Jul. 22, 2019

by Jeanne Barnett

I think the word Racist is being grossly misused. To me, growing up, Racist meant that certain ethnic groups did not have the same civil liberties as others, as in Apartheid. Even Archie Bunker and George Jefferson weren't “Racist” because they each had 100% equal rights - but they WERE Bigots. They each had a predisposed disdain for one another based solely upon their ancestries - that is called Bigotry, not Racism. 

But we loved Archie, and we loved George and it was pretty obvious that in their own 'mansplaining' ways, they loved each other.  Edith and Louise spent as much time rolling their eyes at their husbands as they did chatting in each other's kitchens.  This was the 1970's, right on the heels of the Civil Rights movement, and a time when laughing at each other and making light fun of each other's differences was just ok, and most of the population was very happy about that, and about the fact that the horrible racial injustices in our country, (all the way up through the 1960's!) were, or seemed to be, finally over.

Now almost 40 years later, it seems we have taken major steps backwards, or at least the media wants us to believe that we have.  But if you are one of those that is truly enlightened as to the fact that we are all simply just human beings, with far more similarities than differences, and we just so happen to have been born on the same GD planet, the words are meaningless.  Kind of like a field of fireflies, I'm sure there are differences between them, but they just randomly flit about one another and don't seem to have a preference as to where, when and with whom they will shine their light.

What used to be known as 'name calling' or 'teasing', and yes, Bigotry, are now being called Racist, and that seemingly innocent word replacement takes it to a whole different level. To a point where you can't refer to a Mexican as a 'Beaner' (Mexicans do eat a lot of beans) or an Irish guy as a 'Mick' (because more than half of their surnames start with Mc), without someone calling you a Racist.  That's right folks, welcome to the 21st centruy where a simple cultural observation is now Racist. 

In fact, on a personal note, a little while ago where I work, I was on my shift and a busload of young black women came into the store. They must have been an athletic team of some sort because they were all rather tall, wearing athletic gear, and in really fine shape. They were magnificent actually, but what struck me the most was the incredible ways that they had braided and styled their hair. Each one was an elaborate work of art and I wanted to make a comment about how much I admired them, yet I didn't, because I was afraid I'd be thought of as a racist for pointing out something unique to black women's hair.  In the 70's we had no problem teasing our black friends about their gigantic 'Fros... I swear to you.  And they had no problem teasing us about how shitty our dancing was.  But that day in the store, I literally thought that a compliment might be misinterpreted and create an awkwardness... so I kept my admiration to myself.  So sad.

However, I totally understand not using the N word for anyone because it really is just a nasty word. Niggardly (noun: niggard) is an adjective meaning "stingy" or "miserly". It is derived from the Middle English word nigard, which is probably derived from Old Norse hnǫggr ("stingy"). And it is an unhappy coincidence that the word nigard so closely resembles the Spanish/Portuguese word negro, meaning "black", and the French word nègre. Thus, the N word is an unfortunate twist rising out of these two unrelated words. So yes, the N word is a big No No under any circumstances. I don't even like it when POC use it on each other, whether it's done affectionately or aggressively... it's just a really nasty word.

In any event, if we could start looking at this 'name calling', teasing, cultural observations, or descriptive adjectives, if you will, as terms of endearment rather than derogatory labels based upon one's biological heritages or cultures, it would totally change the landscape, and the word RACIST would go back to it's original meaning, which literally doesn't exist in America anymore and then the darn word itself could stop being a part of all of our daily lives.  Racism, actual Racism - in America - ended in the 60's. 

Bigotry, for some however, lives on.