A Cynic's Guide to Insensitivity: How to Discover Your Inner Bigot

A little levity for an otherwise sunny Friday…

"We haven’t insulted anyone lately," said Addison recently.

Today, we make up for it.

Not that we really want to insult anyone. The Daily Reckoning is, although we tend to forget, a commercial enterprise. And as our friend Christoph Amberger reminds us, pecunia non olet. (Money has no odor.)

But we have lately come to the conclusion that we live in a world of delusion. Even our insults are largely phony and preposterous. We look down the list of epithets and slurs on the list of the Racial Slurs Database and laugh. The ‘slur count’ has reached 2,163 and is growing daily. But most are just silly and ridiculous. Did you know that it is considered a slur to call Canadians "51st staters?" Or that in Russia, Jews are known as "cosmopolites?" If that is the best bigots can do, we will soon lose all respect for them.

Bigoted Terminology: Slurs?

Long-time Daily Reckoning sufferers will recall our mentions of bog-trotters, huns, frogs, canooks and West Virginians. The words sound so harmless; we use them affectionately, like calling a tall friend ‘shorty.’ On the list of ‘slurs’ is "brown sugar," used for a black woman. Why would that be a slur? We don’t know. Likewise, Eskimo is supposed to be a bad word. We don’t know why. Nor do we know why ‘gypsy’ is derogatory. Or why, in England, it is supposed to be offensive to refer to someone from Scotland as a "jock."

On the other hand, there are some words we care not to use, because they are vulgar or mean. And there are some that seem perfectly innocent to us, yet get readers worked up into a lather.

We refer to people from China as "Chinamen." The phrase seems straightforward enough. But there seem to be a lot of people who don’t like the sound of it. They would prefer to be known as "Chinese people." Or even as simply "Chinese."

This troubles us on two levels. First, we are amazed that people think they can determine the nouns that others use to describe them. If that is the case, we announce herewith that from this moment forward we want to be known as a ‘smart-man’ or ‘handsome-man.’

The other problem we have is that the words people find to describe themselves are not merely idle flattery, but generally dull and barely grammatical. Our grandmother refereed to blacks as "darkies" or "colored people" – which seemed descriptive. These were not racial slurs back then. No harm nor discrimination was meant by them; they were the polite way to describe black people. The term "pickaninny" was regarded – at least as we recall – as an affectionate, descriptive noun. Less polite people had other words.

As early as the 1950s, groups of people began to choose their own collective nouns. "Colored people" was the term American blacks preferred, as evidenced by the title of their group, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Fifty years later, the term has come back in style, but in an awkward form: "people of color."

The conceited delusion of the world improvers is that if you refer to a German as a "kraut" or a Frenchman as a "frog," you might as well be building a road to Auschwitz. So certain are they that words are evil they have passed laws making some of them illegal.

Bigoted Terminology: The Word Police

But beneath the ban on words is a strong belief in the very thing they claim to be against – racism. It exists everywhere, they believe. Without the vigilant efforts of the word police and world improvers, bodies would be stacked up all over the place.

We recall a conversation in the mid-’80s. In Baltimore, a very race-conscious city, we worked with a young black woman who in all things, other than her actual physical appearance, might have been mistaken for a white person. A group of us were discussing her work. Someone mentioned the word ‘black’ and all of a sudden we were struck by a curious thought: her skin was black as a gypsy’s heart; but we had forgotten that she was black. And why not? It didn’t matter.

Even more curious, our new friend, the sinologist, had told us something that made us stop short. She – a French woman, obviously not Chinese – could travel around China…and, after the initial shock, people did not seem to notice that she was not Chinese. She spoke the language. She understood the culture. She fit in.

Which makes us wonder. Is racism itself a delusion? Are we not capable of picking out the amusing, endearing, engaging, repulsive and obnoxious traits of our neighbors…giving them handles that entertain us…and yet, having no desire to send them to gas chambers or hang them from trees?

We don’t know. But we’ve run out of time wondering….and so, fearing we have left some readers uninsulted…we include a handy list of "slurs" from the Slur Data- Base…so readers may find one or two that suit them.

Adolf, Ahab, Arab, Angie, Babushka, Bamboo coon, barbarian, boong, bog trotters, beaner, dago, chink, Christ-killers, cracker, Eskimo, Euro-trash, flip, gabacho, goat roper, gook, goy, hillbilly, honkey, gypsy, Jap, long nose, kaffir, heeb, mick, mud person, naga, ninny, nip, paddy, papist, raghead, polack, shyster, skunk, slant-eye, spic, slope, swamp honkey, terrie, whitey, wetback, yankee.

Bill Bonner
Descended from bog-trotters Raised among rednecks Living with the euro-trash..
January 30, 2004