Alan Greenblatt is a GOVERNING correspondent.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I don't doubt that George Allen can be insulting and indeed was Monday to a volunteer with his opponent's campaign. But I do doubt that Allen consciously reaches for "racial epithets and slurs of Belgian/French derivation" when he wants to slam someone.
By now you've probably heard that Allen, a former governor and U.S. senator from Virginia, insulted S.R. Sidarth, a volunteer of Indian descent with his opponent's campaign Monday.
Here's The Washington Post's account of Allen's remarks: "This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great," Allen said, as his supporters began to laugh. After saying that Webb was raising money in California with a "bunch of Hollywood movie moguls," Allen said, "Let's give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."
Okay, fair enough -- Allen, who has a history of wearing and waving Confederate flags, further tarnishes his "doesn't scare the cattle" image by insulting someone at least in part because of his race. Obviously this doesn't help his presidential hopes.
But what did he mean by "macaca"?
Allen himself, who has apologized, says he doesn't know. He said it sounds like mohawk, which is what his campaign called Sidarth. (Sidarth wears a mullet.)
The Post then demonstrates the TMI dangers of the Internet: "Depending on how it is spelled, the word macaca could mean either a monkey that inhabits the Eastern Hemisphere or a town in South Africa. In some European cultures, macaca is also considered a racial slur against African immigrants, according to several Web sites that track ethnic slurs."
As if that weren't reaching far enough, a poster on the Post's regular political chat today chimes in:
"I ... do not consider the racial slur Allen employed as "juvenile name calling". Macaca (macaque) despite Allen's professed ignorance and protestations to the contrary, is a racial epithet and slur of Belgian/French derivation and should be characterized as such, in my honest opinion."
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.