Social Question

gorillapaws's avatar

Is there a meaningful difference between referring to a Native American as "Pocahantas" and calling a black person a "n-word"?

Asked by gorillapaws (23928points) October 16th, 2018

Are these terms equally offensive?

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29 Answers

SQUEEKY2's avatar

In my opinion they are.
Would like to hear from one of our right wing friends and see what they have to say.

zenvelo's avatar

The “N-word” is so offensive as to be in its own category of being vile.

In my opinion, calling someone Pocahontas is akin to calling an African American “Stepin’ Fetchit” or “Sambo”. Offensive and racist, but not as utterly vile as the N word.

All of these are wrong and disgusting to use.

rojo's avatar

I would say it was more akin to using the term ‘Uncle Tom”.

gorillapaws's avatar

@zenvelo IMO it’s all about the intent behind the word. I don’t think “nigger” is inherently bad when used in the appropriate context (such as an academic paper discussing the origin of the term). What makes slurs vile is when they’re USED in a manner that intends to demean someone based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. IMO this means if any term is being used in this manner it’s equally offensive because the intent is equally offensive.

@rojo “Uncle Tom” refers to a very specific character who was criticized for not fighting back against racism and just going along with the abuse from his captors. What specific character trait would “Pocohantas” have associated with her name other than being a Native American woman? “Uncle Tom” is more like Mary Sue, a specific character archetype.

Jeruba's avatar

Certainly there’s a difference. There are legitimate reasons to use the name of a Native American historical figure in speech or writing. What’s offensive about this nicknaming is the mocking, demeaning attitude it expresses.

Perhaps you’ve known a smart person whom people jokingly called “professor”; or someone who got stuck with the name of a TV or movie character or other public figure by way of exaggerating some personal or physical trait.

It’s no insult, for example, to compare someone to Gandhi; but if you’re making fun of someone for being short and skinny and having big ears, it’s no compliment. It’s mocking and mean, and guaranteed to bother the person thus singled out. It depersonalizes the victim and turns him or her into a caricature.

So in the case of “Pocahontas” it’s not the word itself but the act of nicknaming and the intent and attitude behind it.

The n-word, though, is despicable in itself. We can say all we need to say without ever using it.

KNOWITALL's avatar

To me, it’s still a racial slur, and Trump shouldn’t say that.

The N word is different to me, because I grew up hearing it in mainstream rap (Body Count, etc…) and slang constantly, not in an offensive way at all and no one took offense, at that time. Now it’s very different, and it’s not okay.

rojo's avatar

I see your point @gorillapaws

I am trying to come up with a historical figure of African descent who also assisted Europeans and am drawing a blank right now.

LadyMarissa's avatar

I don’t care IF you’re calling someone “Angel”; IF you say it in a derogatory manner, it automatically becomes offensive!!! A racist is a racist & they find a way to take the sweetest words & turn them offensive!!!

kritiper's avatar

Not exactly the same but similar. Calling a beautiful Native American girl Pocahontas could be seen as a complement.

LadyMarissa's avatar

@kritiper Your reference isn’t being done in a derogatory manner so not the same either.

Jeruba's avatar

You’d think some people have never heard “darling” or “my friend” used in a sarcastic manner, wouldn’t you? Maybe they don’t get that saying “your majesty” to someone who isn’t the king or queen is actually mocking.

It’s fine to call someone Pocahontas who IS Pocahontas. But dismissing someone’s actual name and person in order to single out a particular racial trait as if it were their entire being is not.

LadyMarissa's avatar

My dad was notorious for telling his children off & then throw in the word “Honey” at the end. He thought his words weren’t offensive IF he called you “Honey” in the same sentence!!! I found his offensive words to ruin any possibility of “Honey” sounding positive & also made it doubly offensive!!!

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I agree the N word is in a different category, but the way toddler in chief uses Pocahontas is repulsive. He’s simultaneously sneering at Senator Warren and Native Americans as a group.

stanleybmanly's avatar

“Pocohantas” is a proper and legitimate name that Trump has converted to a slur. For all of his crass daily crudities, even the Donald has managed not to blurt out the “N” word in public. The thing to appreciate about Trump’s wide open racial slurring of Native Americans is that the bulk of his fans probably have no idea that what he’s doing is decidedly racist.

gorillapaws's avatar

I’m trying to understand this “other category” that people think some racial slurs fall into, that’s distinct from “nigger” and possibly other forbidden words.

It seems binary to me: either a word is used in a derogatory way and it’s intended to be offensive and therefore is, or it’s just like any other word. For example the word “jew” is a perfectly reasonable word in most contexts, but can be used in a derogatory manner in other contexts. Should we really have to refer to “jew” as the “j-word”? “Pocahontas” as “p-word”—and if so how do we then reference “pussy?”

It seems like context and the intention of the usage is a much more reasonable and consistent standard for determining acceptability of using a particular word.

JLeslie's avatar

My mom used to sometimes call me Pocahontas when I wore my hair in braids. There was no mal intent, but I guess today it might be seen as incentive.

I grew up as a young girl thinking and believing the Native Americans cared about the earth, the air, and the sky, that they were close to nature, and that they were people who shared and cared. I only had good thoughts about them as a child. This was the case even though I also used terms like “Indian giver,” and we sat “Indian style,” and we sang about Indian boys and girls rolling over and falling out. When I heard Trump say it, it made me think of my mom, from the Bronx, coming up with Pocahontas when a woman was doing something that related herself to Native Americans. The problem is how Trump is using it. The problem is the context in which it is being said.

It’s definitely not the same as the n-word. That word is never ok in my opinion, except in literature. I would even argue I only want to see it in classic literature, or a story about a time in the past when it was used. I know present day some people use, but I really prefer no one put it in their writings now. I don’t believe in cencership by a government, but I would hope authors would self censor.

I think people should stop giving it attention. Or, twist it around. What if a bunch of Native Americans wore t-shirts and held up signs with Warren’s picture that said, “we’re with Pocahontas.” Maybe I’m way off base. Maybe that would encourage Trump’s bad behavior rather than dismantle the offensive nature of it.

kritiper's avatar

@JLeslie Thank you. (GA)

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

The difference here is that the n word is demeaning to black people and Trump was using a historical figure to jab at Warrens silly claim to be native american. Worlds apart but still not ok.

mazingerz88's avatar

Wait, this question made me think.

Most of the things coming out of trump’s mouth are vile and filthy but is there any chance he was ridiculing Warren’s claim to be Native American by labeling her Pocahontas who’s a popular genuine Native American? That trump wasn’t necessarily insulting Native Americans?

I visited the Capitol Hill bldg. once and there was this huge painting with Pocahontas in it at center stage. Just can’t see how the name and word Pocahontas by itself can be used as derogatory.

Unless, yes, whoever uses it thinks it’s an easy choice to ridicule Native Americans thinking the name Pocahontas sounds funny. Genuine assholes do that.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Ahh^^^ yes, exactly.

JLeslie's avatar

@mazingerz88 Are you saying Trump was trying to say Warren might be part Native American, but so what.

Like if he called a black politician Martin Luther King? Using sarcasm to tell people don’t bother to listen to him.

Maybe that’s the analogy? Pocahontas and King, or Ghandi, Golda, Kamehameha, Mandela, etc.

That feeds into the Republican talking point that many Americans are part Narive American. As I said, that’s not my experience. Most of my friends are immigrants, or 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, generation, and the lineage is back to other continents on all sides of the family.

All those white people who now are busy feeling “supreme” and wanting to protect their whiteness, maybe we should let them all know they are not pure. I am not saying most white oeople ate supremicists, I’m only talking about the ones who are.

mazingerz88's avatar

^^It’s not clear to me when and how exactly Warren started claiming she has Native American lineage. trump seems to think she was either lying or making a big deal out of it hence the insult.

So could it be he tried sarcastically expressing “Well Warren’s claiming she’s Pocahontas but she sure is no Pocahontas.” and bungled it because he’s just plain stupid?


LadyMarissa's avatar

^ Warren didn’t make a big deal out of her heritage…trump did!!! WHY??? He’s afraid that she’s going to run against him in 2020 & he wanted to start attacking early on!!!

We try to teach our kids that it’s WRONG to be a bully, then put a BULLY into the oval office…then we wonder why our kids are confused!!!

Response moderated
filmfann's avatar

Any word that is chosen to demean or hurt others is cruel, and should be frowned upon. Yes, I am guilty of this as well.

LadyMarissa's avatar

We are ALL guilty of it every now & then; but, only a FEW of us make our living doing it!!!

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

So could it be he tried sarcastically expressing “Well Warren’s claiming she’s Pocahontas but she sure is no Pocahontas.” and bungled it because he’s just plain stupid?

Trump has used the word many times, starting well before he was elected. This is not an accident or bungling.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, “genius,” when applied to trump, would certainly be an insult.

JLeslie's avatar

@LadyMarissa I think it was Brown who originally made the big deal about it. Trump is just masterful at finding out the things the Republicans like to latch onto, and he just throws it out there in clever phrases like throwing food for piranhas into the water.

Lock her up
Build the wall
Birth certificate
You’re fired

I don’t thing Pocahontas is a bungle either. It’s either very on purpose, or just an expression, like my mom uses it, and it got a reaction, so he kept using it.

It’s very NY to throw out things like that, and to be sarcastic. He’s almost a comedian, dry, but still, and the problem is he’s president! It’s not appropriate for a president.

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