dlusthau at dlusthau at
Wed Mar 12 09:33:51 UTC 1997

>American English has not suffered, as far
>as I can see, from the disappearance of the "semantically inoffensive" word
>"Negro" but I haven't heard or seen anyone use it, except quotatively, in a
>very long time.

This past weekend, on Showtime at the Apollo (a tv show broadcast from the
Apollo Theater in Harlem), during the Amateur Contest, one of the
contestants said, when asked what she was going to do, "I'm going to sing
an old Negro Spiritual." The MC, who also probably hasn't heard the word
Negro for awhile, was clearly taken aback, and asked, "you are going to
sing an old [pause, then lots of stress and stretching on the first
syllable] Negro spiritual?" The MC made a face, and looked at the audience
as if the woman was doomed.

Sure enough, as she began to sing (and she wasn't bad - a strong voice in a
quasi-Mahalia Jackson sort of way) the audience almost immediately began to
"boo" loudly so that the rejection horn sounded within 20 secs. of her
beginning. She never had a chance. (N.B. In case you are wondering, she was
herself a negro - I just couldn't say black or afro-american or
african-american there, since those terms were her downfall).

The word Negro has not disappeared. It's been driven into hiding.

Dan Lusthaus
Florida State University

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