Thursday, September 25, 2008

use a virtually innumerable array of euphemisms instead of the word "white"

Guest post by Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle; originally published at
We Are Respectable Negroes

How Many Ways Can the Mainstream Media
Avoid Using the Word 'White'?
Or Alternatively Entitled:
Euphemisms for Naming White Folk

Let us count the ways...

One of the most striking features of the 2008 Presidential Campaign has been the way that pundits, critics, and many in the public have avoided speaking truth to power, of naming the obvious: This election is about White America and its role in an increasingly "post-racial" world. Perhaps, it is the result of a myopic and twisted understanding of "colorblindness" where the very act of naming race as a social fact is itself considered "racist." Maybe, it is a result of an anxiety wherein actually talking about White America, and how White racial identity will influence voting decisions, is dangerous because it destroys the myth of a colorblind America (a myth which should have been shattered to this point by the pathetic pandering of the Democratic Convention, and the unapologetic White Nationalism on display at the Republic Convention).

This fear of saying "White," and/or of naming "whiteness" in our public discourse is a type of mental illness. Naming race, or more appropriately the fear of doing so, is like the elephant sitting in the corner of the room taking a crap on the carpet while you are trying to have a dinner party: this is the absurdity, everyone knows the elephant is there, but they are desperately trying to ignore it. So let's call a spade a spade--do you like that Oscar Wildesque wordplay?--and name what we are seeing. Wow! Sometimes I am so easily impressed with myself.

As a humanitarian act, we respectable negroes are going to conduct an intervention where we help to cure White America of this problem. In this treatment, taken right out of the DSM-IV, we are going to list of all the ways to say "White" or to signal "whiteness" without actually using those words. To that end we are going to keep a running list of these terms and phrases and update it each week.

That whose name cannot be spoken can now we confronted. With your help, we will take the first steps towards curing America's racial id and its inability to say "White." Say it with me again, White people; White politics; White interests, White voters; White McCain voters; White Sarah Palin female voters; White Democrats; White Hillary Clinton female voters...don't forget, say White at least three times a day, everyday and your teeth will stay white and healthy.

Do you think we will reach the truly impossible, the magical number of 75? We have shattered the proverbial 3-minute mile and are boldly going where no one has gone before. Where will we finally stop?

The tally so far:

1. Values voter
2. Heartland
3. Mainstream voter
4. Hard-working Americans
5. Lunch pail voters
6. Soccer moms
7. Walmart Moms
8. Nascar Dads
9. Blue collar
10. Regular Americans
11. Real Americans
12. The Base
13. Culture War voters
15. Palin's Army
16. Joe Six Pack
17. Joe Lunch Pail
18. Hockey Mom/Hockey moms
19. American Workers
20. Work Force
21. Regular Folks
22. Ma and Pa Kettle
23. My (or your) neighbors
24. Average American Voter
25. Rural Voters
26. Non-elitists
27. My accountant
28. Small Town Voters
29. The Woman Vote
30. Middle America
31. Americans
32. American People
33. Good hard-working people
34. Working Class voter
35. The Nascar Vote
36. Midwestern Voters
37. Suburban Voters
38. White Collar Voters
39. Main Street
40. Wall Street
41. New Englanders
42. Southerners
43. All-American Girls/Boys/All-American
44. The latte voters
45. Dogwalking voters
46. The Recycling bloc
47. Folks in the heartland
48. Decent, hard-working people
49. Christians
50. God-fearing Americans
51. The people who want to have a beer with the sort of candidate who might like to have a beer with them
52. Reagan Democrats
53. One of us
54. Undecideds
55. Scrappy
56. Bubba Voters
57. Gun enthusiasts
58. People who are just worried about paying the bills on time
59. Non-elitists
60. Voters in fly-over states
61. Scranton Voters
62. Kitchen table voters
63. Independents
64. Evangelical Voters
65. Pro-lifers
66. My friends
67. Honest Workers
68. Ordinary people


  1. HI, Carmen Van Kerckhove sent me here from her Facebook update. I was thinking this very thing when I watched an episode of Jon Stuart's The Daily Show where there was a roving reporter at the Republican convention who asked people what "small town values" were. They couldn't come up with anything specific and never said white, but the interviewees were white, so that would be the underlying assumption. I would like to submit heterosexual to your list of euphemisms. In those roving interviews, heterosexuality was mentioned frequently as a small town value, and you know that those folks weren't thinking of heterosexuals of color.

  2. Awesome blog entry! the names and titles used to avoid using white is overly used in the media and quit sad at the sametime.

  3. Ohio voters (even though Ohio's 11% black...I am one of them).

  4. Loves it.

    You'd think that "Educated voters" would make the list but that's not a sought after voting bloc.

  5. I feel as though I should keep a laminated index of our finalized list in my wallet for quick reference media brainwashing.

    How about 'Heteronormative Proletariat?' Too much?

    I might be better at starting a list of terms that avoid using non-whites amongst whites in the media. 'Urban, hip hop activists, immigrants.'

  6. I heard "a better match for the American demographic" used in this context yesterday.

  7. That elephant in the room looms large in the salons of France, where it grows even bigger, fed daily with brie, fois gras, and the state's blanket refusal to acknowledge the social reality of race.

  8. Let's see, I am "blue collar" and "small town" and "hardworking", among other things. It's bad enough that those are all euphemisms for "white", but they are usually also taken to mean "hateful, cowardly and backwards". In the context of whiteness those are virtues. Now, let's think what the code words for those "virtues" are... There's "gritty" and "outspoken" and...

  9. While many of these are indeed euphemisms for white people, a large number of them are not. It is quite a misnomer.

    Rather than euphemisms, many of these are descriptors of particular groups of white people. If a politician is talking about appealing to "soccer moms" he is not talking about appealing to "white people" he is talking about appealing to middle class, suburban white families (particularly women age 30-45 with about 2.5 children).

    There is racism here, but I don't think that it exists in the use of so many different descriptors to describe white folks. Instead it exists in lumping all African Americans into the "black vote" instead of dividing them further based on other demographics.

  10. "Hockey mom" really stuck in my craw.
    Any mom can be a soccer mom, huh?

  11. Every time John McCain addresses his friends (like "my friends....that one") Who exactly is he referring to?

  12. He's referring to the guy is his head

  13. Hm. I'm surprised to see God-Fearing and Christian. I typically identify Gospel Christians with the black community.

  14. Brilliant post, although Shea does have a point.

    On Christianity - it means white Republican types unless specifically marked as Black Christianity.

  15. Seeing as how many folks of color have an impeded access to health care in our country, which affects overall mortality, another euphemism should be "Elderly Voters."

  16. I would add all of the class-based white labels like red neck voter, hicks, etc.

  17. the "working class voters" one is one of my pet peeves, because - obviously - Barack Obama is not having any trouble attracting the votes of working class people of color, so the code is just so obvious!

  18. non elitists is on the list as 26 and 59.


    it's interesting though, that since the white population is the majority in the US, you can assume almost any description pretty much means mostly white people, as elucidated by Derek.

    i think shae's comment hit a particularly straight nail on the head.

    back to the fun, how about 'golfers', 'garage bands', or 'sunday drivers'. how about 'vegans'...
    things associated with white people, that don't necessarily mean white. keep goin, maybe you'll hit 75-need more suggestions though.

  19. Thanks for the coding post. You can add "dudes" now from this story:

    Among Fans of Palin, Dudes Rule

    Photo of the White Guys:


  20. Hi, I'm white, but not American. I like to follow the blogs that discuss the American electoral campaign and I think this is one of the sharpest, best commentaries I have read in weeks!

  21. The good news? lots of white folks, call them what you will, will be helping Obama to realize Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" come true! We are white and Obama is better than just right.


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