Sunday, January 10, 2010

Negro, please!

Rude Pundit is trying to figure out what was wrong with what Harry Reid said about Obama (other than using the word "Negro," but old people will do that). It seems like he was stating the obvious about racism in America, and that freaks us the fuck out.

I'm 64, so I guess I fit in the 'old' category. I remember when 'Negro' was the only completely publicly acceptable word for black people. 'Colored' was socially acceptable among whites in daily conversation. It degenerated from there. I had a boss once who used the term 'our ebony-hued brethren' in a spirit of irony. The use of 'black' came in the late '60s pretty much at the request of our ebony-hued brethren, and 'African-American' and the less cumbersome and my choice, 'Afro-American' came a little later. 'Brother' ( and 'Sister') came a lot later.

When I was in the service (1963-66), 'Negro' was too formal and 'colored' was considered pejorative, so we used the term 'splib' for black Marines. Staff NCOs and above sometimes used 'dark green Marine', but most of us thought that was as phony as a $3 bill. I have no idea of the origin of 'splib', but I have been told it's an acronym for something and would love to know what it's an acronym for.

The splibs called the white Marines 'chuck', from 'Mr. Charles', the archetypical term for slave owners of yore. Neither blacks nor whites took any offense at these words and they were helpful descriptors since we all dressed alike.

A typical usage might be:

"I'm lookin' fer Corporal Washington."

" Tall splib over there talkin' ta them two chuck dudes."

I wish we had functionally neutral terms like that now.

'Negro' is now considered by some to be an ethnic or racial slur. Not by me. I see it as archaic, but I see nothing wrong with it, though I don't use it much anymore. It is nice to be considered historic and archaic, I guess, you fuckin' whippersnappers...

There's no need to go into the truly hateful words used by both blacks and whites and every other skin color to put each other down. We all know and don't use quite a few of them, and there is nothing to be gained by it.

At this point, I must disclose that since Obama has become President and convinced all the ignorant throwback wingnut white racists that the country is on a steepening slide to socialist/fascist/Nazi/communist/mixed race godless fuckery, that I have used the word 'nigger' to make that very point. I've been called on it too, by people who didn't get my meaning.

I find myself agreeing with George Will (gasp!) on This Week With George Stephanopoulos' Hair this morning who asked the burning question, "What did Reid say that was false?"

Obama is light skinned, and whether that means something less threatening than 'African-so-black-it's-almost-blue' to many whites who don't know any better or not, or he's not black enough like some blacks may think who don't know any better or not, it's a simple statement of fact.

He doesn't have a 'Negro dialect' unless he wants to. He also doesn't have a Hawaiian dialect unless he wants to. He can slip into a light version of either of 'em pretty easily, and I like to listen to him when he does. It sure doesn't make him sound stupid like when Bush would slip into his phony Texican to sound more like Ignorant Joe Six-Pack.

I will not dignify the bullshit comparison of Reid's statement to the statement by Lott that, thank you Jesus, sent him packing other than to say that Lott's statement was demonstrably both racist and wrong. Reid's was not.

Dr. King was absolutely right when he said he longed for a time when men will be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. That day is coming, but as long as there is political advantage to be gained by the exploitation of race in this country, and as long as people teach their children to hate and look down on others on the basis of race, religion, color, or creed, that day will come more slowly than it should. It's been that way since the dawn of time and will probably continue 'til the planet is stardust again, but as individuals we do not have to participate in madness.


Anonymous said...

SPLIB = Superior People Liberated In Bondage

Anonymous said...


Bob Marlowe said...

My father, now age 90, a trucker in the 50's and 60's would, in a calm, civilized voice, face to face with a black man, say "Hey, pickaninny, is that your truck?" The other man would respond as if he had said "Hey, buddy...".

Bob Marlowe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Anonymous said...

"splib" is a portmentau for "spade liberal" first coined in the early 60's, ironically by Black Power activists, to describe African-americans that believed in desegregation but didn't want to rock the boat, usually when around the chucks; the veritable "house negro". It was used in the military service during that era to refer to blacks as the term didn't have the pejorative connotation attached to other slurs. It is, by the very nature it's a slur, inherently as negative as those.

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