Saturday, May 16, 2009

What? Words Have Meanings?

Do words have absolute meanings? Or do they only have relative meanings, only meaning what each individual wants a word to mean? When we speak of a person being "African American" we, in the U.S. mean a person who is black. But is that accurate, or is it merely politically correct? In a politically correct world, words are only allowed to have the meanings that the PC police allow, whether the meanings are accurate or not. According to this article,
Can a white person be an African-American? Paulo Serodio, a 45-year-old naturalized American of Portugese heritage born in Mozambique, says yes. He is suing the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey for discrimination that he says led to his suspension.

He told that his instructor, Dr. Kathy Ann Duncan, asked the students for self-definitions during a discussion on culture and medicine. Serodio identified himself as a “white African-American.” He says Duncan later told him never to refer to himself as that again, because it was “offensive” to others in the class.
In 2004, a white high-school student (born in Johannesburg) named Trevor Richards was suspended from an Omaha, Nebraska school after distributing posters that promoted him as a candidate for the school’s "Distinguished African-American Student" award. reported that this story sent “shock waves across America as debate rages over who can claim rights to the term ‘African-American.’”

What does “African-American” mean? Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines the term as “an American of African and especially of black African descent.”

So if only people of black African descent should be allowed to refer to themselves as African-American, what is Serodio? "There are people of all races who are African," Serodio told He said he had no problem identifying himself in that way until Duncan’s class.
In our quest to create a "color-blind" society, we have created a society based almost totally on race and ethnicity. On standardized tests in schools, students are always asked for their race. Race is a factor in deciding if schools have made Adequate Yearly Progress. Obama is facing pressure to name a Supreme Court justice based on ethnicity and gender rather than the quality of a nominee's jurisprudence. (Unfortunately, Obama agrees with the race/gender/sexual orientation based criteria.) The world's financial markets are in ruin due to congressional meddling in the housing market designed to give minority groups and "people of color" greater access to home ownership whether they could afford to buy a home or not.

And now, people get upset when a white immigrant to the United States from an African country dares to call himself "African American." Can't we just admit that this is an unintended consequence of the need for radical inoffensiveness? Can't we use this as a clue that if ethnicity truly doesn't matter, we need to stop defining everyone based on the criteria of skin color and ethnic origin?

My children are Russian and Polish (and Greek according to stories from my grandfather) on my side. Looking at photos of my mother's dark-eyed Russian family from the early 20th century, I'm guessing there is some Mongol in our blood. The Mongols did rule Russia for 300 years. On my wife's side, they are mostly Mexican and Polish - and Hungarian and Irish. So, in our enlightened Age of Obama, how are my children to be labeled?

I checked the "Hispanic" box on their birth certificate. Yep, if playing the race derangement syndrome game will give my children an advantage, I'll go along with it. Why shouldn't my kids be compensated because some of their ancestors, back in the mists of the past, may or may not have faced oppression and prejudice from that racist, Whitey? If we are truly intent on creating the mythical level playing field, shouldn't all participants be judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin? (That last line sounds familiar. I must have written it at some time in the past. I hate when I plagiarize myself.)

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At 12:54 PM, Blogger Subvet said...

So are we to believe Charize Theron isn't African? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you!!

What a lot of horse manure. More and more I realize why my old man stressed we were Americans and not

At 9:06 PM, Blogger KPOni said...

You... you used a quote from Martin Luther King... you can't do that, you're white! That quote wasn't intended for you!

I guess, however, words have to be relative or else semantics wouldn't exist. However, looking at the word "African-American", one would assume it meant one with African heritage, but who is an American, and not have to do with skin color, as there are plenty of dark skinned people who aren't African at all (some are even offended if you call them African American).

Also, I don't see why we can't just call them "black" I mean, we're "white" right?

At 5:33 AM, Blogger Mrs. C said...

Hey, I hear white kids have magical powers! They don't really need any extra help as a group to succeed! They define the standard. No matter what we're measuring, we're going to compare blacks and Hispanics, Asians and outer Mongolians, to WHITES, not each other. I mean, you can't go wrong with that, right??

We get to be the yardstick!

Sigh. Yeah, it's crazy. Funnier, my word verification is "colorid."

My ID? I try to write "displaced Edenic peoples" under "other" whenever I can on those silly forms. :]

At 8:40 PM, Blogger Harry said...

My father was one of the very few white kids in an almost all black high school. The white teachers assumed that because he was white, he didn't need as much help as the black kids. He dropped out after 11th grade.


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