I took this picture at a traffic signal in Manama this afternoon. It was intriguing since I thought the word “negro” is no longer used in any way – in fact it is even taboo since the 80s and those using it could face prosecution in most countries around the world.
When I took the picture, I had no idea what it was, so I posted it on Facebook. Minutes later, a friend in Beirut said it was a “Lebanese biscuit” but quickly added the name was changed years ago when there were some objections.
A Google search of the product revealed some pictures of the product and all doubts were laid to rest. The accompanying image is testimony to what I mean.
Wonder why, in this day, such a product is not only manufactured and named thus, but is also allowed to be openly sold.
Somebody, somewhere has goofed. Perhaps someone owes the answers.
I leave the rest to the readers. Comments are welcome!
PS: US Senator Harry Reid apologized in 2008 for comment just before the Presidential election when he said Barack Obama could win in part because he was a “light skinned” African-American with “no Negro dialect”. Reid, resisting calls for his resignation, described the gaffe as a “poor choice of words”.
When did the word Negro become socially unacceptable?
The decline started in 1966 and the word was unofficially abolished in the mid-1980s. The turning point came when Stokely Carmichael coined the phrase black power at a 1966 rally in Mississippi. Until then, Negro was how most black Americans described themselves. But in Carmichael’s speeches and in his landmark 1967 book, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America, he persuasively argued that the term implied black inferiority.
Both the Associated Press and the New York Times abandoned Negro in the 1970s, and by the mid-1980s, even the most hidebound institutions, like the US Supreme Court, had largely stopped using Negro.
Had Sen. Reid chosen to defend his word choice, he could have cited some formidable authorities.
Coloured was the preferred term for black Americans until W.E.B. Du Bois, following the lead of Booker T. Washington, advocated for a switch to Negro in the 1920s. (Du Bois also used black in his writings, but it wasn’t his term of choice.)
Despite claims that Negro was a white-coined word intended to marginalize black people, Du Bois argued that the term was “etymologically and phonetically” preferable to colored or “various hyphenated circumlocutions”. After achieving the shift in vocabulary, Du Bois spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to capitalize his preferred term.
In 1930—nine years before Harry Reid was born—the New York Times Style Book made the change.
Most importantly, the new terminology—chosen by black leaders themselves—symbolized a rising tide of black intellectual, artistic, and political assertiveness.