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Friday, January 12, 2018

"Shithole"

You probably already know about Trump's recent loutporing of racist remarks. The kindest interpretation is that he spoke in this fashion thoughtlessly, although some believe that he used racist terminology in order to give his dunderheaded supporters a thrill.

Perhaps he did. A horrifying thought, that.

The WP has defended its use of the word "shithole" without cute equivocations -- in fact, the word appeared in the headline.

Question: How will the media cover the story if we finally see those long-rumored tapes of Trump using the word "nigger" while filming The Apprentice? Will the WP put that word in the headline?

Even if we don't see this fabled footage, we may face a similar issue upon the release of Omarosa's forthcoming book. She has already given us a clue as to what to expect:
I have seen things that made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people.
That statement, which can be interpreted more than one way, conjures up the possibility that she will confirm the reports that Trump uses the worst word in our language.

Another question: How would Trump's defenders react if we receive either proof or a credible first-hand report of Trump's usage of that word?

I imagine that Republicans on cable news will probably rely on the adjective "unfortunate," as in "his unfortunate choice of language." Someone will probably offer an etymological analysis to convince us that the word really isn't that bad. A few Trumpers will probably haul out the hoary "black people use that word too" argument.

Some may try to excuse Trump's usage of the term by claiming that everyone used it in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. Those of us who were alive during those decades can tell you that this is not true -- at least not where I grew up (in Los Angeles County). Even in my earliest memories, that word was considered more transgressive than any other. None of the other boys I knew -- even the ones brave enough to say "fuck" -- dared to use the word "nigger."

(I can recall one exception to this general rule. I may tell that story one day, if I have not done so already.)

Unfortunately, today's younger people seem to have a very skewed impression of how our culture worked back then. Some condescending twenty-somethings believe that every white person spent the 1960s and 1970s comparing embroidery patterns on their Klan robes.

Very soon now, newspaper editors may have to decide whether or not they will print that word in connection with Donald Trump. I think that he has indeed used the word, and that he may even have been foolish enough to say the unsayable while the cameras were running. Trump is Trump. He is the Monster of the Id. He cannot stop himself from giving voice to every single thought that enters his cranium, however ridiculous or ugly that thought might be.

A word about my own policy: I will publish the word "nigger" in full only when absolutely necessary -- for example, when quoting a public figure. I would also print that word when discussing its usage and history as a word. Euphemisms such as "the N-word" or "the F-word" seem childish.
Comments:
Ten bucks says that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will claim that this is all fake news: that DJT was merely name-checking Ndabaningi Sithole, founder of the Zimbabwe African National Union. And that the Senators with hearing aids misunderstood. And that WaPo should be investigated by the Justice Department for defamation.
 
during the 1960's while i was one of three white people in a school of 600, there was a kid who would call me "cracker." my immediate reply was to call him that word, as at the time my upbringing was such. one day he caught me going back into classroom and halfway through the door, i blurted out the word. teacher was not happy, let me tell you. the next month while playing on giant 8-10 foot tires in playground, i was sort of pushed off and someone grabbed my legs as i was going down. ended up with a bloody nose and a broken wrist right before my birthday. would never do something like that again, especially after my mother started dating a black man and we lived in some of the local ghettos. taught me a valuable lesson that a hell of a lot of americans need to have blasted into their skulls.
 
Lennon and Yoko used it in a song, "Woman is the nigger of the world" in the mid-70's. They performed it on national television (Dick Van Dyke show). That said, me and my friends growing up the 80's didn't use it at all (but we did say "fuck", "shit", etc. when our parents weren't around).

Still, Trump having used it seems to me like a foregone conclusion. Finding actual proof that he did may be trickier, unless as you say, it was on camera and the recordings were not completely destroyed.
 
The Hartford Courant - "oldest continuously published newspaper in US" - had the word 'shithole' on the front page. Above the fold, even. Should have been a big hit in the classroom. How I long for the days of tan suits!
 
I've watched video clips - ones that don't focus on the usage of the N-word - in which men from poor neighbourhoods in US cities use the word between themselves as a greeting. You could imagine it being replaced by "man" or "mate". (I haven't seen it used either by or to a woman.)

This seems to be a custom in some parts of US society regardless of the skin colour of either the man using the word or the man he is addressing. So a white guy might use it to another white guy, or a black guy to a white guy, or a black man might use it to a white man or a black man. In at least three of these four circumstances the usage cannot be intended to express "racial" identity or pride.

I just mention this. It's possible I use the word "white" differently from how it is usually used in the "race"-obsessed US. Perhaps the men in the clips who I would call "white" are in fact identified by both themselves and the other guy as "non-white". On the other hand, perhaps that is not the case. I suspect it isn't the case, but I've never been to the US and I don't even know whether I myself would mostly be regarded in that country as "white" or "non-white".

I suspect there is at least some usage of the word in the US, on the "street", which principally concerns class [*] and which neither the racist right nor the liberal left would feel comfortable addressing.


(*) Or shithole pride?
 
I find it offensive whenever anyone uses a word that I am not supposed to repeat. In the future please use the N word to refer to the N word. Otherwise you are no different than Trump's twitter to Kim Jong Un when he said he would "never refer to Kim Jong Un as short and fat even though he is"

Even explaining why it is offensive causes me to bring up another Trump comment.
 
The shi___le comment is not necessarily racist because Trump is referring to the economic State of the Country and possibly the high incidence of certain medical conditions. Trump wants healthy future americans who are not dirt poor coming to the U.S.
 
I agree that calling poor countries "shitholes" isn't necessarily racist. The characterisation is accurate: except in a few gated residential areas, financial districts (if any), a tiny number of casinos and elite nightclubs, and maybe a flash shopping mall in the capital city, they are shitholes.

It would be so good if one of these days the left put some thought into responding to such remarks from Trump, rather than reacting in exactly the way the Pepe the Frog camp wants. Calling poor countries "shitholes" is not "white supremacist". This time it should be simple. Trump's remark says the poor (outside the US) can fuck off. That's exactly the attitude of libertarians and Republicans to the poor inside the US too, who also live in shitholes. "America first" is bullshit. Nationalism is bullshit.

Mark this one up as another propaganda success for the Trump team.
 
@Gus

Dick Cavett Show
 
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