Thursday, June 16, 2016

Why It's Offensive To Use "The" In Front Of The Name Of A Demographic Population

Edited by Azizi Powell

On June 15, 2016 Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican candidate for President of the United States, used the phrase "the gays" several times in a speech. Trump said: "Ask the gays what they think and what they do, in, not only Saudi Arabia, but many of these countries, and then you tell me — who’s your friend, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?”

Donald Trump on the gays, Atlanta GA, 06-15-16

Ryan Williams Published on Jun 15, 2016
Donald Trump's suggestion that people should "ask the gays" caused that phrase to trend on twitter. is full of tweets, Gifs, and vines trolling Trump and letting him and others know in no uncertain terms that few people in Gay communities are his friend.

While a number of examples from that twitter page* are worthy of folkloric documentation-and I'm sure someone is documenting those tweets-I'm most interested in preserving selected online comments that focus on the offensiveness of Donald Trump's phrase "the gays".

This post presents some comments from two articles on that subject.

Addendum #1 to this post quotes selected comments from a 2004 discussion about the use of the term "the blacks". That Addendum also includes my brief comment about why I think the use of "the" in front of the name of a demographic population is offensive.

Update: June 16, 2016 3:37 PM - Addendum #2: excerpts from The New Yorker article "Trump's Unrecongnizable America" by Benjamin Wallace-Wells
*Warning: Many of the tweets and gifs etc. on #askthegays contain profanity.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, and educational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

These articles are given in no particular order. I've numbered them and their comments for referencing purposes only.

Article #1: Donald Trump flippantly says #AskTheGays — only to get roasted on Twitter
by Arturo Garcia, 15 JUN 2016
"Donald Trump’s attempt to paint himself as an ally to LGBT communities was rejected on Wednesday in the bluntest terms possible thanks to the #AskTheGays tag."
Selected comments from that article [All comments are from June 15, 2016]:
1. gop lies in harmony
"Who talks like that? The gays, the blacks, the Mexicans. Go the f___k* away, The Drumpf!"
This word was fully spelled out in this comment.

2. Ramtamtam
"Who talks like that? The morons. Ask the morons."

3. Brianna Amoré
"Who talks like that? The racists, that's who."

4. hipichick7
"Who refers to gay people by "the gays"? I have never heard of anyone other than tRump speak in that manner."

5. gallbladder
"I was just wondering if Trump has ever referred to Caucasians as "the whites?" If not, it would solidify more than a few suggestions where his bigotry, xenophobia, and sexism are concerned."

6. Suzan Sarasin
"The gays, the blacks, the hispanics."

7. MarieB
"Make that the Mexicans."

8. Suzan Sarasin
"O that's right. He like the Hispanics, it is the Mexicans that are the rapists."

9. Ranina
"As I recall, his first wife referred to him as "The Donald" - just another icky affectation I guess."

10. ColeYote
"Yeah, calling us "the gays" isn't going to win many of us over to your cause. And, good news, we reportedly support Donald Trump even less than the last two Republican candidates. And, like, not even a little less, McCain had 28%, Romney had 22%, Trumpkinhead is looking at 16%."

11. Sam202
"I question the sanity of that 16%, too. :D"

12. stingray68
"Interesting piece by Benjamin Wallace-Wells of the New Yorker, noting that Trump's "ethnic essentialism," referring to people by collective group labels, is a leftover from 1980s NYC, specifically his dealings in the real estate market, presumably from such usages as "the gays are moving into Chelsea.""
Thanks, stingray68 for alerting me to this article. I've included an excerpt of that article in Addendum #2 given below.

Article #2
'Trump Told People To “Ask The Gays”, And The Gays Had Answers-Tweets, actually'
by Sarah Karlan, posted on Jun. 15, 2016, at 4:58 p.m.
"During a speech at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on Wednesday, Donald Trump told supporters to “ask the gays” if he was an LGBT-friendly candidate.
"Ask the gays what they think and what they do in not only Saudi Arabia, but many of these countries, and then you tell me who’s your friend: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?” Trump said during the rally"

The hypothetical question soon hit Twitter, where “The Gays” had so many answers, they were trending...

Gay Twitter assembled — with GIFs...

The Gays came, The Gays saw, The Gays trolled...

Twitter users then answered the “question” in no uncertain terms..."
Selected comments from this article: [All these comments are from June 15, 2016
1. Flora Quint
"Ive noticed Drumpf tends to put a "the" infront of a demographic that he knows doesn't support him. The gays, the Hispanics, the Muslims, the blacks. I don't know how to explain it but there is something very odd to me about referring to people like that."

2. Laura Sch
"The women"

3. Carlos Aguilar, · Oakland, California
"He talks like an old white person "the" gays "the" Mexicans "the" Blacks. "

Yo Trump stop talking to us like we're the help!"

4. Cat Crandall
"He really does though. He reminds me of my aunt's third husband. Dude's all nice and grandfatherly, and then he starts going odd on "the eye-talians" and straight on through, not sparing anyone."

What was so offensive about "the blacks"?

[Most of these comments are from October 3, 2004. The last comment that is quoted is from October 4, 2004.]

1. posted by yalestar to Society & Culture (47 answers total)
"Oddball semantics question: Yesterday my wife and her mother were talking about chutney for some reason. Her mother remarked that she always thought that chutney was something that "the blacks" ate. Setting aside the fact that chutney is an Indian thing, what is so distasteful about mom-in-law's choice of words?

Now I've never known mom-in-law to espouse any particularly racist points of view before, and I don't think any were intended here. But the wife and I were both caught off guard by it, and are also finding ourselves pretty fascinated at the semantics at play here. For example, I don't think I would have given it a second thought if mom-in-law had said "the Greeks" or "the Swedes." But for some reason, hearing her say "the blacks" was very cringe-inducing.

So, what's the deal here? Why does saying "the blacks" sound so blunt and wrong? Or are we just reading too much into some colloquialism from yesteryear (mom-in-law grew up in rural Nebraska)?

2. posted by coelecanth
"My theory is that it would be arrogant to presume to speak for all Greeks everywhere. When you say "the Greeks" there's some implicit boundary to the generalization: maybe you mean "the Greeks" to be Greek citizens generally. In this case the boundary is people actually living in Greece. Maybe you mean the Greeks who live in the neighborhood up the street. Maybe you mean the ancient Greeks. In all cases there's an implicit limit to your generalization.

When your mother in law says "the blacks" there is no way for you to implicitly limit the generalization. It sounds as if she's speaking about all black people everywhere, or can't be bothered to make any finer distinction. To your ear it sounds as if she's implying that skin color determines taste. If that sounds racist to you, it should. Your mother-in-law may not actually be a racist but she's saying something that sounds that way."

3. posted by casarkos
"Why is there a "the" in front of the nationality at all? "...something blacks/Japanese/Turks eat" seems to convey the same meaning perfectly well."

4. posted by dame
"To me it has something to do with the "the"—it seems to block off very squarely a group of others as Other. It has an air of "those people" to it; it implies a monolithic block of Not Us.

For that reason, I wouldn't say "the Jews" either; I'd say gefilte fish is a Jewish food or Jews eat gefilte fish. Likewise I'd say sushi is eaten by Japanese people.

Does that make sense?"

5. posted by falconred
"Agreed, the "The" for whatever reason is only used by people who see themselves as different from the group mentioned. The way you hear conservative christians talk about "the gays", etc."

6. jessamyn
"I think it has to do with using one characteristic of a person [in this case race] to sort of stand in for the person or actually all people from the race. The lit. term for this is metonymy, or that's what I think of. So, instead of saying "black people" which is a noun followed preceded by a modifier, you are taking the modifier and using it to stand in for the noun, in a way saying "this noun can be reduced to one adjective". When I was going to college in the PC heydey one of the things that was put forward as a more appropriate way to discuss people from other races/cultures was to make sure that you noted somehow that they are people [general term that we all belong to] first, with the racial or cultural attribute also. So instead of saying "the blacks" you can say "black people" and it makes it a more human, personal and [in my opinion] appropriate way to discuss others, also less likely to be misconstrued. "Turkish people" and "Jewish people" as phrases do not have the barb potential that Turks or Jews do. Whether or not her assertion about chutney was or was not accurate, this is the crux of why it sounds weird to me."

7.posted by yalestar
..."I agree that it's defintely the "the". I like that thing that jessamyn laid out especially: there's something very subtle yet eminently less blunt about saying "black people" instead of "the blacks." Not that ascribing some trait to all people is ever really a good idea, but from a semantics standpoint, one is definitely better than the other.

It also occurs to me that the phrase "the blacks" kinda smacks of a time when most of the US referred to a whole race of people as if their presence amounted to some sort of national crisis, e.g. "the negro problem."

8. posted by nthdegx
..."The blacks" is such a ridiculously general phrase that any individual attribute assigned can only be ridiculously and offensively inaccurate."

My comment about why it's offensive to use "the" in front of the name of a demographic population:
Using "the" before the name of a demographic population indicates that you think that a diverse population is one homogeneous unit which thinks and acts the same. Furthermore, it appears to me that demographic populations which are referred to as "the ___ (i.e. "the blacks", "the gays", "the Muslims", "the Mexicans") are considered by mainstream Americans (i.e. White people) to be inferior to those who are using that reference.

Instead of "the" demographic population terms, I believe that it's preferable to use the specific population name plus the word "people" or "community" or better yet "communities". In doing so, you are confirming that you recognize that population as being diverse, and realize that what one member of that population doesn't represent all members of that population.

"Trump's Unrecongnizable America" by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, June 16, 2016
"The Muslims have to work with us,” Donald Trump said on Monday, in his speech responding to the slaughter of forty-nine people at Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando, by a twenty-nine-year-old Muslim-American security guard....

"Us versus them” has been Trump’s theme since the beginning of his candidacy. But the more often he applies it, the more slippery and opportunistic those categories seem....

In Trump’s speeches, lines of ethnic strife are always present but forever being rearranged—suddenly drawn, then erased, and then drawn again. The pattern shows an intellectual habit of Trump’s—ethnic essentialism, in which individuals are blurred out in favor of the groups to which they belong. Not Muslim-Americans, but “the Muslims.” Not African-Americans, but “the blacks.” (2011: “I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”) This talk is something of a relic of the New York of the nineteen-eighties, from which Trump himself emerged, suffused with ethnic competition and fear. It was Trump’s sensibility as a real-estate executive of that era, whose managers marked “C” for colored on rental applications. These views incline a business executive and those around him to acts of discrimination and bias. They have an additional effect in a politician trying to make sense of human events: they nudge him toward seeing the entire group as responsible, and blind him to the individual."...

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment