Macaca Muy Caca? (Updated, Update Again, And Again)
I wasn't sure what to make of the reports of Virginia Senator George Allen putting his foot in it today when he referred to a Jim Webb operative of Indian descent as "Macaca". Some immediately leaped on this as evidence of Allen's racism. But I wasn't sure since it was quite possible that Allen had just been misinformed as to what the man's name was (his real name is S.R. Sidarth).
The "Welcome to America" comment was a bit odd, but not to out of keeping with the idea pushed by a lot of politicians that they represent the "Real America". Yes, I know that in some circles the term "Real America" is a racial code-word. But these kind of things are obscure enough that there are a lot of people who might innocently use terms like that with no malicious intent.
I was doing some googling on the term "Macaca" to determines its origins. But the only substantial link I could find was to the monkey species otherwise known as the macaque. I again found it hard to believe that Allen was making that obscure a reference in an insulting manner.
Well, Atrios was thinking along the same lines, but he may have hit pay-dirt. Apparantly "Macaca" is a term with some history of use as a racial slur. And, according to Atrios, it is quite common in some "nastier corners" of the internet. I'll take his word on that.
Sounds like Allen might have some explaining to do.
Frameshop does more searching and finds that yes, "Macaca" or "Macaque" is a not-infrequent racial slur in some of the "nastier corners" of the world.
Hmmm. Frameshop's research found that "Macaca/Macaque" as a racial slur has Belgium origins where it usually refers to a 'dirty arab' of North African descent. Well, a commentor on the Frameshop post posted that Allen's mother came from Tunisia. The "Race 4 2008" website gives some background:
Allen’s mother immigrated from French Tunisia and was “Italian, French and a little Spanish” and according to Allen, was imprisoned by the Nazi Regime in World War II Germany. Allen’s father was of Dutch-Irish and Scottish descent.
Just another data point.
In all the above I forgot to hilight the one thing that makes this most suspicious: the lame excuse the Allen campaign gave for the Senator's comment.
Allen campaign manager Dick Wadhams said the Webb campaign's complaints about the comments are unfounded and he said Allen had "nothing to apologize for" to the young man.
Wadhams said Allen campaign staffers had begun calling Sidarth "mohawk" because of a haircut Wadhams said the Webb staffer has. "Macaca was just a variation of that," Wadhams said.
Of course, Sidarth has no mohawk, as shown in this picture (courtesy Atrios):