Murzyni – a positive word

Murzyn (noun, plural Murzyni) is an old Polish word used to describe a dark-skinned person. The term derives from a word ‘Maur’ (see Mauritania) and was initially used to name all people coming from Northern Africa. Etymologically, it comes from the same root as the English word Moor. Semantic range of the word ‘Murzyn’ has evolved over the years to incorporate a broader meaning; now is predominantly used to describe any male person perceived as dark-skinned relative to others, while belonging to a “black” ethnicity in their particular country, typically having a degree of Sub-Saharan African ancestry. Isidore of Seville, writing in the seventh century, claimed that the Latin word ‘Maurus’ was derived from ‘mauron’, μαύρον, which is the Greek word for ‘black’.

A Note on Terms

Using terms like “black,” “white,” and “interracial” runs the risk of making racial categories appear more stable and concrete than they really are. Nevertheless, these terms have social meanings that help construct people’s understanding of the world and shape their reality. The social realities of race exist and will not be deconstructed simply by changing our language. The term “black” is employed to refer to people of African ancestry in the United States (it seem more appropriate to use “black” rather than “African American” because not all blacks consider themselves African Americans). “White” refers to those people defined by law and custom as “white,” a group that has shifted over time. The terms “interracial” and “biracial” are employed because these are the terms people use in their own lives and because there is no easy way to avoid this language. “Intermarriage” and “interracial marriage” can be used interchangeably to refer specifically to black-white interracial marriages. /R.C.Romano – Race Mixing/


Murzyni – a word with positive meaning

In general, words like ‘Murzyn’ and ‘Murzyni’ carry a lot of positive energy, when spoken by Poles in most situations nowadays. In a famous scene from ‘Miś’ (a popular Polish TV comedy by Stanislaw Bareja from 1980) a woman is excited by the tricks one black basketball player is doing on TV. Her husband who’s watching with her seems a bit jealous. TV commentator:

Trochę w tym cyrku, trochę zabawy, a najwięcej robienia z nas tak zwanego tata-wariata.

(Ona) –Niesamowici są ci Murzyni!

(On) – No.

(Ona) – Oh, nie w tym znaczeniu, ale w ogóle. Patrz, jak on się rusza!

(On) – Czy ty wiesz, jak byłem młody, to też byłem Murzynem i grałem w kosza. Poważnie. Tak robiłem, patrz! …tak robiłem, potem mi przeszło.

A bit of a circus, a little fun, and most of making us the so-called daddy-crazy.

(She) –Amazing are those blacks!

(He) – Mhm.

(She) – Oh, not in this sense, but in general. Look how he’s moving!

(He) – Do you know when I was young, I also was a black man, and played basketball. Seriously. So I did see! … so I did, and then I quit.

That player dribbling the ball in the living room is Kent Washington, who in between years 1978-1983, played in the Polish Basketball League (Start Lublin, Zagłębie Sosnowiec) breaking stereotypes about Poland already back then.

 

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