Tag: racial slur

The Ultimate Insult

I was at a wedding reception when I saw her — a blonde woman trying in vain to get down with Kool & the Gang’s Jungle Boogie. A man seated near me gestured to the woman and pronounced her, “the whitest person I’ve ever seen.”

We all knew what he meant, of course. She couldn’t dance. She was awkward. She was way uncool. And he summed up all that negativity with the single word “white.”


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Some of My Best Friends Are…

Every time I write about the GOP’s image problem with Latino voters, some conservative sends me an angry missive insisting that it’s all the liberal media spreading lies. I discover that not only does the Republican Party respect Hispanics, but it has their best interests at heart. The missive usually ends by telling me that Republicans are actually the most open-minded and tolerant of Americans.

And then approximately fourteen minutes later, a GOP leader will say something like this:

“My father had a ranch. We used to have fifty to sixty wetbacks to pick tomatoes.

That’s Alaska Representative Don Young, a Republican, who recently said this during a radio interview. Honestly, I don’t know what point he was trying to make, because I can’t get past the casual use of the term “wetback.”

Of course, Young’s fellow Republicans were quick to distance themselves from his offhanded bigotry, while stressing, “Hey, hey, we’re crazy about Latinos.” But this was not some risqué joke or harmless gaffe. This was an elected official resorting to slurs when referring to the fastest-growing ethnicity in America.

Now, I’m not saying that the Democratic Party is immune to racism, but honestly, when was the last time you heard of a Democrat saying something so prima facie bigoted? Yes, I know all about Biden’s “back in chains” comment — something that is not even in the same universe as far as offensive language.

So I have to wonder why wildly derogatory and/or lunatic statements seem to spring solely from the mouths of Republicans.

Sure, such comments are not as egregious as the GOP tendency — even eagerness — to excuse rape. As such, perhaps misogyny is still the Republicans’ number-one issue. But you would think a political movement that, by its own admission, has an image problem with ethnic minorities would take just the smallest care not to fling around racial epithets like its 1950.

So let’s go ahead and accept the congressman’s apology that “there was no malice in my heart or intent to offend,” while dismissing his slur as a simple “poor choice of words.”

But just this once, will you conservatives spare me the corrective email insisting that I have it all wrong? Can you just drop the denial about the white-hot strain of racism in your party that you have allowed to fester and grow? Instead, spend that energy by actually trying to drag your GOP brethren into the twenty-first century.

Or just keep doing what you’re doing. Then sit back and wait from that big group hug from Latinos, because deep down we know that you really, really love us.


The End is Here

There’s a new horrifying sign that America is on the decline.

I’m not talking about the chaotic state of our politics, or the struggling economy, or even the fact that half of us refuse to acknowledge basic scientific facts.

I’m referring to the recent implication that white conservative guys can’t casually throw around racial slurs anymore. Truly, it’s a sign of the apocalypse.

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When Did You Know?

I watched my mother hammer a nail into the wall. She missed, hitting her thumb.

A stream of Spanish obscenities leaked out of her. I was alarmed, and not just because she was shaking her hand and hopping around. I had never heard so many undecipherable words at once. Then again, I was six years old.

When my mother calmed down, I asked, “What did you say?”

“Never mind,” she said.

“But what does ‘puta’ mean?” I asked.

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The S and W Words

First off, let me admit that I have used the word “redneck.” For whatever reason, this term (an obvious racial prejorative) seems to have enough cultural connotations to remove it from outright slur. The fact that many Southern whites wield it like a badge of honor also helps lessen its impact.

But I’ve never called anyone a cracker. The difference, of course, is completely arbitrary, and I don’t expect plaques from humanitarian organizations to award my great, great sensitivity.

But it seems to me that if I’m going to ask white people to refrain from verbal hooliganism, it’s only fair that I don’t turn around and refer to an Anglo person as white trash because I’m, you know, dark-skinned and stuff.

Notice that I’m not afraid to use these terms, like my head will explode if I say, “gringo.” Let’s not get hypersensitive. But it would indeed be sad if I thought I was being edgy by calling someone a honky. That’s not daring or insightful. It’s just lazy and dismissive.

By the way, before accusations of political correctness are hurled about, let me head them off by pleading for the long-overdo retirement of that term. Those two words haven’t meant anything since the late 1990s, and even then they were empty sloganeering that could be (and were) applied to everything from liberal orthodoxy to angry stand-up routines to the New York Jets offensive line. Nothing is politically correct or incorrect anymore.

In any case, I offer a deal. I will try to avoid terms that could be interpreted as a slam on white people in general (eg, the aforementioned cracker, honky, etc) if Anglos refrain from attempts to prove their hipness or street cred by throwing around the S and W words like confetti.

It’s perhaps unclear what we’re talking about. So let me clarify.

The S word is spic.

The W word is wetback.

Neither of these terms is as vivid, as ugly and jarring, as the dreaded N word, which is powerful enough to provoke discomfort even in its euphemistic form (when it comes to dehumanizing insults, blacks have the advantage, or disadvantage, over Hispanics).

But I’m proposing this because I’ve noticed that some white people seem to think these terms are harmless, or even endearing. I’m sorry to tell you that they are not. In fact, calling a Latino a spic is a damn good way to get your ass kicked all over the place, even as you shout, “But I’m down with brown! I’m down with brown!” in appeasement.

In essence, I’m providing a community service by pointing out that these words are not ok. Trust me, it might help you avoid a tense, culturally awkward moment. And we all have enough of those anyway.

So do we have a deal?

If This Is Wednesday, It Must Be…

First, Rob has added to the discussion under “Defining My Terms.”

Second, Keg has contributed an interesting, and rather dark, insight to my previous post (“My Master Plan Revealed”).

Third, I have to apologize for this post in advance – not because it is offensive, but because I am giving free publicity to idiocy. I had planned to ignore it, but I’m going to risk granting attention to these individuals because it illustrates an important principle.

Here’s the back story: Recently, a bar in Pittsburgh promoted its midweek special by advertising the event as “Wetback Wednesday.” When several groups and individuals pointed out the undeniable racism of the term, the bar owner insisted that it was all just a joke.

Yes, it’s quite the chiste. I’m sure we all laughed far into the night.

I look forward to Jigaboo Thursdays and Gook Sundays. And I’m sure we can get much more derogatory, all in the interest of a chuckle.

Berkeley Breathed (creator of Bloom County and other comic strips) coined the term “offensensitivity” to connate getting riled up about nothing. That’s certainly a problem in this country, and too often we see people getting incensed about harmless jokes or cutting observations.

But it’s clear that if there are ever grounds for getting somewhat peeved, it’s when a term that exists solely to denigrate a group of people is blithely and proudly displayed in public (to advertise fun and good times, no less). At the very least, it has to actually be funny and/or insightful to be defensible. And really, lazy alliteration with no context beyond “drink here” doesn’t cut it.

So let’s assume, and the proposal seems reasonable to me, that people aren’t being hypersensitive in this case when they object.

As such, there are only three possible ways an individual can explain putting up such a sign:

  1. I am a racist and am being overt about it
  2. I am a racist but know it is socially unacceptable, so I’ll hide behind the lamest joke of all time
  3. I am not a racist and made an honest mistake while trying to be funny

I do not know what was going through the bar owner’s mind when he put the sign up. In the news story, he is identified only as Mark (I’m going to presume that his last name is not Gonzalez). But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he is number three (not a racist).

As such, here is a quick education. “Wetback” is a stunningly insulting word to Hispanics, comparable to the dreaded N-word for blacks (and I notice that this phrase does not have its own nightly drink special at the bar). The chief competition for word most likely to get you thrashed by a Latino is “spic,” which I also highly recommend that you avoid.

Using these words is not edgy or blackly comic or un-PC or a victory for the First Amendment. It’s just idiotic.

When people object to such slurs, they are not (as a mocking sign at the bar later insisted) being “easily offended.”

Rather, they are pointing out that if you’re the majority culture, you already run everything. You don’t get to tell minorities how they should refer to themselves. It’s even dicer to tell them what they should find funny. To scream that this is unfair is, well, pretty damn ironic actually. But it’s still not witty.

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