Yesterday, when the news broke that George Allen called someone at a campaign stop a 'macaca,' I did some Google searches to find out what it meant. As it turns out, the question is not if 'macaca' is a racist...

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Jeffrey Feldman, Editor-in-Chief
Frameshop, 08/15/2006

Yesterday, when the news broke that George Allen called someone at a campaign stop a 'macaca,' I did some Google searches to find out what it meant.  As it turns out, the question is not if 'macaca' is a racist term, but which of the three definitions of the word 'macaca' did George Allen intend when he used it?

Here are the three choices:

  1. 'Macaca' - French : racist slang; similar to English 'nigger,' used to describe Arabs.
  2. 'Macaca' - English : racist slang; similar to 'nigger' used to describe Arabs.
  3. 'Macaca' - English : racist slang; used by American white supremacists in 'insider' talk about African-Americans.

Which one is it?  Before we get to that conclusion, here are a few points in response to the discussion as it has evolved since last night.

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'Macaca' Used Intentionally By George Allen
So far, George Allen's campaign is saying that the word was Allen's mispronunciation of 'Mohawk,' but reasonable people can discount that answer.  The word 'macaca' (three syllables) is no closer to 'mohawk' (two syllables) than are the words 'Madison' or 'Mac n' Cheese.'  And since Allen pronounced the word twice in a short period of time--each instance with emphasis, as if he was setting up 'macaca' to be the keyword that everyone would hear--we can conclude without hesitation that his use was conscious.  He used the word because he chose to use it in advance at that moment and to make sure that everyone in the audience heard him use it.  'Macaca,' in other words, was the keyword in his communication strategy to handle the situation of a campaign staffer from his opposition following him around with a video camera.

'Macaca' Is A Word He Learned From His Mother, But Did Not Understand
This is another potential misinterpretation of the events. Since George Allen's mother was raised in France and French-speaking Tunisia, some have surmised that 'macaca' might just be a nonsense word he had heard from his mother,  but did not understaned.  This cannot be true, however, because it has been shown that George Allen studied French and did quite well.  The idea that he would not understand a word used by his mother, but use it twice in a campaign stump speech--this makes no logical sense and can be discounted.

'Macaca' Was Pronounced 'Mukakkah' - It's a Different Word
Some have said that the word Allen used does not relate to the racist term 'macaca' because he pronounced it 'mah-KAH-kuh.'    This, too, is not a concern that holds water.  The original 'text' for George Allen's use of 'macaca' was not a printed script, but a video clip.  Therefore, all of the initial spellings of the word were speculative--based on phonetic transcriptions by people not familiar with the term.  Imagine somebody who did not know anything about America heard George Allen give a speech in which he insulted a man named 'Boosh.'   Initially, that word might circulate with the wrong spelling, but once the transcript was corrected to 'Bush'--the original spelling would no longer be relevant.

Conclusion: George Allen Used A White Power Word In A Stump Speach
Having looked into the background on this word (see below), I conclude the following:

George Allen's used 'macaca' at his campaign stop (1) consciously, (2) specifically in order to signal to people who knew what it meant, and (3)  with the goal of showing that he was not intimidated by the staffer from his opponent's campaign attending his campaign events.

The entire statement was designed to humiliate the person in question by drawing attention to them and insulting them mwith a coded racial slur--all with the intention of showing confidence in response to intimidation from his opponent.

It is likely that George Allen did not believe many people would understand what was being said, except for 'insiders' already familiar with the word 'macaca.'

In a few words:  George Allen used a white power word in his stump speach.  And he did it on purpose.  

Why he did it is a question I cannot answer.  There cannot be more than a handful of people in Virginia who could have understood this term.  Perhaps there were some in the audience?  That is hard to say.  Perhaps he has used the word 'macaca' before in similar situations that have not been caugh on tape?  Also hard to say.  Perhaps 'macaca' is a word that he uses normally in his private life, but that he typically does not incude in his stump speeches?  Difficult to answer that question.

Whatever the case may be, journalists, voters and elected officialsin Virginia have ample reason to ask George Allen an extended series of questions about this incident.  

It is fair to say that if a sitting U.S. Senator is identified as using a word identified as part of a broader white power vocabulary--that is cause for serious alarm.

© 2006 Jeffrey Feldman, Frameshop

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© Jeffrey Feldman 2006, Frameshop

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