Combating prejudice and racism: new interventions from a functional analysis of racist language

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Abstract

Based on a conversational model of language-use-in-social-context, this article focuses on one particular form of racist and prejudiced talking that has not received enough attention—conversations in which racist statements function to maintain groups and relationships rather than seriously promote racism. Despite their casualness, such statements are still pernicious, and a range of potential interventions are proposed for this language function. These involve actively altering a community's discursive resources to include more rejoinders to racist comments. Such rejoinders must be utilized in the most appropriate way for any relationship, and this might mean polite corrections, witty repartee, strong put-downs to silence someone making racist comments, or as counter-jokes to racist jokes, depending upon the social context and power relations involved. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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