African-American stereotypes

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun May 27 20:54:04 UTC 2007

That black people are afraid of dogs is a new one on me, though I'm a
native of Marshall, TX, which is a mere 35 miles west of Shreveport,
which is in North Louisiana. If it's true, though, it may explain why
it is that I much prefer cats. And, of course, fair-mindedness is
merely a matter of opinion. But, even granting fair-mindedness and the
accuracy of the observation that the colored fear dogs, that
explanation of it is clearly nonsense not meriting reepetition.


On 5/27/07, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: African-American stereotypes
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 7:54 AM -0700 5/27/07, James A. Landau wrote:
> >Darla Wells asked:
> >
> >"I am looking for the source of the generalization about African-Americans
> >being afraid of dogs and the other one is the inner city cliche about the
> >young African-American male being an endangered species. The first one was
> >something people used to say in North Louisiana when I was growing up and I
> >have heard it since then in Texas and around the country..."
> >
> >A white woman of my acquaintance named Bonnie Dalzell raised Borzois
> >(Russian wolfhounds.  For a time in the early 1970's she lived in a
> >less-than-genteel integrated neighborhood in Washington DC (I don't
> >know which area it was).  She told me that her black neighbors were
> >afraid of her dogs, and said the reason was a memory carried down
> >from slavery dogs of slaveowners using dogs to track down runaways
> >and to control slaves.  I believe her to be a fair-minded individual
> >who was reporting an observation, not someone who was making a
> >deprecating remark about African-Americans.
> >
> >Slightly off-topic:  about "slum" and "ghetto" and cetera:
> >"Slum" (noun) simply means any area of low-quality housing and high
> >population density.  Implications about the quality of people living
> >in a slum are optional, e.g. the average white American who speaks
> >of "the slums of Calcutta" is probably NOT generalizing about the
> >people who live there, just about their housing and economic
> >conditions.  However the gerund "slumming" is metaphorical.  While
> >it can mean a visit to a physical slum, it generally means to visit
> >people whom the visitor considers beneath his/her dignity or social
> >level.
> >
> >"Ghetto" in contemporary usage has a quite different meaning than
> >"slum".  A ghetto is an area in which due to law or social pressure
> >people of a specific ethnic group are forced to live.  A ghetto is
> >not necessarily a slum, although many are.  By the way, "inner-city
> >ghetto" is not a redundant term.  When I was growing up in
> >Louisville KY there was a neighborhood called "Newburg" which was a
> >100% African-American neighborhood.  Rather than being inner-city,
> >it was in outer suburbia, and probably was in a rural area when it
> >first came into being.  (I suspect it arose because it was near a
> >large General Electric plant which must have hired African-Americans
> >who decided to live nearby.)  I was in Newburg only once in my life,
> >giving a ride to someone who lived there, and I can report that this
> >person's street consisted of small but neatly-maintained
> >freestanding houses.  However, this one street was all of Newburg
> >that I ever observed, so I can't generalize.
> >
> >Therefore a ghetto need not be a slum, and an integrated slum is not a ghetto.
> >
> >Interesting:  in New York City around 1900 neighborhoods with
> >low-quality housing and large Jewish populations were not called
> >"slums" but rather "tenements", although strictly speaking a
> >"tenement" is (and has been since the Roman Empire) a building
> >rather than a neighborhood.
> >
> Ah, metonymy rears its ubiquitous head.  Growing up in NYC but in the
> early 50s, not c. 1900 (although that would explain a lot), I never
> heard say the Lower East Side referred to as a tenements, although it
> contained plenty of them.  It was indeed a slum and not a ghetto,
> since it was too diverse for the latter.  As evidence for the
> distinction you're drawing above, with which I concur, cf. "golden
> ghetto" in its earlier use to designate a specific Jewish
> neighborhood on the north side of Chicago, although no doubt it's
> been used elsewhere for other ethnically homogenous non-slum
> neighborhoods. (More recently, it's been increasingly used by
> extension for any affluent neighborhood, in which the "ghettoness" is
> defined by affluence itself).  "Golden slum" is possible too, but
> rather different and far more limited.  For example, there's a casino
> in Las Vegas described as a "luxurious mouse filled stink hole
> referred to as the Golden Palm but better known as the Golden Slum".
> I suppose "silver slum" would have the alliteration of "golden
> ghetto" going for it, but again it's far less likely.
> LH
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