Four Anecdotes about Racethink

I have heard people, or, rather, Morlocks who look a great deal like people, using the term African American to refer to Blacks from England and France and elsewhere in Europe.

I was in a time travel role playing game once, based on Roger Zelazny’s ROADMARKS. There was a mystical road through time the time travelers used, and branches and exits led to alternate histories. At one road stop hotel, the moderator of the game was describing to the players what some of the travelers from other timelines looked like, including Aztecs in Spanish armor and Eskimo astronauts and so on.

We saw a tall and stalwart Negro in a crew cut from a world where Prussia was inhabited by black men in the 1930s, and he was wearing a Nazi SS uniform. One of the players, a liberal, was surprised or perhaps scandalized, asked to hear the description once again, saying, “You mean an African American Nazi?”

The moderator raised one eyebrow and said, “No. He’s clearly from Germany.”

Likewise, I had a similar problem when I was writing a science fiction story set in a year far enough in the future that America was obliterated. The narrator described one person as looking ‘oriental’ and my too-left-leaning copy editor red penciled the word and snidely said, ‘Well, I’ve never heard the word oriental used to describe anything but a rug – suggest ‘Asian-American’.’

Whereupon I patiently explained that a man from a Japanese colony on Mars, in this story called Kasei, might possibly be called a Kaseijin (Marsman) but could not possibly be called an Asian-American.

Likewise, I remember when the sports announcer at the Olympics mentioned Vonetta Flowers as “the first African American athlete – of any country – to win a gold medal at a Winter Olympics Games” in 2002. (For bobsled, if memory serves.)

Really? And was Christopher Columbus the first Hispanic American of any country to discover America?

While the announcer was rightfully scourged for this ellipsis of common sense, I find to my dismay that if you google the phrase, there are still people using it. I wonder what term we will use in the future to distinguish African Americans from other nations versus African Americans from America or African Americans from Africa?

Likewise, my friend, born in South Africa, stepping into the student union hall for African American students on her campus on a hot day, to sit in a chair, panting, and enjoy the air conditioning, when she was peremptorily commanded to leave by a black woman, because this was the African American Student Union. My friend was unable to restrain her outrage, and shouted in her delightful British accent, “You fools! I am the only African in this room!”

The moral of the story? Political Correctness is not only patronizing, it is parochial. It can only be used when talking by modern Americans to modern Americans about modern American things. There are no words in Political Correctness talk for Yellow or Black or Red men who come from other planets, other times, or other places.