[Ads-l] Racist origins of "Grandfathering"

Dennis During dcduring at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 18 17:02:19 EST 2020


The racist origins of the term were completely whitewashed from my
understanding of its meaning. I hope we can find a substitute.

According to the Wikipedia article on "Grandfather clause":

There is also a rather different, older type of *grandfather clause*,
perhaps more properly a *grandfather principle* in which a government blots
out transactions of the recent past, usually those of a predecessor
government. The modern analogue may be repudiating public debt, but the
original was Henry II <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_II_of_England>'s
principle, preserved in many of his judgments, "Let it be as it was on the
day of my grandfather's death", a principle by which he repudiated all the
royal grants that had been made in the previous 19 years under King Stephen
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_of_Blois>.[5]
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandfather_clause#cite_note-5>

But that doesn't carry over to the sense in question.

"Grandfather clauses" are used to prevent laws from being ex post facto
laws.  I hope delegitimizing the term "grandfather" in this sense does not
legitimiza ex post facto laws.


On Fri, Dec 18, 2020 at 3:23 PM Baker, John <JBAKER at stradley.com> wrote:

> I thought I had previously posted on grandfathering, but I can't
> immediately find it in the archives.
>
> The conventional history of the verb "to grandfather," which appears to be
> essentially correct, is that it arose in connection with restrictive voting
> laws that were intended to disenfranchise African-Americans, but included
> conditions intended to prevent the disenfranchisement of white voters, such
> as a provision that voters would not be disenfranchised if their
> grandfathers were voters.  While I have not confirmed the existence of
> provisions specifically referencing grandfathers, the historical existence
> of these restrictive voting laws is well-documented, and the intent to
> disenfranchise African-Americans is explicit, not in the text of the laws
> themselves, of course, but in the public discussions at the time.
> Geoffrey's link, which focuses on the laws rather than on the term, gives
> more information about them.
>
> However, it should be understood that the term as originally used was
> intended to be critical of restrictive voting laws.  Here's the earliest I
> initially see, which is a 43-year antedating of the earliest example in the
> OED.  From the Henryetta (Okla.) Free-Lance (Sept. 23, 1910)
> (Newspapers.com):
>
> "There is a certain amount of justice in the world that cannot be entirely
> destroyed, even in Oklahoma.  A Tulsa judge has decided that negroes who
> have been "grandfathered" out of their franchise cannot be made to pay poll
> tax.  That amendment will cost the republican party a few votes, and the
> state of Oklahoma $80,000 in poll tax."
>
> Note that, at the time, African-Americans tended to align with the
> Republican party, so it was primarily Democrats who sought to restrict the
> vote on racial lines for partisan reasons - a reversal of the current
> environment.  Here is another early example of the term, also critical of
> it, as the use of "Jim Crow" shows.  From the (Ardmore, Okla.) Daily
> Ardmoreite (July 29, 1920) (NewspaperArchive), in a letter to the editor:
>
> "In your "Stories of the Street" on July 28 you publish the following:
> "Sam Butler, local attorney and prominent republican politician, with
> democratic proclivities, was displaying the first Harding button the
> streets of the city today."
> "Now, Mr. Editor:  I want to denounce Red Snider for writing me up like
> that.  He knows as well as anyone that I am a Registered, Grandfathered and
> Jim Crowed Republican, and I don't like to be slandered that way.
> Very truly,
> Sam H. Butler"
>
> Note that both of these are from Oklahoma, which may be indicative of the
> term's geographic origin.
>
> In its current use, grandfather, v., is entirely devoid of racial
> implications.  In addition, it's a very handy word, with no equivalent term
> that so succinctly expresses the intent that a new statute or regulation
> will not cause those already operating in reliance on the pre-existing rule
> to lose their ability to do so.
>
>
> John Baker
>
>
>
>
>
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of
> Geoffrey Nathan
> Sent: Friday, December 18, 2020 2:01 PM
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> Subject: Re: Racist origins of "Grandfathering"
>
> External Email - Think Before You Click
>
>
> There are, on Facebook (and probably elsewhere) lists of such
> words with 'racist' origins that we are encouraged to stop using.
> Some of them are the usual etymythologies, but, as far as I can
> tell, this one is real. However, its actual origins seem to be
> contested. Some argue it has to do with state laws in the South
> that said only those whose grandfathers could vote were
> allowed to vote. However, there is evidence it predates
> Reconstruction, and originated in the North:
>
> https://n.pr/3nCgD4s<https://n.pr/3nCgD4s>
>
> Now, the question of whether we should not use words
> because of what they meant over a century ago is a different
> question from whether the etymology is correct...
>
> For instance, the etymology of 'black' is an Indo-European root
> meaning 'glow, burn', but no current native speaker of English
> knows that, nor are they subconsciously invoking the original
> meaning.
>
> That, however, is probably a question for the sociolinguists
> and psycholinguists among us.
>
> Geoff
>
> Geoffrey S. Nathan
> WSU Information Privacy Officer (Retired)
> Emeritus Professor, Linguistics Program
> https://clasprofiles.wayne.edu/profile/an6993<
> https://clasprofiles.wayne.edu/profile/an6993>
> geoffnathan at wayne.edu<mailto:geoffnathan at wayne.edu>
>
> From: Bill Mullins<mailto:amcombill at HOTMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Friday, December 18, 2020 12:09 PM
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU<mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU<mailto:
> ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU%3cmailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>>
> Subject: Racist origins of "Grandfathering"
>
> [EXTERNAL]
>
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU<mailto:
> ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>>
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> Subject: Racist origins of "Grandfathering"
>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
>
> https://greensboro.com/news/education/wake-schools-will-stop-using-the-term=
> <
> https://greensboro.com/news/education/wake-schools-will-stop-using-the-term=
> >
>
> -grandfathering-because-it-has-racist-origins/article_478ba8fc-3664-11eb-9a=
> 49-3706dfbe2e2b.html
>
> News to me.
>
> OED has 1953 for the relevant sense.
>
> 4. transitive. North American. To exempt from new legislation or
> regulation=
> s, usually because of some prior condition of previously existing
> privilege=
> . Frequently with in (also with into, out). Also in extended use.
>
> 1953 Kentucky Revised Statutes 2190/2 All certificates or permits grand=
> fathered shall be subject to the same limitations and restrictions.
>
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-- 
Dennis C. During

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