Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Mon Nov 8 10:15:26 UTC 2010

Thanks Wilson. As I said, I always learn from your posts. But is
simply saying "I'm block [sic]" (as your acquaintance did) enough to
get you (in the general sense of the term) regarded or accepted as a
stone soul-brother? Several Africans I got to know in D.C., for
example, said that they had a hard time being accepted as
African-American by most African-Americans they knew, despite the fact
that they planned to stay in America and wanted to become American and
that America is a country of immigrants where one is supposed to be
able to _become_ an American without being born in the place. (I live
in a country where even after three generations people are not
accepted as really belonging to the country.)


Paul Frank
Chinese, German, French, Italian > English
Espace de l'Europe 16
Neuchâtel, Switzerland
paulfrank at
paulfrank at

On Mon, Nov 8, 2010 at 10:49 AM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:
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> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: shellacking
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Mon, Nov 8, 2010 at 12:31 AM, Paul Frank <paulfrank at> wrote:
>> I was
>> reminded that I was white, by whites and _blacks_ and Asians.
> Paul, the colored are very easily manpulated. At the '72 LSA Summer
> School at UNC, I noticed around a guy that, had anyone asked me to
> guess "what" he was, I would have guessed "Lebanese,"
> primarily because he was wearing a stereotypical, Saudi-styled "Son of
> The Desert" mustache-cum-beard. But his complexion was somewhat
> fairer, indeed, *much* fairer, than that stereotypically associated
> with peoples of the Near East in my mind. I can't speak for all
> Americans, of course, but it is the case that my stereotype of the
> "standard" individual from the Near East is based upon what I've
> learned to expect as a consequence of having grown up in the United
> States.
> Be that as it may, because his skin was so fair and the the only Arabs
> of such fair complexion that I happen to know are Lebanese, I
> unconsciously decided that this particular foreign person was a
> Lebanese Arab, hence "white," this despite the fact that I know or am
> acquainted with a sufficiently-broad spectrum of Lebanese to be fully
> aware that many Lebanese have such dark complexions that they could
> well be Saudis, Iraqis, Egyptians, or even black Americans.
> IAC, at a meal, a group of people, including this person and your
> humble correspondent, were, as usual, discussing various aspects of
> American racism. Suddenly, this person dropped his unsolicited opinion
> into discussion in some strangely-accented attempt at English.
> Naturally, he was immediately challenged: "Who are *you* to dare to
> offer *your* opinion as though it could possibly have any significance
> or be of any concern to *us*?! What's makes you think that you can
> speak to this matter?" (It's astonishingly common for white Americans
> to feel free to interject themselves and their opinions into any
> conversation about anything that has to do with blacks, without any
> idea what kind of assholes they're being. They have not the slightest
> idea that, by unconsciously displaying their feeling that it is their
> natural right to join any group of blacks and freely express their
> opinions, positive or negative, WRT to anything that the coloreds
> might be discussing, they are thereby continuing the master-slave
> relationship. As a consequence, a lot of "good" white people find
> themselves and their opinions dismissed out of hand and they have no
> idea why. Unless it's <choke! gasp!> *reverse* racism! The problem is
> the inability to drop the "white rules" attitude so unforgettably
> (dis)played by Jenny Agutter when she sternly addressed the aborigine
> boy, telling him in no uncertain terms, "We want water!" White people
> been up so long, up seem like down to them.) He replied simply, "I'm
> block [sic]."
> Well, from that moment on, he was regarded as a stone soul-brother,
> merely on the basis of his having publicly asserted that he was black
> "before God and four other white men." The fact that he was still no
> less a foreigner in his lack of ability to walk the walk and talk the
> talk and the fact that his phenotype still revealed no outward
> evidence of sub-Saharan African ancestry mattered not.
> All that you had to have done was to "white" yourself into any
> gathering of blacks and publicly assert to them that you yourself were
> also black and, just like that, you would have been accepted by blacks
> as being also black. Shortly after that, as the word about your black
> "blood" spread, no one would have had to remind you that you were
> black. You would have been fully aware of it at all times.
> I once read a novel by a white - naturally - author who wrote that his
> token black character was so thoroughly integrated <har! har!> into
> his otherwise-white social milieu that he would forget that he himself
> was not white, unless he happened to catch a reflection of himself in
> a random shopwindow or mirror.
> Unreal. Illogical. Ridiculous.
> Once upon a time, back in the '60's, it was considered cute to say of
> an animal, "It thinks it's a people!" That an animal should consider
> itself human is more likely than that a person who knows himself to be
> black would or could forget that which is the defining characteristic
> of his existence, above anything else. It would be a lot easier, IMO,
> to go to a foreign country and forget that one was an American,
> accustomed to toilet paper so soft that it could be used to "wipe a
> baby's bottom!" as a Dutch friend once exclaimed, upon first
> experiencing a luxury that no American considers to be a luxury, but
> simply the way that things are. (That was when I was in the Army and
> anyone going on leave, knowing better than to trust his spoiled
> American asshole to the rigors of European sanitation - No wonder the
> Germans almost won The War! They wipe their asses with sandpaper! -
> always made sure to hit the PX for a couple of rolls of genuine
> Made-In-USA first.)
> --
> -Wilson
> –––
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
> come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> –Mark Twain
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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