Virginia Sen. (and presidential hopeful) George Allen referred to a young volunteer of Indian descent as “macaque,” which is tantamount to “monkey” or the “N word” among African immigrants.
Washington Post story (excerpted twice below)
Video of the incident
Allen made the remark to S.R. Sidarth, a 20-year-old campaign volunteer who works for Allen’s opponent in the Va. Senate race, and who was taping Allen’s public appearance. In his “apology” to Sidarth, Allen said:
I would never want to demean him as an individual. I do apologize if he’s offended by that. That was no way the point.
DailyKos contributor Susan G parses Allen’s “apology”
The Washington Post followed up with the $64,000 question.
Asked what macaca means, Allen said: “I don’t know what it means.” He said the word sounds similar to “mohawk,” a term that his campaign staff had nicknamed Sidarth because of his haircut. Sidarth said his hairstyle is a mullet—tight on top, long in the back.
Actually, “mohawk” doesn’t sound very similar to macaque at all.
About the word itself, Ryan Lizza at the New Republic writes:
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.
Salon has the best writeup (ad wall) of Allen’s background and the slur’s etymology:
Today, the word is used mainly by two groups of people: scientists studying African and Asian primates, and bullies looking to insult others for the color of their skin. An online dictionary of ethnic slurs lists “macaque” as a French and Belgian word for black North Africans. In the Oxford Spanish Dictionary, “macaco” and “macaca” carry the colloquial meaning of “little devil,” “Chinaman” and “ugly person.” Anthropologists who study Brazilian street slang have noted that the police will call the local kids “macaco,” or monkey, in reference to their African heritage. Robin E. Sheriff, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, has written that the purpose of it is to demonstrate “interpersonal domination” and signal “the historically entrenched structures on which that domination is based.”
Washington Post editorial against Allen
Slate’s John Dickerson on Allen: “Once a Boob, Always a Boob”
John at AMERICAblog has more on the origins of the word
Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) apologized Monday for what his opponent’s campaign said were demeaning and insensitive comments the senator made to a 20-year-old volunteer of Indian descent.
At a campaign rally in southwest Virginia on Friday, Allen repeatedly called a volunteer for Democrat James Webb “macaca.” During the speech in Breaks, near the Kentucky border, Allen began by saying that he was “going to run this campaign on positive, constructive ideas” and then pointed at S.R. Sidarth in the crowd.
“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,” Allen said, as his supporters began to laugh. After saying that Webb was raising money in California with a “bunch of Hollywood movie moguls,” Allen said, “Let’s give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.” Allen then began talking about the “war on terror.”
From Salon.com and Youtube.com
Left: S.R. Sidarth; right: a screen capture of Virginia Sen. George Allen making the instantly infamous racially-charged “macaque” remark in reference to Sidarth.