Negro Please

I remember when I first realized that I might be overly sensitive when it came to race and discussions surrounding the topic.

I was 15 minutes into the film “Ratatouille,” the film about a Five-star chef rat, and reading between the lines. Remi’s brother had just told him that he’d get in trouble for reading a book and the next thing you knew, the rats were on the run, in fields, from a white person with a gun. It seemed like the 1850s and the Underground Railroad to me.

But it was a film about a rat who taught himself how to cook, and not an analogy to slavery (although Remi did end up doing all of the work for a white man who took all of the credit). I just had to take it there. And at some point I had to snap out of it and say to myself “Negro please.”

Unless you’ve been playing in the snow, for real, you know that the 2010 U.S. Census offered “negro” as an option to check for your race. You also know that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has apologized for saying that President Barack Obama could win the election because of his “light-skinned” appearance (I won’t touch that) and his lack of a “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

The incidents were quite unnecessary. But neither was really that deep, just an outdated word choice — sorta like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or the United Negro College Fund.

Unless the people who construct the Census were trying to look out for Spanish-speaking Haitian Americans, there’s no real reason to have Negro on the census. I mean, seriously, negro literally means black in Spanish.

On Harry Reid’s front, there are plenty of black people running around saying “That [negro] sounds ‘white,'” probably not as many as there are white people saying “He doesn’t talk like a black man” or better yet, “He speaks so well.” But still, when you think about it, Reid had a point. In a word: Jesse.

It makes me wonder if some black people just feel uncomfortable about the word “negro” because of how we often use it to imply that other n-word, the infamous one. More black people use negro (and ninja) as a substitute for the other n-word than they do to generally speak about black people (does that makes sense?). If they constantly hear and think of it as a substitute and not for it’s substance, then they’re probably pretty upset right now and misguided.

Negro has never been a negative word. It is, as a friend put it, antiquated. But I don’t think blacks should get bent out of shape because negro was on the Census for a hot second and/or ask Reid to step down as Senate Majority Leader.

Forget that President Obama doesn’t sound like Jesse Jackson. We need to be thankful that he doesn’t sound anything like the faces of the political right wing — Michael Steele (the fool playing his race card who thinks Reid should step down), Sarah Palin (who apparently didn’t know the major American wars of the 20th Century, any of them) and Rudy Guiliani (who has had an apparent case of selective amnesia when it comes to terrorist attacks on American soil). We’d really be in trouble, like we were from January 2001 to January 2009.

No, we need to stop lurking for the next race issue to point and instead save race card swipes for more important things, like when a when a white man who also happens to be an indicted former governor of Illinois says that he’s blacker than your black president.

No, that’s not a joke.

As a random aside, I loathe the term African-American. You’ll never hear me say it and this Smokey Robinson piece below influenced me greatly. I like being called black. It’s simple and adheres to the “don’t use two words when one will do” rule.


17 responses to “Negro Please

  1. I didn’t really see what the big deal was with Negro being on the census anyway. I definitely didn’t see it as a plot to tear down black people. Unless the goal is to make us so mad that we won’t complete the census which would result in our numbers being under reported.

    If anything, this is just another stupid distraction from the more important issues affecting the black community. We need to STOP worrying about a box on a census and START worrying about how many of our young black men are ending up in boxes (pine and metal).

    • “We need to STOP worrying about a box on a census and START worrying about how many of our young black men are ending up in boxes (pine and metal).”

      Some people only seem to care about the things that don’t really matter that much. smh…

  2. You know what, Damon? The only people I can find who were actually offended by what Reid said are white and I think they were only offended because they think they should be.

    I hope black people are watching this and seeing it for what it is. Reid said this a year and a half ago (maybe more) and it’s just now coming up as he approaches a TOUGH re-election. Anyone who thinks the GOP isn’t a machine is sadly mistaken. This is political and Meanwhile, our friends over in the mainstream media are more than happy to beat this dead horse over and over and over.

    Not even Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton is biting on this one. Reid beat the hammer by apologizing to EVERYbody (hell, I’m halfway waiting on him to call ME and apologize)

    Now the comparisons of his comment to the mess Trent Lott said in 2002? Oh, THAT’s offensive and the next guy who does it is going to have a personal conversation with my fist.

    • “Not even Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton is biting on this one.”

      If they won’t touch it, you know it’s not that big of a deal.

      • ‘If they won’t touch it, you know it’s not that big of a deal.’


        You sure about this? These two ALWAYS get some kind of kickback from the stuff that they DO raise a fuss about. Maybe they see no financial and/or personal gain from going after this. The beau said something the other day that had me cracking up: ‘When are these two ever ‘reverending’? …. *crickets*

  3. Morning, y’all.

    Love the video clip.

    I read that the 2010 census left “Negro” as a choice because so many people selected it on the 2000 census. I honestly think it’s a generational thing. I know several old people who still refer to themselves as Negro.

    As far as the former governor of IL, I wonder if he really believes this or if he is drumming up publicity for his show. I think I read somewhere that he’s on an upcoming reality show.

    Steele…no words about him.

    I agree with you about being called black. I also refer to myself this way & like being referred to in this way.

  4. Good post Damon, I saw this vid about a year ago and almost caught the Holy Ghost because Smokey summed up my exact thoughts so eloquently.

    In reference to the word ‘negro’ being on the census forms, I don’t see what the big deal is…certain people see themselves as African American, negro, black, Afro-Caribbean, etc. It’s all semantics…

    In reference to Harry Reid, the more I hear the pundits talking about this the more I realize that everything and I mean EVERYTHING is political. The fellow democrats (blacks) are all saying that it’s no big deal and that they have forgiven his ignorant words….I call bullsh1t. I know for a fact that if a renouned republican had said these exact same words that it would be a slaughter fest. Michael Steele is only doing what he knows would be done if the situation was reversed. I get tired of this Democrat and Rebublican game of ping pong. This is the MAIN reason why I have identified myself as an Independent when it comes to politics. All of them are full of caca and it’s sickening. Harry Reid’s comments were just plain dumb, and not worth discussing any further…

    • Ding. Ding. Ding.

      It’s all about politics. The timing on this is questionable, Harry Reid is Enemy #1 in a lot of people’s eyes, this takes away from debate on healthcare…

      When it comes to DC, it’s always a good idea to ask “who does this news benefit” even before questioning the actual story.

      • @ASmith

        Can we agree, though, that the other side might try this same crap had Harry Reid been a Republican? I just find it rather interesting that all the fellow black democrats are all quick with their forgiving and waving it off…Al and Jesse are staunch Democrats. I wish I could just look into a ‘what if’ machine and see how much of a circus this would be if it were the other way around….

        • Oh absolutely.

          They milked the HELL out of Trent Lott’s comments in 2002. He was wrong as 2 left shoes, but the Dems got him to leave his post as Maj leader and eventually from the Senate, period.

          I will say this, and you may disagree, the GOP machine is better at it than the Dems. When it comes to anything but actual policy, the GOP always beats the Dems because the Dems are stupid when it comes to anything but policy (i.e., they don’t get how policy looks in real world America — they don’t understand that the GOP is able to have their way with avg, middle America because they use regular words; nevermind those regular words are typically misinformed and wrong — at least it’s understandable)

          • @ASmith

            You are exactly right and that’s kind of the point I’m hammering at. The GOP is great at playing ball….period. The Dems policies are another conversation but that seems to be the ONLY thing they lean on when it comes to strategy. The GOP is like that uncle that molested you as a child and then when you grow up sends you a check in the mail for $1 million dollars. They focus on the right now and what happened in the past doesn’t matter. The Dems always go back to what, when, who and how of the past but have a hard time focusing on what needs to be done at the moment. Of course it can be argued over and over again and back and forth, which goes back to the reason for my party affiliation…it’s all a distraction from what’s REALLY going down…

    • “I know for a fact that if a renouned republican had said these exact same words that it would be a slaughter fest.”

      It would be and I think it’d be unnecessary then, too, because nothing harmful was said. Like I said, he just said something a lot of black people say all the time — “he sounds white.”

      The older you get the dumber it sounds, especially when you consider that he’s half-white…

      Like you said, most every politician will spin anything into a political ploy.

  5. Excellent post, black man.

    I don’t pay enough attention when I speak, but I think I use negro and [ninja] interchangeably. I don’t see the problem with blacks using either term, but I don’t appreciate it when it’s used by others outside my race. Harry Reid’s comments were unfortunate, but, like a fellow FBer posted, he shouldn’t have made them publicly. Blago just needs to shut up. Not only are his comments racist, they’re plain idiotic.

  6. Personally I find nothing wrong with the word Negro. I don’t readily identify with it, as other have said, because it is typically used by those that have come before me. I prefer to be identified by my name, but if identifying me by race is a must, then “black” is sufficient enough. I also find nothing inherently racist or ignorant about Reid’s comments. From Reid’s perspective, the perspective of a white man in politics, Obama’s chances of winning hinged on his ability to be viewed as a “safe” black man. What Reid is saying is that if Obama had been a dark skin black man that used “ethnic” terminology many white people, or at least the white people Reid knows of, probably would not have voted for him. And honestly agree. Obama spent his entire presidential race straddling the line of race and not wanting to touch on the subject often, as a way of removing that he was black from the equation. Even Obama knew that had he begun to look too “black” or too “pro black”, he would turn away some of his potential white voters. I personally don’t see what the fuss is. Now for some one to say the country would have been better off run by a Segregationalist, or for someone white to say that they are “blacker” than a black man, that is most definitely ignorant and misinformed and potentially racist.

  7. Another good post D. I agree with Jlbd on being an independent. Rep and Dems are all drowning in a sea of their own BullShyte.

  8. Negro shouldn’t be used. I don’t think it was used with intent. And Reid’s comments show that someone is using, but we should kill it off GP. Besides only like 8 people are around from that time anyway. Colonel Sanders from KFC, Mrs. Buttersworth and Aunt Jemima, Jesse Jackson, Maya Angelou, 2 grandmas locked down at Sylvia’s Soul Food cooking cornbread and this dude who hang out at the barbershop in my neighborhood but never gets a cut. If you said Negro around them, they’d instantly think you were speaking directly to them.

    I think the interesting thing is how often we are reminded of our skin color no matter what the situation. I’ll be glad when I no longer have to be reminded that I’m black, as if I don’t get the hint when I walk into . . . . . . . ANYWHERE!

  9. Ok, so you weren’t the only one who saw something more out of Rataouille (I love that movie, by the way). Though, I didn’t see exactly what you saw…lol. Interesting, though! I kinda got the whole “too big for your britches” sort of vibe from his family. And it kinda ties intot he whole “trying to be white” discussion, too. I got that vibe from Ratatouille’s brothers/father thinking he was “too good” for the family by aspiring to be a chef. It definitely reeked of the “oreo” issue in the Black community.

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