"call a spade a spade"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jun 22 02:17:24 UTC 2008

Unfortunately, this ad appeared back in the bad old days, when the
colored were free to sit wherever they pleased on any element of
public transportation, were allowed to use public parks that weren't
fully enclosed within white neighborhoods, and were allowed to attend
Catholic schools, the consequence of an archiepiscopal fiat issued in
1945 by Joseph Cardinal Ritter, the Archbishop of Saint Louis. Local
white Catholics sued, but dropped the suit when they were threatened
with excommunication. (The Bishop of New Orleans later tried this same
ploy, but Leander Pérez, Catholic local head of both the KKK and the
White Citizens Council, told the bishop that every white Catholic in
the entire diocese was ready to be excommunicated, if that was what it
took to maintain segregation. The bishop backed down.) Saint Louis was
otherwise as rigidly segregated and as fully racist as the metropolis
of any other former slave state, despite the fact that local white
folk didn't speak with a Southern drawl.

Local blacks used to joke that the quickest way for a a nigger to die
of a heart attack was to be shot in the back by police while
attempting to flee the scene of a crime.

[For those to whom this joke is not obvious, the point is that
articles like the following often appeared in the paper:


St. Louis, June 21, 1948. Willie Smith, a colored boy from St. Louis,
was shot in the back by members of the Metropolitan Police Force as he
attempted flee the scene of a crime. He was pronounced dead at Homer
G. Phillips Hospital (i.e., the city hospital for colored). According
to the coroner, the fatal wound was the result of a bullet that
entered the miscreant's left breast and pierced his heart. Willie was
29 years old..

I.e., how did he die of a bullet that pierced his chest when he was
supposedly shot in the back while attempting to flee? Rather, the
police had simply executed him on the spot.]

As a consequence, it would be hard to persuade me that the ad writer
didn't have race on his mind when he came up with that pun.


On Fri, Jun 20, 2008 at 9:52 PM, Doug Harris <cats22 at frontiernet.net> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Doug Harris <cats22 at FRONTIERNET.NET>
> Subject:      Re: "call a spade a spade"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Wilson ==
> I've been wondering why you've been so silent on this string.
> I never saw that ad by Famous-Barr -- which is nearly as good
> as the trucking co called Barr-Nunn -- not being a regular
> reader of the Post-Dispatch or other from the Wet Louis area.
> But I have to say that, IMHO, picking on that ad is a serious
> pan of fun -- which is what I reckon the copy writer was having.
> ;)
> doug
> Famous-Barr, as The May Company was known in
> Saint Louis, its corporate headquarters, once ran a full-page ad in
> the local broadsheets with the title, "BLACK IS THE ACE OF SHADES!!!,
> to advertise a sale of women's clothing styles in black. I found this
> somewhat racist, but also rather cute, being, as I am, a serious fan
> of puns.
> -Wilson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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.
 -Sam'l Clemens

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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