Does Racism Translate?

If a word from one language takes on a racist meaning when translated into a different language, is that term racist in itself?

Does the racism come from it's meaning and us in the source language or in the translation? Or is this an unfair comparison?

Lately, these questions have been on my mind. Last night I attended Archie Shepp's performance at the World Sacred Music Festival in Fes. While he was being introduced in Arabic, the presenter referred to his music's connection with the جماعة الزنوج jama3at al-zunuj. I've only known zunuj as a derogatory epithet for Africans which most politely translates to "Negroes."

I was taken aback when I heard this.


Who's your Daddy?

Bab Bou Jloud, Fes Medina by travelwayoflife
For non-Arabic speakers, Arabic names can seem confusing and complicated. They can be long, and don't follow the 'First Name, Family Name' convention used in many Western countries.

Despite these differences, Arabic names have a distinct order and purpose.
Like 'First Name, Family Name', Arabic names identify their bearer by his or her genealogy. But rather than labeling people as members of families, Arabs' use names to describe how they relate to others. As a result, you can know someone's sons, daughters, fathers or mothers, just through their name.