You can’t say, “colored”. Not that you would, the word has been out of fashion, with one glaring exception, for years. As a word, it is utterly harmless. If you described a black person as “colored” in a sentence, there is no valid reason to assume that you would mean any harm. But the assumption would likely be made. A comical case in point: Matt Damon confronting Bernie Mac in Oceans Eleven.
But when I was little – we’re talking the Johnson Administration here – I learned that the correct, term for a kid of African decent was “colored”. The formal and respectful term, we were told, when addressing a black adult, was Negro. The NAACP still carries the “colored” in its title.
At a time earlier still, I remember playing in my friend’s yard. I couldn’t have been older than four of five. She would go on and on about “colored people”. I had no idea who the hell she could be talking about. She would tell scary stories about “the coloreds” and how bad they were. For some reason, I got it in my head that she was talking about people whose skin was all the colors of a pack of fruity Chiclets. That was the only frame of reference I could come up with. Then one day, we were on her front lawn. That was already a problem because we were always supposed to stay in the back yard. Suddenly, she ran behind a bush and told me to “get down!”
I looked around. “What?”
I froze. I had butterflies in my stomach and an urge to duck. I slowly turned in the direction she was pointing. Across Rundale Avenue, some kids were walking home from school. I look around urgently, looking for the dangerous people she had told me about. I saw no one. Just the older kids. “Where are they?”
“Right there!”, she hisses.
“Those guys? They’re not colored.” Then it dawned on me. They were darker than us. It never meant anything to me. And I didn’t know the significance of her hiding in the bushes. When I asked my mom about it later, I used the term colored. She immediately corrected me.
“Negro,” she said firmly. “Colored isn’t a real word.” Needless to say, I was a confused little kid. I would spend my early grade school years saying,”negro” at home and “colored” when I was outside.
This was one of those odd incidents that stay with you. It all struck me as so silly. I would later start to grasp some significance as I realized you had to go all the way to Chester Avenue on one side of my town and Bailey road on the other, just to see the home of a what?…Negro family? Colored family? Christ!!
In the late sixties, between the dawn of the hippie age and the black exploitation films popular in the seventies, the term Afro-American came into use and gained popularity. Very quickly, if you didn’t use the term, you were at best, old school and at worst, racist because you were not classifying another human being as they insisted on being classified. Later, the term “black” was supposed to be the proper term. Truth be told, by that time, my friends and I always used the terms black and white. It was simple and everybody knew what the hell you were talking about.
Later still, the term African-American came into style. I never liked it because I never liked hyphenated Americans. I also thought it pretentious. But, what the hell… In my writing, if I even think to make a distinction, you’ll see me use black and African-American interchangeably. I rarely do make such distinctions among people, so you’ll rarely see it. But why such a fuss when people don’t mean anything when they use whatever term they were once brow-beaten to say, with that term now having fallen out of favor?
Why? Because we are being programmed. If you speak in anger, the listener can tell by context or tone that you think ill of them. When you use street vernacular in addressing someone, they know immediately whether or not it is intended as an insult. But these terms, steeped in a history of racial friction, have been made earth-shattering issues by those who are good at agitating and enjoy behavioral engineering. The result is that people are always on social eggshells, worried that they may offend the sensibilities of someone else with a slip of the tongue or a joke they thought harmless. The actions of people we never met against the victims we never met, are fashionably carried forward to add a sense of drama to the lives of some individuals and the needless the discomfort of the group.
I am still that kid on my friend’s front lawn. I don’t see the point of any of it. I never think in terms of race. The only time it comes to mind, regardless of company, is when someone makes an issue of their own or someone else’s race. Then I just get annoyed, and sometimes empathetically embarrassed for the speaker.
Recently we have been treated to this type of thin-skinned drama in DC surrounding another socially protected group, the Native American. I am not going to say anything you haven’t read or thought about already. But I have been wanting to comment on this for a while.
Let me start by saying they didn’t name the team the Washington Pussies for a reason. When a team is given a name, the intent is to create personae that, it is hoped, will be impressive, even intimidating. It is also a name that team owners hope the community will rally around. If the team plays well, even if they only try hard and play consistently, the team becomes a source of pride for fans. Fans like Harry Reid who up until now watched the Redskins on his laptop while he worked so he wouldn’t miss a game.
In the case of the Redskins, the name has been around for 100 years. The logo was an American Indian, ready for battle, rallying his friends to the cause with his cry. It was only in the 80s that a few people figured out they could make a political name for themselves by encouraging individuals from a small tribe to don the mantle of victimhood and accusing an NFL team of racism. If the point of a team name was to make someone look stupid or for the players to put on uniforms they are ashamed of, these people who are voluntarily showing everyone their bellies in imaginary defeat, would have had a point. For example: Let’s say Snyder decided he wanted to find a perfect target of shame and embarrassment. Let’s suppose he wanted to take on an image of that target and also embarrass that target every week on the football field. It would be so easy, even geographically thematic. He could change the team colors to a dingey brown and grey, have a slouchy mascot with a petulant whiney schtick and call the team the Harry Reids. It would be the perfect DC team! Or…his logo could be a chinless, pudgy-cheeked man. The mascot could go to a microphone before every game and spout a bunch of meaningless inanities and they could call the team the Mitch McConnels. See? Now we’re talking insult!
But, so far, on this the third go-round of the phony outrage, Snyder intends to keep the name Redskins. He’d be foolish to do otherwise. This is a brand a century in the making, named for the first head coach, an American Indian (or Native American, don’t want to get anyone’s nose out of joint). There are high school teams all over the country that also carry the name, including one in Washington State that is made up of predominantly Native Americans. They’ve already announced that they are not going to change their name. Oops…
The bottom line is that it is no one else’s business what you chose to name your business. If it truly is offensive, it will fail. People aren’t stupid. They’re not going to rally around some pathetic name like the Washington Welfare Sponges or the Washington Democrats. Society will marginalize things that are considered offensive. We do it all the time. Nobody will ever be allowed to open a strip joint next to Fawn Lake in Virginia. Why? Because it is considered offensive. It will not be welcome. Andrew Dice Clay wore out his welcome when all his fans, suffering form the immature urge to shock, got tired of his routine.
In the past year we’ve seen the same types of professional crybabies try to drive a perfectly legitimate restaurant chain out of business. We’ve seen political activists comb through lists of donors to political causes, a personal right the last time I checked, and vilify the CEO of a successful tech company in the most dishonest and spiteful way to the point where that man lost his job. Why? Because he chose to believe in a cause the crybabies didn’t. HOW DARE HE? DOESN’T HE REALIZE THAT THE MODERN AMERICAN LIBERAL IS THE MOST PIG-HEADED, CLOSED MINDED, ILLIBERAL POLITICAL CREATURE OF ALL TIME?! SUCH A LACK OF SENSITIVITY! DESTROY HIM!!!
Okay, the sarcasm switch is off. But if you’re still reading, you and I both know that such character assassinations are beneath contempt and should enjoy no respect whatsoever. None. In fact they deserve any insult that might be heaped upon the effort.
To that end, I have a suggestion. Grab some Redskins gear; a towel, a drink cozy, a hat and wear it or carry it. No matter who your team is* or what sporting event you may be attending, wear it or carry it. By all means, wear your home team colors too. But get the Skins gear out there. This for two reasons: First, it is well past time we started to support the rights of free market entities against the disingenuous whiners in society. Make no mistake, these crybabies need to feel that they are being obeyed. They truly think that their narrow view of the world is the only view and you to which must conform. So thumb your nose at them by waving your Redskins towel. Second, it will be a test to see just how far down into the politically correct shit bucket this society has slid. Wouldn’t it be interesting if, say, the Pittsburg Pirates organization banned Skins gear. Could you imagine how toweringly shallow and stupid they would look on the news confiscating some kid’s towel at the gate? Or telling some season ticket holder to remove his hat because the markings on it don’t fit what the crybabies dictate? It is not outside the realm of possibilities, but my faith is with the individual team owners and common sense.
But do get your gear. I am ordering a towel. And tell your friends to do the same. We’ll call it a blow against the division of society; us from our friends who don’t agree with us by people who thrive on the division. Let’s all thicken our skins, no pun intended, and live in a world where what is said and what is clearly intended cannot be perverted by Orwellian piss pots.
And for goodness sake, keep your sense of humor. We’ll start here: I am of Irish decent** and retired Navy. There’s got to be hundreds of jokes surrounding those two things. I invite everybody to take your best shot. Don’t pull any punches in the comment section, below. I want some funny Navy and Irish jokes. Jokes submitted by existing “protected groups” get extra points. Life should be fun. What can be more fun than busting each others chops about things over which we have no control? Well, at least until the first pussy hires a lawyer and calls us all bullies. Even that’s kind of fun when you think about it.
Note to the victim class: Call this my contribution to the dialog about race you are always whining for. But know I really don’t give a crap what your race is. Neither you nor I picked that for anyone or for ourselves. It just is, and what non-mouth-breather gives a real damn.
*My family lives and dies by the performance to the Eagles, Phillies and Flyers.
** As a fifth generation American, I am about as Irish as Alan Dirshowitz. I just needed a frame of reference to get the ball rolling from here.
Get your gear!