Monday, March 26, 2012

Where George Allen really learned the word "Macaca"

Read the real story of "Macaca" at Media Matters:
In reporting on Sen. George F. Allen's (R-VA) reference to one of his opponent's campaign volunteers as "Macaca," most major media outlets noted that the word is a slur that apparently originated in North Africa. However, in reporting Allen's claim not to know what the term means or why he used it, the majority of those media outlets -- including The Washington Post, ABC, CNN, The New York Times, the Associated Press, and MSNBC -- left out a fact that might shed light on the claim's veracity: Allen's mother was born and raised in Tunisia, a former French colony in North Africa, as Allen himself has repeatedly noted in the past.

On August 11, Allen was caught on tape referring to S.R. Sidarth, a volunteer with Allen's Democratic Senate challenger Jim Webb, as "Macaca" and "[w]elcome[d]" Sidarth "to America and the real world of Virginia." Sidarth is of Indian descent, but he was reportedly born and raised in Virginia. As The Washington Post reported on August 15, "In some European cultures, macaca is also considered a racial slur against African immigrants, according to several Web sites that track ethnic slurs." Responding to questions raised over Allen's use of the term "macaca," Dick Wadhams, Allen's campaign manager, "dismissed the issue with an expletive and insisted the senator has 'nothing to apologize for,' " as the August 15 Post article reported. As an August 16 Post article further noted, Allen subsequently apologized for his use of the term, claiming his remarks "have been greatly misunderstood by members of the media." The August 15 Post article had previously reported that Allen did not know what "macaca" means, and that his use of the term was really intended as a play on the word " 'mohawk,' a term that his campaign staff had nicknamed Sidarth because of his haircut." The article had added, "Sidarth said his hairstyle is a mullet -- tight on top, long in the back."

But as Washington correspondent Michael Scherer detailed in an August 16 Salon article, in addition to the fact that the term "macaca" is "racist shorthand for blacks" with North African origins, Allen's mother was born and raised in Tunisia . . .

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