On the occasion of the International Week against Racism, the EU organised a training session for staff and MEPs on "Anti-Racism. Why Words Matter". The workshop was opened by the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Dimitrios Papadimoulis, among others.

Prof. Dr. Susan Arndt, Chair of English Literature and Anglophone Literatures at the University of Bayreuth, gave the keynote address. Entitled "The (Historical) Interplay of Colonialism, Racism and Language", she spoke about the history of racism and how it shaped its own language worlds.

"Racism claims that there is 'human race' in order to set whiteness as the privileged norm," Arndt explained. This was to make the violence of colonialism seem justified. This led to othering, which at its core aims to deny full humanity to those excluded from white supremacy through constructs of 'skin colour' (and later skulls or genes). This idea became inscribed in many colonialist word coinages. These were discussed in the context of the training workshop.

Specifically, it was also about how the term 'race' is used, for example in the German Basic Law Article 3. Written in 1949, it still contains the idea that there are 'biological races'. "This is not the case, but at the same time racism is still so powerful today that it affects people's lives, that of BIJPoC just as much as white people," says Prof. Dr. Susan Arndt. "This needs to be named, but through emancipatory terms of resistance that subvert racist word formations." While the N-word, terms like 'coloured' or 'dark-skinned', for example, are racist, resistance terms like black or People of Color appropriate terms with anti-racist resistance. By prefixing 'people', for example, the intention of the C-word to deny people full humanity is countered.

The training discussed how legislation and education policy strategies can be translated into concrete measures against structural racism. On the one hand, this was about outlawing racist terms (and specifically, for example, the N-word) (and banning it in all EU contexts) and, on the other hand, about the question of how debates in the society as a whole can be equipped with more awareness, literacies and competences. Overall, the plea was strong to take debates on racism and language head-on. Defending racist terms is as political as opposing them. And any language can only win by being less discriminatory and more inclusive.

Susan Arndt

Prof. Dr. Susan ArndtEnglish Literature and Anglophone Literatures

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E-Mail: susan.arndt@uni-bayreuth.de
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