Author Stacy Parker Le Melle takes New York Times columnist David Brooks to task in a piece at the Huffington Post for using the term “mutts” in a recent op-ed. She argues that Brooks does not understand how hurtful the term is to multiracial people and encourages him to pay homage to the myriad cultures and ethnicities that have made America a thriving country.
There is so much to unpack and question in this op-ed. For a moment, I am going to leave aside how much the term “mutt” hurts the ear, in this country where race and designations of race have never been neutral language, and usually have led to legal classifications that determined one’s life opportunities. “Mutt” can be especially painful when it is flung at your child, or at anyone that you love, including yourself — though those who can claim “mutt” status have often had to deal with so much disdain throughout their lives, that one man’s op-ed, even if he teaches at Yale and writes for the American paper of record, may not be the battle they care to fight.
Instead, I want to begin with America as the “outpost of Europe.” The image he conjures is one of a major fort where Europeans have been living together and alone behind stone walls, never engaging with the original inhabitants of the land or the people they forced here in bondage to make the earth yield its wealth. How inadequate a shorthand of American political, economic, and cultural history could Brooks have offered? Implicit in this notion is the idea that everything great about this country was shipped, stone by stone, from England, France, and Germany, and painstakingly reassembled here, with no changes, no remixes, no influences from other ideas or demands. Yet people of color have always been co-creators here in this nation. Slave labor enriched the South. Educated people of color have long been leaders in business, scholarship, politics and the arts. Our sciences are filled with immigrants who create innovation and that most holy of holies: shareholder value.
Read Stacy Parker Le Melle’s entire piece at the Huffington Post.
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