Let’s say, you’re in a bar or restaurant, and you hear someone quietly say, “Wow. What a Tubby!” Or, maybe, “Talk about a baldy!” Or, how about, “Can I buy you a drink, Sugar Britches?” In each of these cases, the tendency might be for you to turn and look for: an overweight man or woman; a man with little or no hair; or – the trifecta: an overweight, bald man in a leisure suit sitting by himself at the bar.
So that, in each case, your mind focuses on identifying one specific individual. Only one tubby. Just one baldy. Only one overweight, bald… Well, truth be told, this depends somewhat on the bar you’re in. Anyway…
The point is, the word or words being said pertain to just one particular individual. Because, odds are, there will not be a large group of people all qualified to raise their hand when someone mentions, “Tubby!” “Baldy!” or “Delusional!”
So, then… Why does hearing the “N-word” elicit such a different type of reaction? How it is able to effectively demean not only one individual, but an entire group of people?
Is it due, perhaps, to a particular skin color? Well, to this point, history has not produced an especially wide spectrum of colors. As of now, we’re pretty much limited to black, brown, red, yellow, tan, olive and white, with a tremendous amount of overlap. Gotta be more than that.
Okay then… Is it the types of food they prefer?
This could be a clue.
After all, it is a well-known “fact” these people truly enjoy fish. And, in particular, fish caught locally, so it’s fresh. Because, when you think about it, fish has been a staple of their diet for many, many generations.
Hold on. We may be getting somewhere here.
Okay, what about their taste in music? Or the way they enunciate their speech? Their clothing? The automobiles they prefer? And what about the way all these people have such good rhythm? The natural ability they have in sports?
You know what? Personally, I believe we’ve hit on something. I believe these are the exact characteristics we most identify with “N-word” people, and, therefore, why shouldn’t we just come out and state the obvious:
“These people” are “Norwegians!”
There. We said it. So… And proved exactly what? Are “these people” really so different just because they’ve developed a particular lifestyle? Or because they wear hoodies with ethnocentric phrases, such as, “Uff da.” “I love Lefse.” And, “I’m gonna go so Viking on your ass!”?
Or for their styles of dancing, speech patterns and the way they can skate, ski and curl with the best on them? And any other characteristics that seem to set us apart?
Okay, more specifically then… How about their love of fish and fishing? Let me tell you something… If you enjoy haddock, salmon, cod and many other types of fish, than Norway is the place for you. The freshest fish served in so many delicious ways. Fish pudding (fiskegrot.) Ludevisk. Salmon pancakes (pannekaken!) Stop, already! And the side dishes? Pu-lease. rhubarb pudding? Or maybe a warm loaf of lingonberry nut bread. Get out!
What?... Fine. I get it. The whole skin color thing. Yes, it is true, these people are white. And, not just a little white. I mean, these people are white. In August, the daytime high in Oslo is 59.4F degrees. And slipping across the border to Sweden will not add much color. In Norway, stores carry very little Coppertone, and very few malls have “Off-white salons.” You know, one minute for the first visit, working on up to three minutes once you’ve established a base of “suspicious pink.”
But, you know what?
And here’s the ironic part -- over the years, I’ve learned people of most every color, nationality and religion like some type of fish. And most people speak with some type of accent and have culturally defined phrases and expressions. Most people take great pride in their race, National origin and the many accomplishments of their peers. And most people are pretty much stuck with whatever skin color they happen to be born with.
So… When it’s all said and done, isn’t it really just a function of setting aside our differences and generously sharing this incredible planet we all live on? Which – by the way – is truly where we should be focusing our unbiased, undivided and unprejudiced attention if any of us hope to preserve a bright, self-sustaining environment for many generations to come. But that’s another story for another week.
In the meantime, the next time you go out to eat, order a triple stack of pannekaken and, with each bite, think to yourself, “Thank you, N-word person. These are yummy.”
How about that?