Free Dartmouth
8/14/2006 08:30:00 PM | Timothy

George Allen's Race and Racism
TNR's Ryan Lizza has previously reported on George Allen's past race problems. Now I see from's blog that The Washington Post has this report on a brand new incident:
Democrat James Webb's Senate campaign accused Sen. George Allen (R) of making demeaning comments Friday to a 20-year-old Webb volunteer of Indian descent.

S.R. Sidarth, a senior at the University of Virginia, had been trailing Allen with a video camera to document his travels and speeches for the Webb campaign. During a campaign speech Friday in Breaks, Virginia, near the Kentucky border, Allen singled out Sidarth and called him a word that sounded like "Macaca."

"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. We're going to places all over Virginia, and he's having it on film and its great to have you here and you show it to your opponent because he's never been there and probably will never come."

After telling the crowd that Webb was raising money in California with a "bunch of Hollywood movie moguls," Allen again referenced Sidarth, who was born and raised in Fairfax County.

"Lets give a welcome to Macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia," said Allen, who then began talking about the "war on terror."

'Macaca' or 'mukaka' seems like garbled nonsense, but further reporting shows it is worse. Lizza links to a list of ethnic slurs, which says 'macaque' is French and Belgian slur for Negros or North Africans specifically. The term derives from macaque monkeys. I have never heard this slur. Should we expect that George Allen would have heard of it? Well... yes. TNR's Ryan Lizza blogs:
Not only is macaque apparently a French slur used to describe North Africans, Allen would have good reason to know it is. His mother is French Tunisian (yeah, that's in North Africa), and Allen speaks French.

Allen's campaign is saying that the name they use for Sidarth, the volunteer, is Mohawk. Macacca is said by Allen's crew to be a variation of that. The Post reports:
Wadhams said Allen campaign staffers had begun calling Sidarth "mohawk" because of a haircut Wadhams said the Webb staffer has. "Macaca was just a variation of that," Wadhams said.
Uh... What? Sidarth clearly doesn't have a Mohawk. If Allen's crew is going to use this silly defense, they should give us a plausible readon why Allen and his staff made up that nickname for him. Maybe the Allen campaign said hey, he's Indian (though not of the Native American kind), we should call him Mohawk. They should tell us that, so we know Allen wasn't racist.

One commentator on the TNR blog says: "It seems like a non-issue whether or not "Macaca" is itself offensive. Automatically (and inaccurately) referring to a Latino as "Sanchez" would be offensive even though there's nothing wrong with the name Sanchez, because of the aren't-they-all-alike implications of it."

I think the commentator has a point about the offensiveness of Allen's speech absent any explict ethnic slur (e.g. assuming someone non-white isn't from Virginia-- which he was-- and saying 'Welcome to America'). Still, an ethnic slur takes a speech to a whole new level. It is different than a garbled word. And given that Allen speaks french, and his mother is Tunisian, and his love for the confederacy as a Californian, I agree with Lizza: I'm not willing to give Allen the benefit of the doubt and say he didn't know the word.

Update: More from TNR on Allen's elaborated excuse. TNR quotes the Hotline blog:
According to two Republicans who heard the word used, "macaca" was a mash-up of "Mohawk," referring to Sidarth's distinctive hair, and "caca," Spanish slang for excrement, or "shit." says:
So Allen would have us believe that "macaca" is a wacky nickname combining "mohawk" (even though the Webb staffer in question really doesn't have one in the typical sense) and a word (caca) which English-speakers rarely use--and which just happens to be a racial slur in a language Allen speaks? That's some coincidence.

Sean comments on my post to say that he agrees with much said here, but that some pictures of Sidarth do look like he has a Mohawk. The TNR post has links to a side shot of Sidarth, where his haircut, though it doesn't look like a traditional Mohawk, sorta looks enough like one so it perhaps could have inspired a nickname. writes: "Even if you accept that Allen was 'only' calling the guy a shithead instead of a monkey, a friend asks: 'Is that a defense--or an allegation'?"

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