Pressing Obama, &c.

The president during a press conference in 2009


Throughout the life of this column — which began in March 2001 — I have lamented the term “African-American,” which I think is divisive, separatist, ahistorical, inaccurate, and wrong. (Other than that, I’m great with it.)

See what you make of this story, published on Saturday: “Some blacks insist: ‘I’m not African-American.’” An excerpt:

“I prefer to be called black,” said Shawn Smith, an accountant from Houston. “How I really feel is, I’m American.”

“I don’t like African-American. It denotes something else to me than who I am,” said Smith, whose parents are from Mississippi and North Carolina. “I can’t recall any of them telling me anything about Africa. They told me a whole lot about where they grew up in Macomb County and Shelby, N.C.”

Exactly. As Condi Rice remarked to me, many years ago, blacks are part and parcel of this country. Have been for 400 years. Moreover (she pointed out), “black” is parallel to “white.” Some people say “European-American,” to go with “African-American,” which is all the more nauseating.

Also, Tom Sowell has pointed out to me that the average black family in America has been here longer than the average white family. So who, really, needs a hyphen?

To hell with it. At least that’s what I think . . .

They had a presidential election in Finland on Sunday, and I read an article about it the day before. Go here. One of the candidates, the article explained, was a gay Green whose partner is an Ecuadoran immigrant hairdresser. I thought, “How can he lose?”

But he did lose, the papers told us the next day. (Increasingly, we use “papers” metaphorically.)

I was reminded of a conversation I once had with a Norwegian friend of mine. We were talking about Barack Obama, who won the Nobel peace prize (given in Oslo) and is obviously a darling of Scandinavian political elites, and of European political elites more broadly.

“Think about it,” I said. “He’s basically a social democrat, he banished all things George W. Bush, and he’s black, to boot. He’s perfect.” My friend replied, “No, he could be gay. Then he’d be perfect.”

I said, “I stand corrected.”

Last November, we National Review cruisers went once again to Puerto Rico, where it’s so enjoyable to look at the iguanas. Fascinating creatures.

I was quite interested in this news story, whose opening line was, “Iguanas of Puerto Rico: Your days are numbered.” ’Scuse me? “The island’s government is announcing plans to kill as many of the reptiles as possible and export their meat in hopes of eradicating an imported species that has long vexed residents and entertained tourists.”

Ah — I’ve been looking through tourist’s eyes, and, yes, have been entertained.

I liked Gisele Bundchen’s leaked e-mail, pre-Super Bowl (published here). I loved its beginning: “My sweet friends and family.” And I got a kick out of this: “He and his team [i.e., husband Tom Brady and the New England Patriots] worked so hard to get to this point and now they need us more than ever to send them positive energy so they can fulfill their dream of winning this super bowl.”

This Super Bowl — because they have been in so many others, you see. Most teams would think in terms of “the Super Bowl.” “Our dreams of winning the Super Bowl.” But for the accomplished Patriots, it’s this particular one.

(N.B. Am writing before the Super Bowl — minutes before. So about the outcome, I can’t comment, not just now.)

A little language? I liked an expression I heard on a plane the other day — we had landed and taxied, but were having to pause before finally reaching the gate: “We’re holding short here.”

In a column the other week, I mentioned the Secret Service, and said what a shame it was that its initials had to be “SS.” (I’ve long felt the same about Social Security.) A reader writes, “My father was a Secret Service agent for many years, and is now retired. Gift-giving occasions always include items with the logo on them. Generally they go by ‘USSS.’”


Finally, you know how some people are known by their first name, only? Newt. Cher. Plato (!). Well, some are known only by their last name. A few days ago, I had occasion to check an index and saw “Garibaldi, Giuseppe.” I thought, “Huh: All these years, and I had never known Garibaldi’s first name.”

Anyway, Happy Monday — and I hope your team won yesterday. (When Detroit’s not in it, I can maintain a cool disinterest. Usually.)