Friday, August 29, 2014

Macaca: An Americanized Racial Slur?

Even though its origins date back to the 2006 US Mid-Term Elections, is macaca an example of an “Americanized racial slur”?

By: Ringo Bones

To those still unfamiliar with this relatively young member of the American English lexicon, macaca became the American Dialectic Society’s Word of the Year back in 2006 when the then incumbent US Republican Party Senator George Allen used it during the 2006 US Mid-Term Elections while campaigning for his US Senate seat in Virginia when it was probably the first time ever used while caught on camera. Back then, most Americans where still unfamiliar with the term until continuous media coverage of the said video footage made everyone who closely followed the US Mid-term Elections alleged it to be a “racial slur”.
Even though Allen pleaded that he was unaware of its reported racial context, a Francophone equivalent of the word macaca – i.e. the word macaque that eventually used to name a genus of monkeys – were used by French colonizers in Africa during the Victorian era as a disparaging term to the black African natives. Relating to the Allen controversy, macaca was unsurprisingly named as the “most politically incorrect word” of 2006 by the Global Language Monitor.    

The video of US Republican Party senate incumbent George Allen nicknaming a young Indian-American man attending one of his rallies as “macaca” as Allen asked the young man to come up on stage before Allen referred to him as an example of the success results of the American Dream. Unbeknown to Senator Allen, the young Indian-American was an aide to senate rival US Democratic Party Senator Jim Webb named S.R. Siddarth whose full name is a far cry from ever closely resembling a homophone of the word macaca, thus highlighting the “institutionalized racism” of the conservatives populating the ranks of the US Republican Party.