Friday, September 28, 2007

Why grandpa says inappropriate things

That's the title of a smug little piece of fluff that appeared the other day on the Newsweek.com site. It contains a little anecdote about an elderly gentleman who used the word "colored" to describe someone and it continues with a bigoted diatribe about how the "social security generation" are all a bunch of senile bigots and maybe it's because their brains are all rotted out at age 65 as everyone under 30 knows.

Older adults might be "more prejudiced than younger adults because they can no longer inhibit their unintentionally activated stereotypes.” is the quote from some Australian psychologist dredged up for the purpose. "Studies since the late 1990s have shown that older Americans tend to be more racist than younger people." That seems odd to me since the people who were shot in Mississippi, and hosed and gassed and beset by dogs - the people who had that dream, who spent years fighting against discrimination, segregation and for civil rights are all in the "social Security" generation.

Of course you'll recognize that this is a rigged argument and one based on a bigoted stereotype. I'm not for instance, her "grandpa" and resent being told about how I am, what I am and how I think, based on her preconceived, negative notions of her elders. The definition of racist here has nothing to do with belief or action but is about the use of "inappropriate" words and guess who gets to decide when we stop saying Afro-American and start saying African-American lest we grow hair on our palms and be called racists for it? Guess who gets to decide that Mark Twain was a racist because he used the language of his day accurately or that Dr. King was a racist for using the word Negro or that the NAACP are a bunch of bigots for using the phrase "colored People?" And the people who got shot at and gassed and hosed and torn up by dogs and cracker cops for civil rights from Selma to Chicago become racists - and worse - old racists with decaying brains.

Of course to believe this bullshit at all, one also has to disregard the self-evident prejudice of younger Americans of all races. If you don't like the way I talk, perhaps you have to make allowances for the fact that I have a better command of English than those who learned it yesterday and I know what I'm doing when I choose my words. You might want to remember that I'm old enough to be fed up with the petty condescending scorn of tongue clucking 20 year olds who don't remember segregation or Jim Crow and spend their days examining the entrails of words and sniffing each other's drawers for the odor of racism while exhibiting the most galling contempt for those who handed them their civil rights on a silver platter.

"The frontal lobes’ decline is not inevitable. To the contrary: aerobic exercise enhances their functioning among older adults." says Sharon Begley who is probably closer in years to crapping in diapers than I am. "Next time grandpa utters something out of “Birth of a Nation,” suggest mall walking." Next time Sharon writes this kind of crap, I would suggest keel hauling. Those barnacles can rip the smirk right off your face, ya know?

And next time Sharon is out like mall walking with like her friends, maybe like she'll like remember that "Grandpa" owns it and just might have her and her stereotype-soaked frontal lobes thrown out.

Crossposted to The Impolitic

2 comments:

expatbrian said...

Apparently my grandfather was in the Oklahoma Klan. My father hated him and hated that kind of racism. Yet, because of the era he was from he used the term "colored" until the day he died. He would never have used the term "nigger" but in his time, colored was appropriate. It's hard to keep up sometimes.
Also, I am amused and delighted at your subtle scorn of those young people who, through inadequate education ( I guess) can barely speak the language, and they are the natives!

Capt. Fogg said...

Half my family were southerners and not interested in the advancement of colored people. I am and none of this has to do with age or circulatory efficiency or mall walking. They were bigots before, during and after the civil war. I am not and it has nothing to do with exercise or with prescribed or proscribed language or my age. It has to do with who I am.

I'm not particularly in tune with the need to keep up with people who think malicious intent disappears when we ban words or invent words that we think certain groups would like if they were members of our group - nor especially with people like Begley who think it's just fine to stereotype, marginalize and frankly insult other groups as though bigotry had only to do with black people being marginalized by whites. I evaluate people by their actions, not their ability to sling the latest slang.

I'm not her goddamn grandpa any more than I need to be lectured about the fine nuances of English by some arrogant Newsweek hack and my frontal lobes will beat the shit out of her frontal lobes live on stage in Vegas any time she chooses. Four lobes enter - two lobes leave.

She reminds me of Johnnie Cochran spending all day accusing the LAPD of being racists and then launching into an egregiously racist attack on Dennis Fong complete with chop suey jokes and nauseating facial expressions.

Who's got squinty eyes and buck teeth now Johnnie?