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 But neither was really that deep, just an outdated word choice — sorta like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or the United Negro College Fund.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