Is the term “Canadian” the new code word for racist references to black people?
I read an interesting article in this week’s newsletter of the Clarington Durham Regional Humanists. Apparently the term “Canadian” is being used by some in the Texas court system as a safe code word for “Black people”. Apparently this usage of “Canadian” is being used a bit more broadly than just be Texan court workers, as this usage of the word is the 4th listed definition of “Canadian” on Urban Dictionary, and has received 316 thumbs up ratings versus 192 thumbs downs.
Here is the definition offered at Urban Dictionary:
Expression for black people used by whites as “code” when they want to refer to blacks in a semi-derogatory manner without being detected in a group of people
“Jeezus, look at all the Canadians out tonight.”
Tags for this definition include “spooks”, “porch monkeys”, “jigs”, and “Africans”.
Here is the post from the CDRH Humanist Hub (as linked in the newsletter):
Is term ‘Canadian’ used as racist word?
Email lands Texas district attorney in hot waterhttp://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/297666Is term ‘Canadian’ used as racist word?
Email lands Texas district attorney in hot water
Jan 26, 2008 04:30 AM
Is “Canadian” the new black? Perhaps – that is if you’re a racist speaking in code.
Recent revelations that the term “Canadian” is being used to replace racist names for black people have got a Texas assistant district attorney into trouble and have left others wondering what exactly it means to be labelled a Canadian in the American south.
Long derogated as weak-kneed liberals with lax laws and funny monopoly money, Canadians have carried a negative connotation in certain regions of America – but not as a replacement for the N-word.
Earlier this week a columnist with the Houston Chronicle uncovered an email from Harris County assistant district attorney Mike Trent who, in a congratulatory note to a junior prosecutor, used the word “Canadians” to describe blacks on a jury.
Trent wrote of the prosecutor in a 2003 email: “He overcame a subversively good defence by Matt Hennessey that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant and forced them to do the right thing.”
Trent’s email remained unchallenged by colleagues who received the email, despite there being no actual Canadians on the jury.
But when Trent’s office came under scrutiny this month over an unrelated incident, the email was unearthed, leaving Trent open to accusations of bigotry.
Those accusations are grounded in allegations that the use of “Canadians” was in keeping with the definition listed on an online racial slurs database that defines “Canadian” as a masked replacement for the N-word.
In his own defence, Trent said he honestly thought there had been Canadians on the jury and did not understand the negative connotation of the word.
Others, including the columnist with the Houston Chronicle initially thought the reference to Canadians may have been a misspelling of Californians, who are themselves seen to espouse many of the same liberal values as Canadians.
Despite the controversy, Henry Wells, a Texan and media relations officer with the Canadian Consulate General in Dallas, says he has never heard the term used in a racial manner before.