• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 1:59pm
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 5:16am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 1:41pm

Banning the word 'locust' in Hong Kong would be merely treating the symptom

Is it illegal to say "nigger" in America? Apparently not.

That's not to say we shouldn't bother banning "locust" in Hong Kong - the two racial epithets have very different historical and contemporary contexts - but the American example holds important lessons for us.

"Nigger" is shunned in public use even without formal legislation as years of American legislative and judicial energy were spent on eliminating segregation - the source of this hateful word and all that it stands for.

The lasting impact of desegregation and the accompanying social movement that sensitised public opinion to make it possible are the reasons why "nigger" is not used in polite company any more, not because the word itself is illegal. Only the New York City Council has a symbolic ban in place on "nigger" to check its spread, ironically, through black rappers.

As shorthand for mainlanders, "locust" has the same dehumanising and othering functions as "nigger". But the Equal Opportunities Commission's deliberations on whether to make its use a punishable offence to check racial discrimination are unlikely to excise it from daily usage as the context within which its offensive connotation gains coinage remains unaddressed.

As a responsible shaper of public opinion in Hong Kong, this paper avoids the word. We are doing our bit to prevent its entrenchment. But the government has the obligation and the means to tackle the wider malaise, of which the word is merely the symptom.

Simply outlawing "locust" will neither eliminate the underlying institutional triggers for anti-mainlander rage - inflation, rising rents, exclusion from the property market and increasing competition for everything from milk powder to beach space - nor mitigate the reflexive racism towards mainlanders that this popular anger fans.

From a segregated education system to outrageous stereotyping in textbooks, the commission hasn't been able to alleviate much of the endemic racism towards minorities. Its superficial handling of the "locust" issue will have a similarly marginal impact on the attitude towards mainlanders.

Share

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive
 
 

 

14

This article is now closed to comments

whoaman
'the underlying institutional triggers for anti-mainlander rage - inflation, rising rents, exclusion from the property market and increasing competition for everything from milk powder to beach space'...
Uh...you forgot the big reasons -MANNERS and etiquette, oh and hygiene...
mvdvalk
With the exception of the new territories locals, all Hong Kong Chinese arrived over the last 60 odd years from China to take advantage of HK's economic freedom, so it's a case of pot calling kettle black.
HK government should spend more time educating its population on its own heritage to stop this ridiculous racism.
chaz_hen
Ban the "L" word and people will just find another...like, say, "maggot"
finestfrombelgium@gmail.com
There is a very big difference between the N-word as that one is clearly a racial slur. L*c*st however describes the attitude of only a much smaller group of people that come to HK with the specific purpose to take advantage of its systems and resources, such as health care, anchor babies, or buying up and smuggling milk powder,... As it happens these are overwhelmingly mainlanders, but could also describe other people from other nations, hence, it's not a racial slur. It's sad to not see this distinction made in any of the arguments here in SCMP.
lucifer
**** is not a racial epithet...unless you are saying Mainland Chinese are of a different race than Chinese in Hong Kong. I am sure government on both sides would disagree with you on that point. It's just a word to describe Mainland Chinese, because a **** arrives, devours everything in sight and then leaves,...something akin to what the Mainland Chinese do in Hong Kong with regards to overcrowding, use of public services and uncouth behavior.
I would argue though under Chinese law, Hong Kong citizens should be considered a minority people. The **** are merely Han Chinese who are Muslim and thus have different beliefs, values and culture....the people of Hong Kong easily fit the same criteria as we have different religions, different culture, different languages and different values.
philpaul
**** is a culturally entrenched term that carries meanings of centuries of racial subjugation and oppression. **** is not. Mainlanders always have a choice to behave better. I have a very good friend from China who has impeccable manners.
philpaul
Wow - even in American newspapers would the term n-**** not be blacked out. L-**** is an animal. This is PC gone completely mad.
philpaul
Try calling a young African American the N word then you know its impact endures. African Americans call each other the N word because they can, the same way gay men call each other ****. It is a form of self-empowerment. You clearly have not been to America. I strongly advise you against using the N word anywhere.
philpaul
I just saw that SCMP also blacked out the word Q U E E R. What is wrong with the word? It actually means interesting.
At any rate, in addition to the Q word gay men also call each other F A G. If a straight person uses the F word, it is not going to be pretty.
53cc5f1b-5ea0-4270-9016-74420a320969
Thanks and congratulations for provoking an already bad situation, moron.

Pages

 
 
 
 
 

Login

SCMP.com Account

or