comment was the article “Linux Sound Subsystem Begins Cleaning Up Its Terminology To Meet Inclusive Guidelines” (as if many people even read that code).

“Looking at the details in Phoronix, they’re removing words like “blacklist” — words that were never intended to be ethnic in connotation at all (and only a racist would interpret them as such).”“The slaves in ALSA have been freed,” Ryan joked. MinceR said, “broken software offends me, so they’d better get to work…”

Looking at the details in Phoronix, they’re removing words like “blacklist” — words that were never intended to be ethnic in connotation at all (and only a racist would interpret them as such). We previously noted that the colour red too can be viewed as "racist" and a reader sent us this article this morning, entitled “I am Native American and a former football player. Our history is much darker than racist mascots.”

“Corrections are being done at a rather superficial level, appeasing not necessarily the victims.”To quote the summary, as the reader did: “I am Native American and a former football player. Our history is much darker than racist mascots,” says the headline. “An NFL team changing its name does nothing to address the role of Indigenous people in the game’s legacy.” (to be included in Daily Links later along with Michael Bennett Thinks the NFL Is Starting to Wake Up)

When one examines the motivations, it’s largely corporate and financial, as the above article notes. It’s about money, not about tackling racism. Corrections are being done at a rather superficial level, appeasing not necessarily the victims.

“This “ordered violence” (NFL) is funded by the Pentagon (partly at least) to help recruit people who then bomb people of colour in other countries.”To quote the article sent to us: “While the retirement of the Washington name culminates decades of activism from Indigenous peoples across the country, it is also hard knowing that this change — primarily motivated by the loss of financial sponsorships like FedEx — has taken so long to secure. It also reflects the most-highlighted role that Indigenous peoples have played in America’s favorite sport — as mascots rather than actual people.”

So it’s about money. Further, as the author puts it: “But as my body tells me after years of the game, football, in its basest form, is ordered violence.”

This “ordered violence” (NFL) is funded by the Pentagon (partly at least) to help recruit people who then bomb people of colour in other countries. Here are the concluding words from the author, berating the corporate motivations of the move:

I’m thankful today that the name has changed. For a franchise in America’s most popular sport to recognize its harm and perform a course correction is valuable. But this was not done out of an elevation of moral or ethical conduct. There has been no acknowledgement that the origins of the game itself are a part of football’s racist involvement in Indigenous history. At some point, the financial cost of maintaining the name outweighed keeping it. So it changed.

It is worth noting that the team’s financial consideration has only come about because of the protests against police violence on Black Americans. But if there is a football season this fall, there will still be racist mascots in the game. There will still be worrying rates of chronic injuries to a largely Black player base. There will be no guarantee that the stardom afforded those Black players will protect them from brutality off the field. I believe that we, as a football collective and as a nation, are reforming. I wonder if we are transforming and healing.

Football has been a notable part of my life and the lives of my family members. But I cannot pretend that it does not bring out some of our worst communal instincts. So I have to ask, after the games are played and we turn off our televisions and collectively look at our reflections on the screen, do we like what we see?

Naming football clubs using ethnic connotations isn’t unusual. When it comes to English football (“soccer” as the Americans call it), how many people think of Spurs (Tottenham) as “Yids”?

“Deeper institutional changes are needed; changing words might make one feel good, but when those who push for it, e.g. the Linux Foundation, are never hiring any African-Americans it means they’re good only with words, not deeds.”There’s a longstanding controversy about that too; as one article explains: “The term is widely used by Spurs fans in reference to the club’s Jewish roots, but many Jewish football supporters insist it’s offensive and singing it gives rival fans an excuse to use the word abusively.”

They were originally adopting the slur to mock their critics; getting rid of this name won’t end antisemitism because it’s vastly more complex a problem than anything that’s reducible to ‘word bans’.

Deeper institutional changes are needed; changing words might make one feel good, but when those who push for it, e.g. the Linux Foundation, are never hiring any African-Americans it means they’re good only with words, not deeds.

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A Single Comment

  1. Canta said,

    July 21, 2020 at 12:08 pm

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    > History is viewed for/by what’s left of it (to be seen or read)

    Thus, controlling the narratives is almost an end on itself for corporations. This is common sense in power building terms, and should surprise no one.

    This is also happening, on the other hand: I was able to have political debates with my peers in my job because of this whole naming thing. Were the big players not changed anything, that would be hardly a thing.

    Centrality do exist in politics and have effects; we use it, or we don’t. Corporations do.

    The hypocrisy is in the corporate agenda, not in the political naming conventions. It’s fine to note the hypocrisy, but it’s wrong to mix that hypocrisy with a totally legit political change.

    > When one examines the motivations, it’s largely corporate and financial, as the above article notes. It’s about money, not about tackling racism.

    As usual. Yet, focusing in that hypocrisy, you’re missing a big point: they’re adapting to changing times.

    Free software is not an isolate planet in its own solar system: it’s part of a larger community with lots of political interests flowing. Big corporations know this very well, and they adapt to the varying currents: that’s how they survive hundreds of years, and how they build for themselves the mass of power we know today.

    Everybody already know that “blacklist” didn’t meant to refer race when any of us used it; that is not the point, and that is not hypocrisy: that’s politics, that’s people putting pressure on you for you to do things in other ways. We should be debating that pressure, not corporate hypocrisy, to see if there’s some ground for it. And, BTW, I believe there is such ground.

    However, any bit of power we give to them is a bit we lose. And any bit of power we get from them should be seen as a win. We’re giving this battle to them in a silver tray if we keep with the smart-ass “open your eyes” attitude of “the slave servers were freed”.

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