17 Jun 2008

Smile, When You Call Me “Whitey”

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The Chicago Tribune is attempting to innoculate readers against the possibility that the rumor published by Larry Johnson of a tape of Michelle Obama ranting about “Whitey” may turn out to be true.

It’s hard to come up with an ethnic slur that has less of a sting than “whitey.”

A prevalent yet unsubstantiated Internet rumor has it that Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, used this term at some point in a speech, and the Obama campaign is concerned enough to have posted an online rebuttal.

I’ve got to ask, though. Are there really white people out there so ignorant of history, so unaware of the nuances of language and so threatened by minority grievances that they take genuine umbrage at the term “whitey”?

More a taunt than a threat, the word has no ugly history and hints at no particular stereotypes. It may have been hurled in a menacing fashion in ugly personal confrontations from time to time, but it’s never been used to keep a people down, to put them in their place, to rank them as subhuman.

To be truly offensive, a derogatory term needs to have an ominous context that “whitey” lacks.

Those who take offense are confusing prejudice—which is making negative assumptions about people based solely on external characteristics, of which all races and ethnicities are guilty—with racism, which is prejudice in action.

It requires them to imagine that “whitey” marginalizes, diminishes and therefore harms white people.

And if they’re really that dumb, then I guess they deserve to be insulted.

So there!

They really lit Jeff Goldstein‘s fuse with this one. Jeff retorts:

So yeah. It looks like an Obama presidency will give us a frank discussion on the issue of race. If by “frank” we mean, “shut up and quit you’re bitching, whitey. We’ll tell you what racism is.”

Read his whole Don’t call me nigger, Whitey.

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