Discussion in 'עברית (Hebrew)' started by bluelash, May 1, 2009.

  1. bluelash New Member

    Hi, I recently moved to israel for work (not jewish) and have had 2 almost identical encounters with the word kushim. In both cases, the person used it and translated it as "nigger". I protested that it is a racial slur and they should not say it. The reply I got was that kushim wasn't exactly like "nigger", that it was even better. This to me sounds to mean that it is even more derogatory. Can someone explain to me what the word means and what it's connotations are? Thanks.
  2. RaLo18 Senior Member

    Kushi is an offensive way to describe a dark-skinned person (mostly African Americans and Ethiopian Jews). Its origin is in the biblical land of Kush, which is today's Sudan and southern Egypt.
    The word is translated as Nigger or Negro, but believed to be (I've heard it few times) less offensive than these names. I personally think that it doesn't matter how offensive the word is, as long as it is offensive.
    Anyway, you shouldn't use this term.
  3. origumi Senior Member

    I do not agree. "kushi" (f. "kushit", pl. m. "kushim", pl. f. "kushiot") is THE Hebrew word to describe someone with African appearance (black African, not Arab or Berber in the Maghreb, not Afrikaner in South Africa). PC alternatives such as "black" or "black-skinned" שחור עור or "Afro-Israeli" (for Ethiopian Jew, following Afro-American) - preferring such alternatives is where "kushi" becomes offensive, and with no good reason.

    There are languages that give black people names whose meaning is "slave" or similar. Hebrew is neutral in this regard.
  4. RaLo18 Senior Member

    Kushi is the Hebrew word to describe a dark-skinned person, but nowadays, it's considered offensive, and using it to describe a black person is considered racist.
    I'll quote judge Yitzhak Milnov:

  5. Talib Senior Member

    Originally the term was not offensive (it just refers to the land of Cush or Ethiopia, which is mentioned in the Bible) but in certain contexts it would be perceived as such so it's best to avoid it.
  6. origumi Senior Member

    Ok, maybe I'm outdated. Ruvik Rosental supports the thesis of kushi as a derogative term. Also Rabi Ovadia Yosef: "There are kushim. can kushim learn the Bible?" http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART/987/731.html

    But then again, if not "kushim", how are we supposed to call people of African origin? Maybe just ignore their peculiar look?
  7. RaLo18 Senior Member

    You can call them either שחורים or כהי עור. Calling them כושים would, even if you don't mean to, offend them and can be considered racist.
  8. origumi Senior Member

    שחורים (black) - then why not חומים (brown) or, according to Pini Gershon, מוקה (mocca): "There are blacks and there are mocca. The mocca are smarter, the blacks are really dumb. Whatever you tell them to do - they're like slaves"?

    כהי עור (dark-skinned) - then why not מקורזלי שיער (curly-haired) or even ארוכי שמוליק (I won't translate this one)?

    Read here http://www.faz.co.il/story_847 ("A settler, a Jewish and a negro go to the sea"), about the shift of negro => black => dark-skinned => Afro-American => African American => ...
    Last edited: May 2, 2009
  9. RaLo18 Senior Member

    The point is that, just like the term Negroes, the term "kushim" is nowadays considered racist, and shouldn't be used.
    The term's origin and usage in the past don't matter, like the Hebrew saying מה שהיה היה (whatever was, was), the only thing that does matter is its usage today, and today, it's used mostly as a racist term.
    Last edited: May 2, 2009
  10. BezierCurve Senior Member

    I've noticed this trend in a few other countries (like Hungary or Poland), which historicaly had no reason - just like Israel, which didn't have any colonies - to see those words as derogatory. It was only after the English term "nigger" started to be considered offensive, that the rest of the world for no reason decided, that so were their own native words, so far translated into English as "nigger".

    Personally I don't think it was a valid argument for speakers of other languages to desperately start looking for another word in their dictionary, but I suppose a word is offending when you consider it so. For the sake of people, who might find it offending, I wouldn't use such words anymore.
  11. Ensign_Sulu New Member

    Not that there's a phonological difference between kushi meaning "person from the land of Kush" and kushi meaning "Nigger." In the former, the stress is on the final syllable; in the latter it's on the first.
  12. origumi Senior Member

    AFAIK the stress in kushi should always be on the last syllable (מלרע), in both meanings, although most Hebrew speakers always stress the first syllable (מלעיל).

    Maybe it's under the influence of other foreign nationalities, for example Iraqi, Americani. As a biblical name Kushi/kushi won "native Hebrew" sound.
  13. macforever Senior Member

    As far as I know, the Hebrew word "kushim" is a derogatory term for black people.
  14. GeriReshef

    GeriReshef Senior Member

    As many answers have mentioned- the word כושי is a biblical term whick reffers specifically to peoplr from כוש and in general - to black skin people.
    When I was a boy, during the 60's and the 70's, there were no africans in Israel and we could only see them in moovies or read about them in books, and the name כושי reffered from our point of view to strange or exotic people from far away whose skin - how strange - was black, or sometimes as nickname for people who had dark skin (for example - yemenite jews).
    In the last decades, when the PC rules reached Israel, many people thought that we should change the term כושי with another one, in the same manner the Americans changed the terms negro/nigger/black with "Afro American".
    I think it was a very silly step:
    1. In contrary to "nigger" which was invented to humliate, כושי is a neutral biblical name.
    2. While in USA the above mentioned names which reffered to the color were replaced with name which reffer to the place of origin (Afro-American), the Hebrew PC replaced the term which reffers to the geography (כוש) with terms which reffers to the color (שחור).
    3. Racist people have given the word כושי an offensive meaning, in the same manner they have given ערבי an offensive meaning. What should we do now: change the term ערבי with another one? Ask everybody not to mention the English term "Jew" because some antesimists use it as an offensive one?
    The bottom line: כושי is an old biblical Hebrew name, not offensive, and I think we should not hesitate to use it.
  15. arielipi Senior Member

    I would say kushi​ to exact that i dont offend them, but shakhor is way more offensive than kushi.
  16. thestandard Member

    English - Australia
    I completely agree with what you say GeriReshef; replacing כושי is rather stupid but could we simply substitute it with אפריקני, (as "kushi", although semantically neutral is now 'considered' racist by a lot of people) or would that mean something more along the line of an "Afrikaaner"? I personally think כושי is a beautiful and ancient word and it would be a shame if it were neglected just because of the influence of American English and that people are starting to use it in an offensive manner.
  17. macforever Senior Member

    Haaretz digital edition says that kushim is a derogatory word. Who's right and who's wrong?
  18. thestandard Member

    English - Australia
    Put it this way, people may or may not be offended by it. If the context is clearly not offensive then it can be used. It's all up to the individually using it sensitively. The simplest and easiest way to do this would be not to use it at all.
  19. origumi Senior Member

    Take Haaretz with a grain of salt, especially in regard to blaming Israelis in racism and alike.
    As noted above, Kushi is originally a neutral word which got negative meaning in later times but is still used also in its harmless meaning.
  20. GeriReshef

    GeriReshef Senior Member

    Maybe that is the solution:
    Kúshi (מלעיל) - the prevailing pronounciation which could be treated as offensive.
    Kushí (מלרע) - the correct pronounciation which could be treated as the correct term.
  21. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    There's a Youtube video in which Astrith Baltsan (אסתרית בלצן) plays Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. She refers to Black music a lot, usually saying שחור. However, at about 1:39, she refers to the Blues as "הבלוז הכושי", with the mil'el accent. In that context, I don't think it would be taken as offensive - but this was recorded in 2001, and modern Hebrew is evolving faster than most languages. (The video is worth watching for the music. She stops talking at 3:25 and lets Gershwin's music speak for itself from then on. If you're not totally fluent in Hebrew, it has good English subtitles.)

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