04 June 2007

You say macaca

I am kind of reluctant to wade into this morass, but maybe my faithful readers can help me get through something that has been bugging me.

You KNOW I'm a lifelong bleeding heart liberal, don't you? My roots may be redneck but somehow I turned out to be a pinko. Jane Fonda? Eleanor Roosevelt? Both a little conservative for my tastes.

But one thing I have trouble understanding is these white liberal flipouts over certain "racist" language. Senator George Allen and his macaca comment. Tony Snow refusing to hug the tar baby. And most lately, today, John Gibson and ooga booga fever. I saw at least two blog posts today ripping him for this.

Macaca sounds like a made-up word. Chances are Allen had no idea that it was a francophone Belgian term for certain African groups. It makes me worry because it sounds like something I might make up. Kind of a mehshugeneh/caca mashup.

And isn't the tar baby a familiar term from American folk tales that makes perfect sense in the context - that you don't want to get stuck with something you can't get rid of? Because the Uncle Remus tales were made up using broad stereotypes, does that negate their whole value and make it racist even to use parts of them?

And now ooga booga fever. Is it racist? It seems interesting that the objectors assume that Gibson was talking about a particular racial group when he used a nonsense term for a made-up disease.

I just think these arguments make liberals seem like intolerant, uptight, humorless idiots who don't have anything better to worry about or have any real problems to work on. Are we protecting anything by having these arguments over and over? Do we ferret out real racists with this language policing?

Hit me with the comments.

(On the other hand, I was happy about Imus getting fired. Calling a bunch of college women - oh, I'm not going to repeat it - was way out of line and blatantly racist. Since the airwaves technically belong to the people as a public trust, I see his removal as a benefit).


super des said...

I think people just need something to shout about. Made up words? Racist. Or sexist, or anti-gay, or anti-semitic. Plus they are hiding their own negative feelings towards a group.

The lesson? Only use small standard words of a clear origin.

lizgwiz said...

I think we do tend to over-react, and maybe it stems from a sincere wish to be considerate, but it DOES make us look a little ridiculous at times. Remember the whole to-do about someone (can't remember who; not going to bother to google it now) using the word "niggardly," correctly, and getting holy hell for it, merely because it sounds similar to that other word? THAT is ridiculous.

Personally I'm much more concerned with how people treat me than what they call me. And you can make the most politically correct term in the world sound bad if you say it with the right (or wrong, as it were) inflection.

QT said...

I am so with you on this, but I think we are in the minority. People need to focus less on that and expend their energy on real issues.

If I need to make three or four logical leaps to consider a statement racist -GIVE ME A BREAK!!

There is a whole sector of the white populace that doesn't even know what to say anymore - black or African-American? Hispanic or Latino? Quit worrying about the labels and concentrate on what kind of human being you are dealing with.

Kelly said...

I think George Allen had it coming, because there also seemed to be something overtly bullying about his pointing out the campaign worker. Kind of ominous, from a frat-boy type Republican who maybe hasn't totally grown up. I haven't heard the John Gibson comments, so can't comment on those.

I think you're right about our tendency to knee-jerk reactions, but I think they cover so many aspects of our dialogue. It seems we prefer to NOT actually discuss things sometimes, huh? So we focus on statements rather than issues.

Mignon said...

I'd probably sit right next to you on the left side of the auditorium, Suebob, and I feel the same way. Part of the problem with The Left is we worry too much about making everyone feel good and fit in. While The Right is organizing and preaching, we're all handwringing about the correct phrasology for our teeny-tiny pamphlet printed on recycled paper that we hand out at hemp festivals.

People that vote (Note: not the same as people that can vote, but don't) seem to like the single-minded ideOlogues, and not so much the ideAlogues.

Lynnea said...

Frankly, I'm with you too. I want to hear about issues, policies, ways to make change. I want to have someone who can lead - dynamically. But too much focus on singular words and he said, she said has led us to a place wherein change is now not just desirable, it is necessary. Focus and priorities would be served well by not getting our panties bunged over mere words (made up ones at that).

Day Dreamer said...

I don't think Allen knew exactly what he was saying at all. Gibson, well, I don't know.

I do agree with you for the most part tho. None of them seemed pointedly racist.

I do have to say, tho, that my stupid family has made me ultra sensative to stupid racial comments. I cringe when I hear them.

Day Dreamer said...

Oh, yeah, and Imus...

Na na naaaa na. Na na naaaaa na.
Hey hey hey...goodbye!

Tee Hee.


Kevin Charnas said...

SueBob, I couldn't agree with you more.

People should own their words, yes. However, people should also own their perceptions of themselves. No one can affect us without our consent. So, whether or not something is said mistakingly or not, it really should be up to the person whether they accept the surrender of their own feelings, or whether they let something roll off of them.

I'm gay, and obviously a liberal, but the whole thing of trying to regulate peoples speech, whether it's ignorant, a mistake, or even if it's hate induced is a slippery, terrifying slope.

And the worst case scenario? If someone is full of hatred and spewing all kinds of defaming speech? Well, at least we know where they stand.

Serena Woodward said...

Okay, that last comment was..umm...yeah, moving on....

As far as racisim is concerned I'm of the mind that it depends on who you ask. I was confronted with the issue just recently. A dear friend of mine who is in her seventies made the comment that, "if we don't keep having children the dark skinned ones will out number us soon." It took me back and made me realize that some people say things without realizing their offensive qualities.

If you were to ask some one who is African American I'm guessing you would get a vastly different argument than the one presented here...with a few notable exceptions.

I have my own ideas about racisim and what perpetuates it, but I tend to keep it to myself because I learned a long time ago that like religion, racisim is an emotional issue, not a rational one. You can not debate the issue logically from either side.

LittlePea said...

I do think the whole,"I'm outraged!" has gotten a little over the top. And there's a lot of opportunists out there who like it when these dumb white men say stupid things like that so they can make it into a big thing for their own motives. I can't speak for white liberals but as someone whose received some really filthy racist remarks(and I'm Asian so I also get the prostitute/sexist jokes, and I have relatives who are African-American so we discuss this quite often, oh and I also grew up in the South)or ignorant comments there comes a point where you feel like,"I'm NOT going to put up with this crap for another minute!" So you get to a hypersensitivity level where the littlest thing is cause to get angry because you get so sick of it. I am a firm believer in freedom of speech, but that doesn't mean I have to like the people who think it's ok to say something completely ignorant and offensive and then make excuses after. What I don't get, though, is how everyone gets surprised when people say stuff like that....I'm so used to stupidness coming out of people's mouth, I just expect it. I'm still of the opinion that racism IS a real issue.

I also want to note that I don't think saying something dumb necessarily makes that person a racist, it makes that person, well, dumb.

LittlePea said...

Oh my-I wanted to write gone not gotten- is gotten even a word?


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