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September 13, 2008
List of 'Banned' words to describe Obama growing
What are we to do? So many words that might be used to describe Barack Obama are being shouted down as being "racist".
Here is the roll -- and it is an ever-expanding one:
"Clean and articulate" (remember those words, Joe Biden?)
"The One" (David Gergen says that in the South -- it's always the South -- this term means "uppity"
"His middle name" (which shall not be used here)
"Community Organizer" : New York Governor David Patterson was merely the most famous person to register this charge -- it has been a popular one on the web.
David Shipler had an interesting riff a few months back on synonyms that revealed racism: "Elitist" is another word for "arrogant," which is another word for "uppity," that old calumny applied to blacks who stood up for themselves. Furthermore, casting Obama as "out of touch" plays harmoniously with the traditional notion of blacks as "others" at the edge of the mainstream, separate from the whole.
John Pitney, Jr. wrote in the National Review there is no authoritative racial codebook so the charge is easy to lodge and once lodged it chills free speech.
As Joe Biden probably knows by now, even a compliment can be considered an insult in this environment. When he called Obama articulate he was recogizing Obama's ability to project a great speech. But the New York Times -- arbiter of all politically sensitive speech -- suggested the word had a subtext: that the subject of the praise was "notably different from other black people". So you can damn with praise?
So now even compliments can be considered "racist"? Can anyone praise an African-American without being crticized as condescending or prejudiced? Is the Times itself racist by promulgating such a code of conduct by suggesting that most black people are not deserving of a range of compliments that can be made towards individual people?
Has the New York Times updated its Manual of Style and Usage? Are words being deleted?
With the ever increasing scope of words now being banned, what will we be able to say about Barack Obama? Have we reached a rhetorical dead end? What would Barack Obama-a former President of the Haravard Law Review and a former constitutional law professor-say about the chilling of free speech, the weakening of the First Amendment?
George Carlin-who had a legendary comedy riff about the words one could not say on television-where are you when we need you? Maybe he could mine some humor out of this racially charged mess.