DUCK SOUP: Discriminating Taste
It has come to my attention that Caucasoid persons are suffering at the hands of popular usage. We are being linguistically disparaged. Doesn't anyone feel our pain?Why are we labelled "white?"Think about it. A U.S. citizen of African descent is called an African American, or Afro-American for short. In some circles they are labelled "Melanesian." Negro was popular fifty years ago, particularly as an alternative to the pejorative "nigger," although nigger is okay between consenting Afro-Americans in certain circumstances. "Brother" and "Sister" work too, in context. For the more particular among them, tribal roots are acknowledged in formulations such as Hutu-American. "Colored," with its tainted South African roots, has not enjoyed recent success, particularly when someone would ask, "What color?""Black," is, I am reliably informed, passe.Among the other people of acknowledged color we find the Hispanic Americans, or Latinos, who are really a mix of Spanish and Native non-North American racial lines. Then there are Asian-Americans each with a potential distinctive hyphenation: Sino-Americans, Korean-Americans, Vietnamese- or Indochinese- Americans, Indonesian-Americans, Nipponese-Americans. Distantly related to that crowd are the Oceanians: Polynesian-Americans, or Micronesian- if you need to be specific. Oh, and the Indian Sub-Continent sends us: Afghani- Americans and Indo-, Pakistani-, Sri Lankan-, Tibetan- and so forth. Crossing the ethnic sea we pick up the Semitic gang: Bahraini-, Egypto-, Irani-, Iraqi-, Israeli-, Jordano-, Kurdo-, Lebano-, Saudi-, and tongue twisting UnitedArabEmirati-Americans. Which is not to mention the Italos, Grecos and Turkos, who are sometimes lumped with white folks, but are gastronomically distinct.Remember the gastronomy thing.Finally we come to American-Americans, the natives. Labelled "Indian" by mistake five hundred years ago, and "Red" by some color-blind colonist, in recent decades they have re-claimed their birthright by adopting "Native American." Except, we must note, the Inuit who pretty much remain, "The Inuit."Bear with me.Setting aside the baffling linguistic confusion emanating from use of the common suffix, "-American" taken from the name of an Florentine merchant, Amerigo Vespucci, what we see here is a dazzling amalgam of fancy shmancy labels. (Imagine for a moment, if we were all Vespuccians instead -- Vespuccia, Love it or Leave it!)But a moment of pity now for descendants of Northern Europeans. White! They call us "White!"It is horribly unfair. We may be People of Paltry Color, true, but the implications are damning. "Colorless" implies lack of pizzaz, lack of definition, no flair! White is the hue of a blank canvas or a blank page -- no image, no info. It is the absence of detail in a snow blanketed hedge or a polar ice cap. It is cold. It is lonely. It is sad.Off-white would be a little better -- bland, yes, but warmer. Off-color is another possibility, but with its connotation of raciness it is sure to cause trouble. (As a child I could never figure out if "racy" meant something fast people did, or something People of More Color did. Either way it sounded exciting.)Ivory-Americans carries the twin devils of snootiness and elephant or walrus murder, though McCartney's "Ebony and Ivory" was a very nice song.Sure, they tried to pin WASP on us, but most of us are not purely Angles or Saxons, many are not Protestant and we end up back at square one. "Honky" is putatively a reference to our nasal vocalization, but it has an automotive cast.Mocha?All of the racial and national distinctions Americans commonly acknowledge were concocted in European colonial times. As some anthropologists suggest, the cake could easily have been cut otherwise. Eye shape or ear size are as reasonable a basis for distinction as skin color or geopolitical boundaries. Epicanthal folds define a multi-hued "race" of slant-eyed folk.So, here's my proposition: From now on we draw racial lines based on food preference. What could be fairer? Yes, you will be influenced by Mom's cooking, but unlike skin color or eye shape it is something you can change. Gastro-democracy will let us enjoy meaningful racism, something we can sink our teeth into. You'll know that what you eat, you are, just like everybody else."Vegetarian-Vespuccians Unite! Support Whirled Peas!"