Saturday, July 26, 2008

know what "the n-word" means, but not what "the g-word" means

White Americans have different opinions about the word referred to by that common euphemism, "the n-word." Some ask why, if black people can use the actual word, white people can't; some don't see a problem with anyone using that word; some say no one should use it; and some (including me) say that white folks shouldn't use it, and that the question of whether black folks should use it is the business of no one else but black folks.

So it's clear that nearly all white Americans know what that euphemism, "the n-word," means. However, if you instead said another phrase to them, "the g-word," few would know which word you're referring to. That's mainly because in most situations, if someone catches a white person using the word that "the g-word" refers to, it's far less embarrassing for that person than if he or she had been caught using the word referred to by that other phrase, "the n-word." Since white folks think that their use of the actual "g-word" isn't all that embarrassing, they've seen no reason to create and use that euphemism ("the g-word") for it.

As with the actual "n-word," getting called out for using the actual "g-word" should provoke something worse than mere embarrassment for white folks. And that phrase, "the g-word," should become as much a part of the ordinary white American's vocabulary as the word that it refers to. And finally, of course, white usage of the actual word that it refers to should stop.

In this three-minute video, an author talks about his new book on this topic and, especially, about the repeated usage by one of our prominent politicians of the actual word that the phrase "the g-word" refers to.

[hat-tip for the video to no1kstate at momma, here come that girl again!; for more information on Irwin Tang's book, go here]


  1. Please reveal what the actual word is that you refer to as the "g word". I am on the internet using dial up, so I am unable to watch the video.

    Muchas gracias

  2. redcatbiker, i'll write it the same way i write the other one--g**k. Hope that works for you. . .

  3. Oh, okay, I got it. It goes to show you, racism affects every one, for I only needed that little bit of information you provided, and I was able to easily fill in the blanks.

  4. I didn't figure it out either until I saw the video.

    Thanks for posting the video.

  5. Then again, the word could be geek, no? But, that cannot possibly be racist, can it?

  6. redcatbiker, I don't think that in most contexts the word geek is racist, but in some it is. Hollywood movies, for instance, often depict a lone "Asian"-appearing character as a geek in ways that correlate with common stereotypes about Asian people. If you start watching for it, you'll see this lone "Asian"-looking character at a computer, or winning a science fair or a math competition. I don't remember specific instances of the word "geek" being used in such movies to refer to such Asian characters, but if it has been, that would strike me as a racist use of the word.

    But your point may have been that typing "g**k" could be understood as "geek" instead of "the g-word." I guess that's possible, but, I think the contexts in which one would type "g**k" would make it clear that the word is the one to which the phrase "the g-word" refers, and not the word "geek."

    Anyway, as I meant to say in my post, if we ever refer to the word in question, we should start typing and saying "the g-word" instead.

  7. But the "Asian geek" stereotype is more about Asian males, isn't it?

    I'm an Asian geek, but I'm female, and it seems like my gender cancels out the stereotype that I'm supposed to be good at computers. However, I'm still stereotyped as being good at math.

    However, this may be affected by my geography, because we have local racial stereotypes as well ...

  8. That's interesting, Restructure. I do remember some Hollywood Asian girl and women characters who are portrayed as geeks--at a science fair in "Mean Girls," maybe? and Margaret Yang in "Rushmore" seems to fit the type pretty well. But yeah, without doing some sort of quantitative research, the portrayals of Asian-looking geeks that I remember are mostly guys; there's that whole other set of nasty, but supposedly positive, stereotypes that usually get played up instead with Asian women characters (and as with the "geek" thing for men, actual Asian women).

  9. First, I must get this out of my system: Omitting the vowels in words never changed what those words are. You're a smart guy, don't resort to censorship for the sake of sensitivity when direct and clear communication is best.

    What I found interesting is that the speaker in the clip had no qualms with freely using the term "gook" while explaining the history and McCain's position. Yet he resorted to "the n-word" to create a cultural juxtaposition.

    If it was appropriate to actually use the word "gook" to discuss the issues and history surrounding the term itself, then I fail to see why it would not also have been appropriate for him to use "nigger". The idea was to illustrate how completely inappropriate it is for McCain to have used that word, and Irwin sought to explain that this blanket term for people of other cultures is just as offensive, inappropriate and hateful as use of the infamous n-word.

    Would it have not drawn a more serious parallel if he had actually used the word "nigger", and really put the two terms side by side, instead of going for the ostensibly more sensitive, but less impactful, "the n-word"?

  10. Irwin's deference to the N-word, IMO, shows how there isn't equality even among insults and slurs.

    Part of me says that the offense to what McCain has said should be made on it's own merits. That aside, it's interesting how Irwin indicates that the G-word was first used on Haitians.

  11. I had no idea John McCain used the word. It's appalling.

    At best, his 'bomb bomb bomb Iran' song is unprofessional, considering the job he's applying for which requires diplomacy and problem-solving.

    At worst, it reflects that he views non-whites as roaches to be exterminated.

    Thanks for the video. I hope Asian-Americans know about his by Election Day.

  12. McDunce graduated at the bottom 1% of his class, refers to individuals or communities as gooks, voted against MLK holiday. Lets face it, he's white america's kind of guy.

    I agree with Irwin that if McCain had dropped the N-bomb or made some off color jewish comment, then McIdiot would have caught a lot of flack. I don't think it would have been enough to derail his campaign, but it would have been way more than he has received for his gook comments.

    Can we remove gook and model minority from the vocabulary? both terms are offensive.

    As an aside, could not help but notice that Irwin is in Austin TX, home of Lance Armstrong a local legend and major supporter of John McCain. Just wondering how lance and his followers feel about the gook comments.

  13. As an aside, could not help but notice that Irwin is in Austin TX, home of Lance Armstrong a local legend and major supporter of John McCain. Just wondering how lance and his followers feel about the gook comments.

    As a graduate of UT, I can say what Lance Armstrong thinks doesn't really matter. Number one he is from Dallas, and number two, Austin is one of the most liberal cities in Texas, so there is a lot of support for Obama there vs. McCain.

  14. Siditty, Lance maybe from dallas, but his primary residence is off lake travis in austin, and he has definitely influenced the sport of bicycle riding in the the area.

    As far as Austin being the most liberal city in texas, that's true, but it's also relative. Austin (lake travis) is where cedric benson got tasered a couple months ago. Also, a year ago, the police shot the Black guy twice in the BACK, in some nightclub parking lot. Austin is a white liberal city, but not truly accepting of Blacks.

    I will agree, that Barack get good support from austin, especially from the university. hook em. Not!

  15. Er...I've only ever heard two people say "gook" ever. One was shouting it at my Japanese teacher as we walked down the hall in high school. The other was a Chinese guy who I told about that day with "he called her something that sounded like mook...or at least rhymed with it...dunno what he said" who then explained to me that there are slurs for umm...oh darn I forget what race it's supposed to refer to now anyway *shrug* I just know it's not for Japanese like her or Chinese.

  16. The g-word, which I had to wrack my brains to figure out is hardly used at all. I think I only ever saw that term used in a war film once or maybe twice.

    It is not as common as the n-word, that is for sure.

  17. I heard that my white friend's real estate agent used the g-word while talking to his housemate: 'I would never rent things out to gooks like them.' That was the first and only time I heard it (I had to ask what it meant, and wasn't too happy when told), but wondered how often people use it when no Asians are in sight.

  18. Oh, btw, this was in Australia.


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