Little noticed when it was reported a month ago, but of special interest now that the New York Times is on record that the use of a racist slur is to be regarded as a racist act regardless of the intent of the speaker, is the decision by The New York Racing commission to ban a prominent trainer from competition for giving a horse a name that isn’t racist but apparently intending it to be a racist slur. Yes, it’s a reverse Donald McNeil! What do you say, Bret Stephens?
As Alice said in Wonderland, “Curiouser and curiouser!” The banned trainer is Eric Guillot, whose horses have earned more than $13 million in purses and have won 259 races. “Racism is completely unacceptable in all forms,” David O’Rourke, the association’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. “NYRA rejects Eric Guillot’s toxic words and divisive behavior in the strongest terms. Our racing community is diverse, and we stand for inclusion.” What were the “toxic words”?
Yes, grape soda. I confess, I’ve used the words “grape soda.” I like grape soda; always have. But Guillot, see, named a horse “Grape Soda” after tweeting on New Year’s Day that he was giving a 3-year-old colt a “unique name in honor of a TVG analyst.” The tweet had a Black fist emoji. Apparently “grape soda,” in addition to meaning, you know, grape soda, has been used somewhere I’ve never been as a racial epithet. So bad an epithet is it that the New York Times wouldn’t dare print it in its headline: “NYRA Bars Horse Trainer For Using Racist Name.” I couldn’t find out what the “racist name” was until six paragraphs into the article. The Times didn’t even call it the “GS-word,” though it says it “can” be a racist term, presumably based on context and intent. But now, as a Times columnist discussed in a banned op-ed, the Times says intent and context doesn’t matter. If that’s true, then “Grape Soda” must be presumed to have the same meaning in the case of the horse as it is presumed to mean anywhere else, like when I say to my wife, “Hey, while you’re at 7-11, pick me up a grape soda please!” But that does not seem to be the case in this story, and the Times itself doesn’t challenge the logic that “Grape Soda” as a name for a horse is racist simply because it was dedicated to the only black horse-racing analyst. They think. Or someone thinks.
Confused? Me too, and I have some questions:
Now that the election is (probably) settled, we can get back to the business of flagrant corporate virtue signaling, groveling to the trace-bullies, and submitting to the political correctness police. Joe Biden was right! His election can restore normalcy to the world!
Nestlé, which owns candy giant Allen’s, will rename the candy brand known as “Red Skins” because because, you know, there’s that racist potato. Its crack marketing department, after doing its due-diligence, checking trademarks, employing focus groups and doing all the things we expect of international corporations, announced that the new, child-friendly, politically correct name of the candy would be “Red Ripper.”
The Washington, D.C. football team opted to change its popular, harmless nickname from “Redskins” to the far catchier moniker “Washington Football Team” as a desperate effort to join the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck. You have to admit, “Washington Football Team” wouldn’t be a good name for a candy, but was it really a good idea for Nestlé to honor this guy…
Andrei Chikatilo (that’s a more recent photo above the post) who sexually assaulted, murdered, and mutilated at least 52 women and children between 1978 and 1990 in Russia, the Ukraine, and Uzbek? He’s popularly known as “The Red Ripper”…
It’s “racist” to get someone’s name wrong now? What will the grievance bullies think of next?
The latest irritating aspect of life that has been appropriated to serve as a “microaggression” and proof of the U.S.’s “systemic racism” is people mispronouncing names. The complaint has gotten a boost from mispronunciations of Kamala Harris’s name, although I’ve never heard one. (I just call her “that phony” or “the jerk” and largely avoid the problem.) This is a continuation of the current trick: if something bad happens to a “POC,” like, say, getting shot while resisting arrest, it’s racism; if the exact same thing happens to a white person, that’s just bad luck, or the dude deserved it, or “Who cares?”
Admittedly, I am especially unsympathetic to the name game. My parents both were terrible at pronouncing names; it was a running joke between my sister and me. It wasn’t just people’s names either. There was an ice cream store on Cape Cod called “Emack and Bolio,” and we used to ask Mom about it just to hear her say “E-MACK-a-Bowlee.” Because my mother was Greek, all ethnic names magically became Greek names to her. A Boston Red Sox infielder named Gutierrez became “Gouttarras.” My father mispronounced names like he mispronounced many words, and it didn’t matter how many times he was corrected. He thought, for example, that the words “fiasco” and “fiesta” were the same word, “fiesca.”
But in the New York Times weekly column “Work Friend,” this phenomenon was used for race-baiting, aided by the new narcicsism in which everyone’s name is some kind of badge of honor. “Call me what you want, just don’t call me late for dinner!” Dad would say when the misnaming issue came up. Of course, that Jack Marshall, like this one, went through life being called “John” and seeing his name spelled with only one “L.” He didn’t take it personally. He knew that what matters in life is what you do, not what you are called while doing it. Continue reading
I have a dog in this hunt, in a way. I began my school career being lectured by the Catholic teachers of Arlington, Massachusetts that I was mistaken about my name being “Jack.” No, I was told, that’s just what your parents call you, dear. Your name is JOHN. There is no such name as “Jack.” Being ornery pretty much out of the womb, I refused to answer to “John” in class leading to several contentious meetings between my father (who was also named “Jack,” not “John”) and successive grade teachers. He always brought my birth certificate and a stern lecture about not making unwarranted presumptions that were none of their damn business, and I had to endure several weeks of dirty looks until my natural charm won over my teachers’ disdain.
As in the case of my teachers, the idiot who wrote Ms. Rea was both presumptuous and wrong. She had written,
Why thank you! Now shut the hell up! Continue reading
I have managed to post twice about the name game, and the ridiculous effort to find some way to justify not identifying the Wuhan virus by its place of origin, a campaign led by, naturally enough, its place of origin. The first post focused on the idea that calling a Chinese virus a Chinese virus was “racist,” a concept so devoid of reason and logic that it made my brain hurt.
The fact that the concept was enthusiastically embraced by such proven blights on the political scene as Rep. Omar was one major clue that dastardly motives were involved. This was a pretty much flat out resort to Big Lie #4 in the “resistance” Big Lie tool box, that one being “Trump is a racist/ white supremacist.” It was a short post, because there was no legitimate argument to rebut. Continue reading
With about 80% or more of all news stories somehow involving the Wuhan virus and its effects (World War II must have been like this), finding non -pandemic stories and ethics issues has become an irritating and challenging job.
Fortunately, Kwame Anthony Appiah’s “The Ethicist” column” this week saw two interesting issues arise, both of which he answered correctly. (There are other questions in the column too.) One inquirer asked, “It has become clear to me, however, that individual senators and other elected officials outside my state do indeed have a powerful effect on the entire country. Is it appropriate for me to donate to candidates in elections in which I cannot vote?”
Of course it is. Appiah wrote essentially what I would: “As you recognize, the effects politicians have aren’t confined to their immediate constituencies. On the contrary, the prospects for our country depend on who holds elective offices at every level. For one thing, representatives from each of the states in the U.S. House and Senate vote on national legislation. For another, policies in one state affect what happens in others….We are one nation; if we’re to aim at liberty and justice for all, we need to do it together.”
The second question was interesting because it is amazing that anyone would have the gall to make such an outrageous request, and fascinating that anyone would be so puzzled about how to respond that they would seek advice from a third party: Continue reading
Let’s start with the name, shall we? Until further notice, Ethics Alarms will call this thing the Wuhan virus, in part out of sheer orneriness, but also because…
- It’s better than the “Whaeveryoucallit Virus”
- There’s no Wuhan beer that will unfairly lose money because people are so stupid.
- Covid-19 is a terrible name for anything, even the 19th covid, whoever he is
- Chinese coronavirus and Chinese virus are just OK, but the first is too long, and the second is too generic. Like I prefer to use destinations like Sichuan and Mandarin when talking about Chinese food, even bad Chinese food. I’m sure that’s racist too.
- The people strenuously objecting to the name are almost without exception utter jerks. Such as…
Omar’s logic here is so self-evidently contrived that if someone can’t immediately explain why, I’m not going to waste my time explaining it to them.
…but mostly because the virus still appears to have largely emanated from the Wuhan Province in China, and I’ll be damned if the hypocritical race-baiting efforts by the news media and political correctness addicts are going to dictate how I communicate. Continue reading
P.M.Lawrence, who comments from Australia, often flagging what he views as American biases and misconceptions, jumps ahead in the line of waiting Comments of the Day with this brief note. It raises an issue that I have thought about often in the past, and argued about with friends and others. What is the ethical obligation of Americans to use foreign spellings of proper names when writing about places and things for domestic readers? The particular example at hand was my using “Labor Party” to label the British organization which calls itself “the Labour Party.”
I’ll have a rebuttal after P.M.s Comment on the post, Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2018: A Petition, A Career-Killing Joke, And Priestley’s Play , and am very interested in what others think.
A minor point: the original spelling of proper names should be used out of respect, even if that is different from your own usage of the words involved. Just as it would be wrong to write “National Inquirer”, so also it is wrong to write “Labor” when writing of the (British) “Labour Party” – even though it is right to write “Australian Labor Party”, for the very same reasons. It gets trickier with groups like our Australian DLP (“Democratic Labour Party”) that have chopped and changed over time; I incline towards using whichever spelling was in place at the time of the reference being cited.
This is all part of the Rectification of Names.
Rebecca Brass, who who works with victims of sexual assault, was stunned to see an alcoholic beverage called “The Willie Pickton” on the drink menu of a British Columbia restaurant called “Surrey Wings.” It wasn’t the drink itself, which contains blue curacao, blackberry, melon, orange juice and cranberry and sounds yummy, that troubled her, but the fact that the name honored local serial killer Robert “Willie” Pickton, currently serving a life sentence at Kent Institution in the Fraser Valley.
Though Willie was convicted of killing only six women, the remains and DNA of 33 more were found on his farm. He also confessed that he had murdered 49 women total, many of them Vancouver prostitutes. Brass, in her role as a sexual assault counselor with Women Against Violence Against Women, personally knows people with family members murdered by Pickton. Continue reading
Today’s saga: this jaw-dropping query from Emily Yoffe’s “Dear Prudence” advice column in Slate:
“My husband and his first wife named their son Adam. Their Adam is 25 and lives across the country from us. Now we are having a son, and Adam is my late father’s name and grandfather’s name. I always wanted to name my son after my dad. My husband says I can’t do that because of his firstborn son, and he can’t have two sons named Adam. But mostly, because it would upset his ex-wife. I don’t think I should have to forgo naming my son after my dad because of this. We rarely see his older son, so I don’t see what the problem is. My husband got to pick the name for our daughter and it meant a lot to him. This means a lot to me. His son said it would be all right with him, but his ex is livid at the idea.”
Emily, in her response, states the obvious, which can be loosely translated as “What the hell is the matter with you?”, though I would be happier if she stated it in more ethical terms. The heck with the ex-wife, what about the older son? What about her son? Who wants to have the same name as a sibling, half- or not? Have the words “Golden Rule” never entered this silly, self-absorbed woman’s consciousness?
Come to think of it, “What the hell is the matter with you?” says it all.
Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at email@example.com.