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Is “moro” a racist term?


I sometimes hear even quite educated people in Spain refer to anyone they seem to perceive to be a black/north African/muslim immigrant as a moro. This isn't always used in an explicitly derogatory sense, but the use of the term brings up uncomfortable parallels in my mind to how e.g. chinky is used in English.

Is this term seen as racist or derogatory in Spain1 (specifically, by those it's used to refer to)?

1. Note: I'm asking specifically about how the term is perceived in Spain, not in other regional contexts e.g. how the term has been reappropriated by the Bangsamoro people in the Philippines (similar to filipino itself).


The RAE's DLE doesn't list any of the uses of moro as pejorative, but in English language publications it's frequently described as such. E.g. in journalism:

Last week, at least 24 immigrants - mostly Moroccans (moros, in derogatory Spanish) who make 30 per cent of the population in the village of Campohermoso, east of Almeria - were attacked by hooded white men with chains and baseball bats.
Moroccans terrorised by racist Spanish gangs (theguardian.com)

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Even in educated company, words such as the derogatory moro...
Racism in Spanish football (thetimes.co.uk)

And in bilingual dictionaries:

2. (Spain) (informal, pejorative) (= del norte de África) North African
Collins Spanish-English Dictionary

And in academic literature:

When academics speak about Islamic Spain in, the convention is to avoid the term moor or moro, a word that manages to be, simultaneously, uselessly imprecise and full of racial animus... I wonder how rank-and-file lay citizens understand the honor bestowed by the existence of the statue they call “the moor”: ... Without fully knowing the depths of the racism encoded in such a moniker?
Not a Moor, Exactly, S.J. Pearce

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"Moro" is Spanish for Moor and is normally used as a derogatory term for people of Arabic origin.
Tying Racism in El Ejido to Spanish and European Politics

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... complex relation between Spaniards and North African immigrants, who are still labelled with the derogatory epithet of moros.
Transcultural Modernities: Narrating Africa in Europe

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In the bars there is a lot of talk among Algecireños about what is called the 'silent invasion of moros' (a pejorative term for Moroccans).
Geopolitics of European Union Enlargement: The Fortress Empire

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The moros are, even today, "the other" race, the antagonists of the Christian Spaniards for centuries, and they are not to be trusted at all. This pejorative sense is underlined in these ballads...
Translating Sensitive Texts: Linguistic Aspects, Karl Simms

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It is also a reality that the Spanish identity, like the European one but with many more historical points of reference, has been built in opposition to the picture of the Muslim in general and the Moroccan in particular, considered in pejorative terms as 'the Moor' ('el moro').
Multiculturalism, Muslims and Citizenship: A European Approach, Ricard Zapata-Barrero
8. The Muslim community and Spanish tradition
Mauriphobia as a fact, and impartiality as a desideratum

The above is also cited in: The Multiculturalism Backlash: European Discourses, Policies and Practices.

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The worst collective attack against Moroccans in Spain, that of 2000 in El Ejido, Almeria, can be read, together with the explosive economic and social circumstances that surrounded it, as an instance when the imaginary Moor—that threatening and violent being who comes to Spain to rape and kill its inhabitants—was blurred with the real immigrant...

The language of physical and verbal violence with which dozens of vigilantes from the town and the surrounding areas engaged the Moroccans was that of violent confrontations of the past, of “la caza del moro” [“Moor hunting”], echoed in the slogans “¡fuera moros!” [“Moors Out!”] and “¡muerte al moro!” [“Death to the Moor!”]. It is through this language of identification, when Moroccan immigrants (and anyone who is Muslim or Arab) are named “moros” [“Moors”], that we can most explicitly see the Moroccans’ transformation into ghosts of the past. The inherent violence contained in this naming, and the rejection it implies, is explained in Dormir al raso.

The Return of the Moor: Spanish Responses to Contemporary Moroccan Immigration

Note especially this paper, which addresses hate-speech in far-right facebook groups, and makes a distinction between inherently offensive terms (e.g. moros) and terms describing other targets of discrimination which are not inherently offensive (e.g. catalanes):

... the use of slurs increased over time... Among the most co-occurring words were the terms moros—an offensive word referring to Moroccans—and offensive terms against other ethnicities such as sudacas (South Americans).

On the DN Facebook page, the word catalanes (Catalans) was frequently mentioned next to an insult. On the PP’s page, the most frequent terms next to an insult were catalanes in 2011 and nacionalistas in 2012, and the term moritos, an offensive word used to designate Moroccans, also occurred. These slurs appeared in the comments space.

Hate Speech and Covert Discrimination on Social Media: Monitoring the Facebook Pages of Extreme-Right Political Parties in Spain