The Town Scryer is a mixed bag of humor, socio-political observations and ephemera from the perspective of a eclectic Pagan veteran of the counter-culture.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Teaspoon of Respect

    One of the first blogs I read in the morning, even before the news, is TYWKIWDBI. Today I found an article on the struggle to capitalize the word, "Negro" which was being spelled with a lowercase "n" in the press and even by government documents before the 1930s.

     Since the American Civil War (now in its 150th year as of last month) when the use of the word “Negro” was used to describe African Americans, it appeared in print overwhelmingly with a small “n”. The idea was simple—to use a capital “N” would give a certain amount of respect and social diligence in referring to this race of people with a proper salutation; the small “n” minimized all of that, a symbol that these people were not worthy of having the initial letter of their race capitalized, and that because of their inferiority.
This was also the case with the word “Colored”, which was used in the decades before the Civil War and then lightly after that, giving way to for a short time to “Freedman” and then Negro--”Colored” appeared in print as “colored” in the vast majority of times.

There was in the country a racism so entrenched and engrained that African Americans were seen as being wholly unworthy of being dignified with a capital “N”, and it was the natural way of things. As the editor of the Eatonton, Georgia, newspaper Messenger said when asked about the capitalization issue, that he would not be a party to it, because “it would lead to social equality."

     It is a small matter, but it really is not. It is an insistence on a teaspoon of dignity to sweeten the bitter gall of inequality. Now imagine if you would that this controversy is taking place today instead of in the 1930's. It isn't really that hard to do. Did you just hear in your imagination the simpering sneer of Bill O'Riley or Rush Limbaugh? Yeah, me too. A lot of the current issues that are in the news today in the Red States are an attempt to strip someone of their capital letter. The "N" is an apt metaphor for the immigration laws in Arizona and for the relegation of public employees and teachers to second-class citizenship in a dozen states. 

     Next time you watch the news or read the paper, remember the "N" and the small teaspoon of respect.

     Be seeing you.

    Additional source: Ptak Science Books 

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