Unlearning: Little Monkey is not a Racist Remark

Friday, two weeks ago, I went to a shop. The shopkeeper called my baby “little monkey”. I was angry at her and felt hurt because I’ve remembered what I read in Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s “This Earth of Mankind”. The main protagonist got called Minke (from “monkey”). It is a degrading insult from Dutch colonialist with their blatant white supremacist racism, saying colored people as a resemblance of monkey.

This week I heard my local Australian friend called her own baby “little monkey”. I asked her and she explained that it is common to call babies “little monkey” because they are so cheeky like a little monkey.

What have you been unlearning lately?

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14 thoughts on “Unlearning: Little Monkey is not a Racist Remark

  1. I love this post. “Unlearning” is, indeed, part of learning. Little monkey is, in Oz, a term of endearment. Like when my friends called me “Chicky”. 😀

  2. Another term of endearment that evokes happy thoughts from both parties should be used in my opinion. Personally I don’t take kindly to being referred to as a monkey by anyone when many in society use this word to demean people.

  3. Hi. I enjoyed the idea of unlearning. We also say in the UK to our childrenb’you little monkey’ or ‘cheeky monkey’ (and to anyone close enough, family or friend. Monkeying around is a phrase sometimes used to. There’s nothing racist about it unless said in a derogatory way of or to people of other ethnicities. While I might refer to a white child as a little or cheeky monkey however, I doubt I’d use those phrases to non-white children because of racial sensitivities.

  4. Unlearning isn’t always easy. Once you’ve learned something it can be hard to shake, learning being something that happens subconsciously. I won’t go into that any further, though, or I will stray too far from the topic.
    I agree with all of these posts but especially with all of the points you’ve made, Collete B. It’s mostly used in a friendly way in Australia. My late mother (born 1931) often said “why, that cheeky little monkey.” It was lesser degree of scalding a child if they were in earshot, but enough to let them know not to do it again or risk receiving a smack – common in the day.
    I’ve lived in Zimbabwe, though, and it if you were referred to as a monkey then it was most definitely an insult. Black Africans were often referred to as Kaffa’s and anything else with this word in front of it meant that it wasn’t worth anything. For example, Kaffa oranges, not so much because they weren’t the best tasting oranges but because the monkey’s ate them.

      • Hi, nadya. Yes, I’ll elaborate more fully on that when assignments are done. Like your blog…. are you looking for someone to post weekly or is every once in a while okay too?

      • Do you mean the postcard weekly feature for guest bloggers? It is once for one guest blogger, so for example Maria Holm has already sent her postcard, so next week is someone else’s turn. Have fun with your assignments 🙂

      • I love the Market Shed! I was only there for a week, sadly. I live in Perth but will move back to my country at the end of the year.

      • It’s full of fresh wholesome goodness, everything feels so down-to-earth & alive. Perth…only spent a couple of hrs there for a stopover – the most isolated city in the world. My brother & his family live in the hills so must go there. Cheers

  5. I am so happy with the discussion this short post triggered. Actually it is my most favorite comments section that I’ve ever had. Thank you for your insights and different perspectives. It definitely adds much more value to the unlearning that I did.

  6. Unlearning is a great thing to do when someone wants to come in terms with the realities of life; but in other hand it is difficulty to be achieved. This becomes more impossible when there is an established mindset with that particular choice of word. Using the word “monkey” on someone could be derogatory, funny and playful depending on the people involved. I know when I was growing up, it is used among age mates and elderly (within the same race) as a playful words. Race/s has defined it with not so good tag. This is why it is not a good choice of word when there is an interracial communication.

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