Sunday, July 19, 2020

"Negroes"


I didn't wake up this morning and think "I believe I'll defend Roger Stone today."

And I won't. The race of an individual does not justify dismissing him (or her) or his (or her) comments. However, that is not why Roger Stone is being criticized after, as reported by The New York Times, he

was speaking on the “The Mo’Kelly Show," a program based at a Los Angeles radio station and hosted by Morris W. O’Kelly, known as Mo’Kelly.

On the show, Mr. O’Kelly questioned the role that Mr. Stone’s relationship and proximity to the president played in the commutation of his sentence.

The host asked: “There are thousands of people treated unfairly daily, how your number just happened to come up in the lottery, I am guessing it was more than just luck, Roger, right?”

Mr. Stone, who was speaking by phone, responded by muttering: “arguing with this Negro”; the beginning of his sentence was hard to hear. It sounded as if Mr. Stone were not speaking directly into the phone, but rather to himself or someone in the room with him.

When Mr. O’Kelly asked him to repeat what he said, Mr. Stone let out a sigh, then remained silent for almost 40 seconds. Acting as if the connection had been severed, Mr. Stone vehemently denied that he used the slur.

“I did not, you’re out of your mind,” Mr. Stone told the host....

Mr. O’Kelly continued the interview after the awkward exchange.





The host was right to complain “All of my professional accolades, all my professional bona fides went out the window because as far as he was concerned, he was talking and arguing with a Negro.” Unfortunately, he added that he was 

“disappointed and dismayed that in 2020, that’s where we are.”

“It’s the diet version of the N-word, but as an African-American man, it’s something I deal with pretty frequently,” he said. “If there’s a takeaway from the conversation, it is that Roger Stone gave an unvarnished look into what is in the heart of many Americans today.”

The Times reporters wrote also "The slur that Mr. Stone used was commonly used to refer to Black Americans through part of the 1960s, but for decades it has been considered offensive."

"Offensive" may seem an unassailable description unless one is aware 

The word Negro was adopted from Spanish and Portuguese and first recorded from the mid 16th century. It remained the standard term throughout the 17th–19th centuries and was used by such prominent black American campaigners as W. E. B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington in the early 20th century. Since the Black Power movement of the 1960s, however, when the term black was favored as the term to express racial pride, Negro has dropped out of favor and now seems out of date or even offensive in both US and British English. The 2010 US Census questionnaire was criticized when it retained the racial designation Negro as an option (along with Black and African Am.). The Census Bureau defended its decision, citing the 2000 Census forms, on which more than 56,000 individuals handwrote “Negro” (even though it was already on the form). Apparently, Negro continues to be the identity strongly preferred by some Americans..

In the 1950s and 1960s, relatively tolerant Americans would refer to black people as "Negroes" rather than as "colored people," which bears an intriguing similarity to today's "people of color."  Understood historically, the Times' "Roger Stone Uses Racial Slur on Radio" is narrow-minded.

It's understandable that Mr. O'Kelly would want to deflect attention from one of his controversial interview subjects, who apparently made a highly questionable remark. He may want to interview Stone again someday.

However, Roger Stone doesn't speak for me and possibly not for "many Americans today."  He didn't speak for me in the 1960s when  he employed dirty tricks for Richard Nixon, he didn't speak for me when he lied about colluding with Wikileaks to rig a presidential election, and he doesn't speak for me today when he is dismissive of his interviewers.

Tolerant whites invoked "Negroes" instead of "colored people" long before "people of color" became the culturally sophisticated term. Then, not all white people were alike, and neither are we all alike now. That's something both The New York Times and Morris O'Kelly would do well to understand.



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