Belatedly catching up ...
In one part of the discussion, many German speakers here seemed to agree that the only context in which skin color should be mentioned is to refer to someone in a hurry, like the child who runs away in the park or the customer who leaves something in a store.
That concerns me. If in most other contexts, Germans prefer just not to mention race at all, doesn't that prevent necessary dialogue about political and cultural issues? I have the feeling that an unspoken assumption behind several comments is that race should no longer be an issue in the modern world, and if we just don't talk about it, it won't be a problem. If so, I'm afraid I disagree.
True, it's wrong for second-rate newspapers to mention the race of a criminal offender or crime victim only when the person is black, and without showing why, or whether, it's relevant. But surely race often is
relevant? Journalists and politicians need to compare statistics on race and crime. When hate crime or discrimination happens, people need to read about it, so that more can be done against it.
If it's not okay to use language that describes race, it makes it harder to discuss racism at all. That in turn may even distort Germans' perceptions of international issues -- like, most recently, the US presidential campaign.
escoville wrote (far above) about Obama:>>his forebears weren't slaves. In that sense his blackness is totally irrelevant
This seems to be a relatively common impression in Germany, at least judging from recent comments in the forum. But it really is very short-sighted -- I would say simply wrong. In the other thread, related discussion: Barack Obama - #23
I and other leftpondians spent considerable time and effort to try to explain why Obama's race -- both black and white -- is indeed very important in American politics, and why race includes both skin color and culture. I don't know if we weren't clear enough, or if people just didn't read what we wrote, or what.
If readers in Germany don't get a more nuanced understanding of racism in America and how Obama fits into the larger picture, they'll never get beyond the tendency to view us as (as Mr. Chekov said in the other thread) inexplicable aliens from another planet. I would find that sad too. Maybe I'm idealistic, but I believe it's better to discuss cultural differences and think about them than just to assume that gaps are unbridgeable.
So I also believe it's better to discuss race, even in imperfect language, than to avoid the topic. If we really want to be politically correct in the good sense -- if we really want justice for all -- surely the question we should be asking is, What's the best way to refer to race both accurately and sensitively? Yes, in some cases every answer is a compromise. But if more people keep talking, we may at least get better compromises -- more ideas for terms that are, if not perfect, at least more
accurate and more
sensitive. To me, that's the whole point of continuing to discuss inclusive language, not just give up on it as a useless cause.
I think most of us agree that using words that strike some people as insensitive isn't a good choice. When there are two options (as between Neger and Schwarzer in German, or 'colored' and 'black' in English), it's better to use the more modern word, the one less likely to offend anyone. But what happens when the only concise choice is likely to offend some people, as seems to be the case with Mischling? Surely the solution is not just to keep using that word anyway without regard for people's feelings. But it's also not to avoid using descriptive words at all, or to use vague, inaccurate ones (like 'ethnic,' which doesn't really refer to skin color). Both those extremes fail to solve the problem -- in fact, both seem to deny that a problem exists.
That's why I asked yesterday if anyone had additional suggestions for better alternatives to Mischling. It's a little disappointing to me that few people seemed interested in exchanging ideas about that practical question. (If nothing else, it would be helpful to those of us who aren't native German speakers, because we're more likely to make a bad guess on our own.)
Discussing practical answers on their own merits could work against two tendencies that seem equally unhelpful: on one hand, labeling people who want accurate description as closet racists, and on the other hand, labeling people who want inclusive language as PC flakes. Both linguistic integrity (= honest, idiomatic language) and political correctness (= just, kind language) are in fact good things. Isn't it worth trying a little harder to find more practical compromises between them?