Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What's wrong with using the word "negro"?

Nothing, says Glenn Loury (this transcript is the same as the embedded video below):

Loury: I object, in the most strenuous terms, to this kind of political correctness policing of the language that would forbid the use of the word "negro." There's nothing wrong with that word, in my opinion. And I hold that position really quite strongly, because I frankly think it's a superior designation for Americans of African descent, and especially those of us who descend from slavery, because it has a profound historical resonance. There's nothing wrong with that word.

John McWhorter: No.

Loury: "Black"? "African-American"? I think you could criticize both of those designations as ways of referring to this population subgroup, although they've become popular.

McWhorter: Hmmm...

Loury: But where do people get off, trying to sanitize the language?

That's from this Bloggingheads diavlog, which is worth watching in full if you're interested in an extended, nuanced dissection of Harry Reid's infamous remarks about Barack Obama and the reaction to them. (All but a few of the diavlog's 44 minutes are about those 12 words.) Neither Loury nor McWhorter sees anything inaccurate in what Reid said, nor do I. It wasn't racist; it was a Kinsley gaffe.


Meade said...

Reid's gaffe was in the haplessness of his overwrought apologies to Obama and others.

Obama's gaffe was in the meagerness of his apology to Crowley and the Cambridge police department.

Our gaffe comes in the implied apology of asking if there's anything wrong with using the word "negro."

John Althouse Cohen said...

Agreed on all points except I don't remember Obama's apology Crowley and the police department. I just think Obama should have refrained from getting involved in that controversy in the first place. After he admitted he didn't know the facts (which he did admit), he shouldn't have proceeded to defend his friend and criticize the police; he should have just said, "So I'm not going to comment on that."

Meade said...

"...I don't remember Obama's apology Crowley and the police department."

Exactly. It was so meager that it can't even be remembered.


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Why can't an elected official in this country simply and truthfully say, "It was a political observation?"