Date: Wed, 19 Oct 1994 08:30:51 EDT From: David Muschell Subject: Re: offending idioms >. . . snip, snip . . . > >> nobody has mentioned "nigger rig" yet. >> --Natalie (maynor[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] > >This is a tangent, sorry, but I was offended by this: > >When my grandfather and grandmother were building Boulder Dam (Hoover Dam >is the proper name) on the Colorado River, they had a camp mascot. It was >a jet black dog -- I've seen many pictures -- named "Nigger." In the >thirties, I suppose that was acceptable. Anyway, during the construction, >the dog got run over and died. The workers buried the dog in the dam, >sealing his tomb with the concrete you see nowdays. They marked Nigger's >resting place with a plaque -- something to the effect of: Here lies >Nigger, who helped build this damn dam. Don't quote me on that, but it was >something like that. The plaque was about halfway up the dam and could >not be seen unless you were looking for it. (I saw it through binoculars >once as a child.) Somebody complained -- I don't know how they saw the >marker, unless they knew about it before looking -- and the plaque was >removed. Offensive or not, that was a small part of history. The plaque >was *NOT* in plain sight where everybody *HAD TO* look at it. (You could >just barely see it if you knew it was there!) I find it offensive that >a piece of history was removed in the name of political correctness. If the >federal government feels the need to stop the use of the word "nigger," >how about they start in my neighborhood where the black people call each >other "nigger." (I also object to the politcally correct term African- >American -- the only true "African-Americans" I know are of European >ancestry many generation back, and they are whiter than I am. I don't >personally know any black African-Americans.) (I think I mispelled plaque, >but I don't feel like getting my dictionary out right now. :-) ) > >Maybe "nigger" doesn't seem worth fighting over to me because I'm part white >and part Indian (oops, Native American). By the way, I am *NOT* racist. > >Here's some offensive idioms (?) for your list: >Indian Giver >Apple (red on the outside, white on the inside) >Coconut (brown on the outside, white on the inside -- my wife is Mexican) > >Hey, how about sports teams: >Atlanta Braves, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, etc., etc. >We need, just to be fair, the Nashville Niggers and the Hoboken Honkies. > >Chuck Coker >CJCoker[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]CSUPomona.Edu > >=============================================================================== >There have been no dragons in my life, only small spiders and stepping in gum. >I could have coped with the dragons. > Anonymous (but wise) >=============================================================================== It may sound patronizing (or matronizing), CJ, but it may be consciousness-raising time for you as cave-dweller. As much as I wouldn't want to offend the memory of your grandparents, the name they gave their dog is racist and reflects the very deep-seated, dehumanizing treatment of black people through a long and mainly unfortunate contact with caucasians. The humor they might have found in the name (perhaps even laughing good-naturedly as they called him/her to supper, "Here, Nigger!") is the kind that derogates rather than uplifts--even if quite human. Intuitively speaking, it would seem that one of our goals as cherishers of language is recognition of its powerful vileness as well as its beauty and wonder. Though the PC mindset has gone overboard, its original notion was an inclusiveness in contrast with the exclusivity of the past. Now, whether a group is apparently seeking identity by renaming itself to highlight a trampled heritage--and seems separatist in so doing--the renaming itself reflects respect for language's power in the naming of things. I remember a former partner/spouse's mountain kin goading me on at a Thanksgiving dinner, knowing I was the "liberal college boy," by loudly passing me a bowl and asking if I wanted some "nigger toes" (Brazil nuts) and shouting at the TV football game, "Run, nigger, run!" their eyes glinting with a kind of secret glee, almost hoping I would burst on their turf. No scene for me, whether through cowardice or the holiday's own stifling of conflict (probably the former), though I never returned. The huge sense of mockery of another group clung to me like an annoying fungus--and I itch to this day. I, who am French, Indian, German, Swedish, Scotch-Irish, may grin at the latest excess in lingualaundering, but I certainly understand the "why" of it. CJ, the plaque should have been removed, just as offensive graffiti is washed from the walls, not because the original intent may have seemed harmless to the "insiders" who knew its story, but because we really do need to be wary of the inadvertant hurt caused by terms that are (how do I underline in e-mail?) racist and carry the weight of years. So, I'm preaching and you're offended...the neat thing about these billboards on the superhighway is that, unlike plaques hung on distant dams, you can delete this with one keystroke. David