Rhetoric & Race

Everything is racialized; immigration, crime, labor, beauty ideals, food. Language and the words we use to describe things change according to race. A prime example example of this is who is “expat”, a term used for Westerners who live almost permanently in another country (aka immigrants).This article lays the discussion of who is considered an expat versus an immigrant and why very bluntly, “Africans are immigrants. Arabs are immigrants. Asians are immigrants. However, Europeans are expats because they can’t be at the same level as other ethnicities. They are superior. Immigrants is a term set aside for ‘inferior races’. Just as the relationship between race and law is important to understanding each separately, the lexicon we use to describe in order to understand where it comes from.


Another racialized word concerning travel that also comes to mind is voluntourism; the combination of tourism and volunteering. This elicits images of white men and women taking pictures with black and brown women and/or children “in need.” They post the pictures on various social media outlets and receive the attention they sought. “The white savior complex” goes beyond the very blatant examples of missionaries and Western imperialism and Pocahontas to the method of work that many NGOs and nonprofits commit to. The debate which I often find myself wondering about is- are good intentions enough? For example, many students (including Denison) pursue study abroad options for example in places in East Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East in order to be the changemakers our liberal arts education teaches us to be- but where is the line drawn between making a difference and (subconsciously) embodying the white savior in new form?


I urge you also to examine the freely used words “Hispanic” and “Latino/Latina”? African American versus Black? In what context to these apply? Which is more accurate and who gets to say so? It is not because of an obsession with being “politically correct” but rather so that it is proof of the privilege we (as university students) were granted in being able to learn (critically) about the history of race in the US.


3 thoughts on “Rhetoric & Race

  1. Whew – those are powerful examples of how language shapes our thinking. Why don’t we call Mexicans expats?! That’s such a great question!

    And voluntourism is…tough. On the one hand, if it generates cross-racial and cross-cultural sympathy, provides support for people who need it, and isn’t paternalistic or invasive, it seems like a good thing. On the other hand, the lines between the positives and negatives are very very thin, and what may seem like ‘service’ to a student from Denison may feel like ‘imposition’ to those being ‘helped.’ I have no helpful way through this, but I think it’s really important to consider whether students seek these chances to help themselves (diversity!) or to help others (equity).


    1. Wow- thinking of voluntourism in terms of helping the collective versus helping the self is fascinating! I had never put it into this perspective as whether a good deed is actually a selfish act has been a long discussed debate. The good news, in my opinion, is that the face and premise of volunteering is not static. How, where and why to “volunteer” changes over time and takes on new forms from charity and religious obligations to “giving back” and “being discerning moral agents.” When I think about the language of “giving back,” I find it implies that the person giving back has received some valuable resource from their community. The hard truth is that such a community is a privilege a housing prices are rising drastically and minimum wages going nowhere (not to mention racial disparity). The changing dynamic of volunteering gives me hope that the willingness of many to contribute to the world and make a difference can one day stem from the realization that we are equal and worthy rather than because one is more capable than the other.


  2. ce temps, on teste le dépassement des frontières du côté de Lausanne (CH): voici le début du journal de bord du groupe de doctorants Unil-EPFL en sciences humaines, sociales et teooshlcgiquen, avec quelques


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s