Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Racial Labels

As I was contemplating the contents of another posting, I realized I was concerned about how to refer to someone via their race, without being disrespectful or having everyone thinking I'm a redneck racist.

As a nation, we are hung up on political correctness and racial sensitivity, perhaps more so than at any point in our country's history. There is nothing wrong with referring to someone via their race - the government does it all the time. In fact, I break the law if I fail to give a racial label to myself and family for the Census. The problem comes is what words are chosen for such referrals, and whether someone takes offense to them. The current occupant of the White House has really brought the subject to the forefront - that may be the ONLY thing good that comes about from His Presidency, opening the subject of race up for wider discussions.

For instance, we've progressed from Negro to Black to African-American. I'm sure that some other term will become vogue in the future. It is generally meant to identify folks who have black (or near black) skin. I find African-American to be misleading - there are many, many folks who could be considered Black that aren't of African heritage. There are also many Africans whose skin is not black. Are those folks offended by the racial label? I also find that most folks I know who have this skin pigment generally refer to themselves as Black. Now, I do not mean to excuse in any way the N Word or other terms that are specifically meant to be derogatory.

What really set this subject of for me was how do we refer to folks whose appearance and skin color shows heritage of south of our current border? Most people use the label 'Hispanic' (including themselves), but as defined by the US Government, Hispanic is not a race. In addition, somehow the immigration debate has allowed us to interpret a person's country of origin as a racial slur - i.e. Mexican. Instead of refering to someone who originated in that country, its a racial insult that will get you clocked almost as fast as the N Word. OK, so what is an appropriate, acceptable term?

For that, we can pattern after the term Native American. Native American has superseded American Indian as the accepted term designating someone whose heritage links back to North America prior to the arrival of Europeans.

People whose heritage lies south of our border are also Native Americans, from that definition. Now, they are not the same Native Americans as Native Americans north of the border (see where this gets so confusing ????).

I'm sure someone has thought of this before, but I'll put it forth as an original thought from me (in that I didn't steal it from someone else). We should have the terms Native North American, and Native Central/South American. NNA and NCSA.

Once we are done accepting those terms, we can move on to addressing the inaccuracies of 'African-American'.

I'm going to start using those acronyms where appropriate. There is absolutely nothing racist, nothing insulting, nothing demeaning intended. It's just an attempt by an average white person to say something about race without pissing off someone, somewhere. Silly ... yeah, well maybe it is ... but so is being stuck in a society whose racial over-sensitivity has made us all scared to talk about it.

By the way ... shouldn't I take offense if someone refers to my race as 'white'? After all, it is Anglo-American, isn't it? (Sorry to disappoint - I do not find 'white' to be offensive. Cracker, or Whitey ... well those are another matter.)

Now, if this posting offends anyone, I apologize - it is not intended in any way to offend anyone. But, if it does, then I guess that glaringly illustrates my points.

Update - Heck, I haven't even posted this yet, and I have to update it ...

Hallmark Greeting Cards has a Space themed card in its 2010 college graduation lineup. It is being forced to pull this card off the shelf after the Los Angeles NAACP complained that it was racist.

The card is an audio one. Its message says "Hey World, we are officially putting you on notice. And you black holes, you are so ominous. Watch your back." It is meant to covey notice to the universe that this graduate is not afraid of anything. Kind of stupid, but most cards are.

Leon Jenkins, of the LA office of the NAACP released this statement: "That was very demeaning to African-American women when it made reference to African-American women as whores, and at the end it says 'watch your back'."

Leon, you're an A #1 IDIOT.

The recording says 'black hole' .... not 'black ho'.

It is evident you've been speaking ghetto so long that you can't understand English pronunciation.

If this was just about Leon's inability to understand what he is hearing, that'd be one thing. For the NAACP to press Hallmark, and for Hallmark to respond to this stupidity by pulling the cards off the shelf ... well, that's quite an example of our nation's absolute panic over the issue of race these days.

If Obama was champion of race relations, of making everyone equal, of breaking down the walls between the races, he should be out front and center on this, showing us and the NAACP in particular how out of control, out of touch, and out of brain power they are.

How are we supposed to get by race as an issue with stupidity like this being recognized and rewarded?

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