Saturday, September 26, 2009

President Obama leaves out yellow people at UN General Assembly address: "Together, north and south, east, west, black, white, and brown...NO YELLOW?


QUOTE:

In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. .... Together, we must build new coalitions that bridge old divides -- coalitions of different faiths and creeds; of north and south, east, west, *black, *white, and *brown.

UH? YELLOW? PRESIDENT OBAMA, YELLOW? DID YOU LEAVE OUT ALL ASIAN PEOPLE ON PURPOSE? FAUX PAS? GAFFE? SPEECHWRITER'S WHITE OVERSIGHT?

The choice is ours. We can be remembered as a generation that chose to drag the arguments........

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
______________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release September 23, 2009


REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

United Nations Headquarters
New York, New York

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

''Danny,
Don't be so unforgiving. Cut the guy, and his speech writer, a little slack. ''

Anonymous said...

sure, it's a good idea. But then the distinguishing factors will be something else. I am not cynical, but I think our tribalism is so ingrained in us that it almost defines our deepeest sense of what it means to be human. Perhaps we need a new definition, or a new cognition: something that will work better than language for conveying who we are as entities and enable us to think more clearly about our choices in life. And maybe for that we need to expand the borders of a human life, because the fragility of life and the brevity of even "long" life oppress us as individuals and as a race with a constant sense of foreboding and imminent extinction. How can we think under those circumstances?

Anonymous said...

''ah, well, it shows how superficial so much of multiculturalism is.''

Anonymous said...

Cool. For some reason I think the "yellow people" just is used much. Maybe try black and white and every color in between. Sounds better to me.

Anonymous said...

Well, "yellow" is more than slightly derogatory. No doubt the speech-writers thought of it but decided against, surely rightly. A hard problem for them, only soluble by omitting the references to color entirely.

Anonymous said...

Danny, I don't think "yellow" is considered a good way to refer to
Asians these days.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, that YELLOW is not PC correct here, but why leave ASIANS out of the world picture Obama wanted to create? Any better way than leaving them out? Maybe "black and white and every color in between"?

Anonymous said...

Racial gaffe, it may be, mais je ne m'en inquiète pas. Obama n'est pas raciste.

Anonymous said...

I think some people consider "yellow" politically incorrect. So if he wanted to mention Asians, it would have to be "black, white, brown, Asians", which doesn't work as well.

Anonymous said...

couldn’t Malaysians be considered in the brown category?

Anonymous said...

i vote rainbow all of us....no more color codes

Anonymous said...

Humans have so much potential, but our way of life is so destructive and hateful and we truly loathe it. And yet, here it is; we seem to be about ready to self-destruct, to demolish the planet, and we have no means of applying ourselves to try to do something about it. All we seem able to do is to kill and to threaten or steal from each other. It's insane....

Anonymous said...

Jon Favreau, the Obama speechwriter, said:

A wise professor once told me, ‘We’re not here to teach you how to win at Jeopardy, we’re here to prepare you to live. God knows the world needs you guys.’

So, Jon, did you forget the Asians this time?

dan said...

At the CAIRO speech, also written by Jon Favreau, Holy Cross grad, 28 or so, Obama said same phrase "BLACK OR WHITE OR BROWN"...of course, in Cairo, that's okay, not Asians in Cairo or Middle East or Africa, BUT to use same phrase at UN GEN ASS was blindness, Jon, blindness. get out of your own skin Jon F and see the world!

Anonymous said...

Presumably because "yellow" is now an offensive stereotype?

Anonymous said...

I noticed this too -- I suppose a few billion people in East Asia don't count--or VOTE?????

-- a veteran NYC reporter for a major news agency,

Anonymous said...

Good observation, Danny. If intentional, the only reason I can think of is that "brown" includes the "yellow", as there are historical and cultural links apparently between Asians, Hispanics, and Native Indians of various countries. Some also use the term "red" for Native Americans. But, actually, those color terms have to go someday, because they are obviously psychological, not realistic. Just like "people of color" has to go; everybody has skin color of some color. By using those terms, we just tend to perpetuate the stereotypes. Would Obama call his skin color "black" or "brown"? How about his wife's? He just should have said "all faiths, creeds, locations, and cultures."

Marienus said...

I think I'm inclined to agree with the one who said "je ne m'en inquiète pas. Obama n'est pas raciste." If someone had asked me "What color are Orientals?", and I didn't know 'better', I'd have never guessed yellow, just like if someone had asked me "What color are native North Americans?", I'd never have guessed red. So if I can appeal to Saussurean structuralism for a moment, on the one hand there are nominal, reductionist labels to refer to general groups of people that, despite the fact that they are the names of colors, have as little mimetic significance to the signified as C-A-T has to those cute little four-legged bundles of joy and terror that become piano virtuosos on YouTube. I would have guessed "brown" for both Asians and aboriginals. On the other hand, these color labels have come to represent the world's major ethnicities, even though they have extremely limited utility given everything from variations within groups to people of mixed ethnicities. Obama of all people must be acutely sensitive to the potential foibles of this kind of reductionism, but he by the very nature of his job is a populist, tending for that reason to reduce variables to their lowest common denominators in the making of points to sway large numbers of people. My guess is that he's on board with his writer in articulating the world's ethnic groups in this way.

But the exclusion of "yellow" is noteworthy.

As far as I know, people of African origin (not including those of European ancestry, e.g., "white South Africans") don't mind being called "black", Caucasians don't mind being called "white" and, if I can be so bold as to take comedian Russell Peters' rhetoric as representative, those of subcontinental Asian origin don't mind being called "brown". But the word "yellow" in English has strong associations with 'cowardly'; also, one has heard this term, both in noun and adjective form, used in ways far more derogatory than one has heard "black", "white" and "brown" used. I know I probably wouldn't be able to ascertain this conclusively, not in possession of linguistic data on the word "yellow" grouped by rhetorical purpose, but I'm thinking it's quite possible that the fear of the word's relatively recent usage history consciously drives its exclusion.

dan said...

good points all around, marenius, thanks. DANNY