Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Mind Your Mouth
Author Lawrence Hill was shaking his head recently when a person of colour in The Netherlands symbolically burned his novel The Book of Negroes because it used the word negro. The idea was that this is an offensive word, akin to the other N word and so should be vigorously protested. In response Hill, who is himself a person of colour, pointed out that his late father, a human rights activist, proudly described himself as a negro through most of his life. http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/article/1012068--what-lawrence-hill-tells-dutch-group-planning-to-burn-his-book?bn=1
We know that Martin Luther King Jr. the Baptist pastor and driving force behind the Civil Rights Movement in the US used the term negro. And Hill's Book of Negroes is based on the historical Book of Negroes.
Some folk get earnestly goofy at times about titles and names and euphemisms which change with the times, only to become offensive or questionable to the next generation. As I once mentioned in this blog, my older daughter scolded me for using the term "retarded" a few years ago. For her it was quite offensive even though I pointed out to her that I wasn't using it in a derogatory way and that it was the common term for developmentally challenged individuals during my growing up years. Another time we were in a retro candy store and I pointed out what I called Afro-Canadian Infants. I knew better than to call them Black Babies.
Some terms change for the better, and some just change. Respect can come with changing language, and we should all mind our mouths, but equality goes much deeper than terms. The fellow in The Netherlands just doesn't get it, or so it seems to me. The Nazis burned books, so do we conclude that this guy is a Nazi? I don't think so?
You may have figured out from my less frequent blogs that I'm not in Bowmanville these days. I am actually in that part of Nova Scotia where The Book of Negroes central figure Aminata finds herself. It is a short drive to Shelburne and Birchtown, featured in the novel, and we will visit both communities.
What do you think about The Book of Negroes kerfuffle? What about our use of terms and titles generally?