Erin Aubry Kaplan, Contributing Editor to the L.A. Times: Now That Reid Is Past the “Negro Dialect” Controversy, Let Me Tell You What I Think of the Word “Negro”
Erin Aubry Kaplan, a contributing editor to the L.A. Times Opinion section, writes a column about the anticipated use of the term “Negro” in the upcoming Census. The title of her column is The term ‘Negro’? Color it obsolete:
Though it was the accepted term until the late ’60s, for those born after that, “Negro” is something they never answered to, a word that sounds only slightly less incendiary than “nigger.” Even older blacks tend to use it ironically or sarcastically when they use it at all, as in: “Those Negroes just can’t get it together.” Its taint goes back to slavery, when Southerners paternalistically referred to even free blacks as “our Negroes.” Contrast this unpleasantness with Barack Obama, who has established a 21st century standard of racial consideration that’s figuring into just about every discussion of color these days. To blacks of all ages, “Negro” and President Obama sharing the same era just feels wrong — maybe he isn’t post-racial, but isn’t he at least post-Negro?
This controversy may be new, but the angst about what to call ourselves is ancient. Over the last 40 years, we have self-identified as “black,” “Afro-American” and “African American” in an attempt get out from under the subjugation represented by “Negro” and, before that, “colored.”
. . . . In his civil rights rhetoric, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. repeatedly infused “the Negro” with urgency and even poetry, turning the isolation and alienation of the phrase into a powerful part of his argument for racial inclusion. Black leaders before him did the same thing with the often pejorative “the colored man.” But that was then, and this is now: “Negro” is officially the last of the oppressor appellations, and for many people it’s past time to retire it for good.
Above: Erin Aubry Kaplan
Strong stuff. Only slightly less incendiary than “nigger”? A word with a taint, which represents subjugation? An oppressor appellation?
Which leads me to wonder:
Where was Erin Aubry Kaplan one month ago, when it was revealed that U.S. Democrat Senator Harry Reid had in 2008 discussed Obama’s “Negro dialect”?
I’ll tell you where she was: keeping her mouth shut about Reid.
At the time, editors were either not soliciting or not greenlighting Kaplan’s views on the topic of the word “Negro.” Instead, they were unleashing opinion columnist Sandy Banks, who ran interference for Reid with her column titled It’s not Harry Reid who should be apologizing, in which Banks declared:
I think the next apology ought to come from Michael Steele — the light-skinned, dialectically flexible African American head of the Republican National Committee.
Above: Sandy Banks
Meanwhile, the news side of the paper carefully portrayed the Reid controversy as nothing more than a series of “attacks” by “Republicans.”
And all along, Erin Aubry Kaplan said nothing.
One suspects that Erin Aubry Kaplan had the same opinion about the term “Negro” last month that she has this month. She thought Harry Reid had uttered a tainted word — an appellation used by oppressors — representing subjugation. A word only slightly less incendiary than “nigger.” Yet, somehow, we didn’t hear from Kaplan — a woman with over 100 published pieces in the paper.
No, we didn’t hear from her . . . at least, not at a time when it would have hurt Harry Reid.
Now that Reid is safe — as safe as he’s gonna get, anyway — it’s now OK for Kaplan to reveal her opinions about the word “Negro.”
She and her editors are, after all, merely following Journalism’s Hypocritical Oath: above all else, do no harm to Democrats.