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Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



Aug 16, 2020
This week’s theme
Characters related to slavery who have become words in the English language

This week’s words
Jim Crow
Simon Legree
Uncle Tom
Aunt Tom

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives

Next week’s theme
The epidemic in five words

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AWADmail Issue 946

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language

Sponsor’s Message: Coronavirus got you down? Feeling cooped up? Going stir crazy? WISE UP! -- is the perfect cure for cabin fever -- it’s a Wicked/Smart Party Card Game that asks tons of devilishly difficult questions that’ll give you know-it-alls plenty of life lessons in humility, history, sports, science, literature, and geography. And wit. For example: Everyone knows the First and Second Amendments -- what’s the Third? Sleeping Beauty’s real name? How long is a furlong? But beware, there’s also a slew of “challenge” cards that chuck Darwinian physical and mental wrenches into the works, e.g., “Throw this card on the floor and pick it up without using your hands.” Just what the doctor ordered, especially for this week’s Email of the Week Winner, Ray Spring (see below), and hunkered-down brainiacs everywhere. WISE UP! NOW.

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the Net

Norse Code: Project Aims to Decipher Sound of Old Languages
The Guardian

We All Speak a Language That Will Go Extinct
The New York Times

From: Musette Vincent (musettevincent yahoo.com)
Subject: Little Italy (Re: Jim Crow)

I grew up in Glenville, adjacent to Little Italy. My father would drive two miles out of the way to avoid going up Mayfield Hill. I was taught as a child that if lost, I should not find a policeman but rather a fireman. Let that sink in.

During the time you lived in Little Italy in Cleveland, it was still the case that each year as CWRU returned to campus, some unfortunate African-American student who wasn’t yet connected enough to get the heads up from the “community” on places to avoid would get the crap beat out of him trying to do his laundry as a message to Black people that we were not allowed to be there. I came home for law school at Case and it happened each of my three years there, with little to no publicity. Others wax nostalgically of Corbo’s pastries and Mama Santa’s. I have never had one and never will. I am told things are now changed. They may have, but I have not forgotten.

Musette Vincent, Cleveland, Ohio

From: Danette Cross (romans1620 hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Jim Crow

This week’s theme is a beautiful influence on your part. I look forward to it. I am an African-American female who was born in Louisiana, and my family moved to Texas when I was a child. My parents and grandparents shared their experiences with my generation early in life, so we wouldn’t be naive to potential threats in this country. Unfortunately, we have seen our own share of racism that remains in this region of the country. Thank you for using your platform to educate and influence our culture to be better for everyone.

Danette Allen, Fort Worth, Texas

From: J Mihelcic (jm67jm gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Jim Crow

And yet you remain in America because it offers more than where you came from. How about that 😁

J Mihelcic

I wonder if you missed the point of what I wrote. It wasn’t a comparison of America and India.

Perhaps you meant that if you move to another place you can’t criticize it. Say you were born in Corpus Christi, Texas, and move to Flint, Michigan, to teach junior high there. You’re supposed to stay quiet and not say anything about the polluted water? I don’t believe that’s how it works.

Still, thank you for the smiling emoji. The author of the email that arrived right after yours didn’t have the courtesy to end his message with a nice emoji:
“F*** you, you racists. I’m unsubscribing from your marxist drivel.”

Apparently pointing out racism makes one a racist and a Marxist.

-Anu Garg

From: Charlene M. Reiss (charlenereiss yahoo.com)
Subject: Thank you!

Thank you for this week’s words and your introduction to them. You could easily play it safe, never veering into politics or controversial topics, and no one would blame you. Thank you for being brave and taking a stand. We appreciate your using your voice for good!

Charlene Reiss and Mark Hazelrigg, Durham, North Carolina

From: Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon (kwilli01 temple.edu)
Subject: A concern

I have subscribed to Wordsmith.org for years. Tonight I find that I needed to write you a quick note to express my curiosity about this week’s word choices. I am very concerned about these word choices this week because they seem to reinforce the same kind of hegemonic racism that has valorized an unfortunate and painful history of enslavement in this country. I can’t help but wonder what the agenda might be.

I would hope that the idioms chosen are not tied to overt racism and partisan political agendas steeped in “devisive-ness” dredging up a painful history of romanticising antebellum plantocracy. But then again, I don’t remember your issuing a Black Lives Matter statement in recent months. Hmmm.

I also wonder if there is any diversity at Wordsmith.org? If there was, perhaps there needs to be a conversation. If there isn’t, perhaps now is the time to address that issue along with your organization’s cultural sensitivity.

Dr. Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, Associate Professor of Urban Theater and Community Engagement, Department of Theater, School of Theater, Film and Media Arts, Center for the Performing and Cinematic Arts; Vice President, Temple University Faculty Senate, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

You have been with us for nearly 20 years and we are happy to have you here. During this time it should have been clear where we stand.

Yes, it was painful history. I encourage you to re-read the intro I wrote to this week’s words if you believe there was any effort to reinforce any kind of racism.

More than 200 readers unsubscribed after Monday’s posting, some sent emails, such as above by J. Mihelcic and the one I mentioned in my reply, but none thought we were valorizing enslavement. They were upset we were pointing out that we are less than perfect. We also received many emails of support.

Perhaps you meant that we should not have featured these words. As the usage examples show, they are all in current use. Featuring them doesn’t imply that one should use them injudiciously. Please see the NOTES section included with most of the entries this week.

We considered it, but did not issue a BLM statement, because I believe a statement is nice, but actions are more meaningful. If you read what I write, if you read the quotations I have been selecting for A THOUGHT FOR TODAY for the last few months (and even earlier), it should remove any doubt where we stand.

About diversity at Wordsmith.org, perhaps you want to read a bit about its founder.

-Anu Garg

From: Judyth Stavans (jstavans gmail.com)
Subject: Thank you

Thank you so much for the anti-racism message! For the first time in many years, people with skin from pale to dark are standing together in unity with our human family to make long-overdue changes. The first step is for us to educate ourselves. I thank you for choosing to highlight ways that we can do that.

Judyth Gladstein Powers Stavans, Yorktown Heights, New York

From: Susie Doherty (macgoddess1989 gmail.com)
Subject: This week’s words

This week’s words, as well as the episode of Last Week Tonight (thank you for the link), fit right in with a book I am reading. From our local library I borrowed Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past And Future by James Shapiro. Intrigued by the description in the book’s Introduction of an updated Julius Caesar performed in 2016 in Central Park, I did something I had never done before. I immediately returned the book to the library. I then ordered my own copy so that I could slowly read and reflect on how Shakespeare’s works and life have been reinterpreted and used to justify American politics and culture through the centuries.

History does repeat itself, but the previous similar events have been glossed and smoothed over, sanitized. Some of Lincoln’s executive orders are equal to some of those issued today. Other politicians purposefully used tactics to exclude segments of the population or to build a figurative wall to keep out immigrants. I hadn’t learned these things, even in college classes, until I found them in this book.

I wonder what Shakespeare would have thought of actors in 2016 wearing red Make Rome Great Again baseball caps?

Susie Doherty, Los Alamos, New Mexico

From: Glenn Glazer (glenn.glazer gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Jim Crow

You wrote: If you think it’s nothing, maybe walk in a Black person’s shoes for a day. Talk with them about what their day-to-day life is like, being asked to show ID while mowing the lawn in front of their own house, having 911 called for strolling in a park, having unarmed people shot, having little kids shot.

Here’s one to add to the reading list, someone who literally walked in those shoes and wrote the book Black Like Me.

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California

From: Ginny Stahlman Crooks (via website comments)
Subject: Book recommendation

Until all of White Americans actually see systemic racism, we will not be able to eradicate it. Another book I recommend is Waking Up White by Debby Irving.

Ginny Stahlman Crooks, Bloomfield, New Jersey

From: Suzanne Ducharme (suzanne.ducharme tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Jim Crow

I would highly recommend American Exceptionalism and American Innocence by Roberto Sirvent and Danny Haiphong. The prose is crisp and limpid, and the book blew my mind.

Suzanne Ducharme, Montreal, Canada

From: Cheryl English (cenglish blackcatpottery.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Jim Crow

Another great book I’m working through is Carol Anderson’s White Rage.

Cheryl M. English, Wayne County, Michigan

From: Pallavi Bharadwaj (pallavibhar gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Jim Crow

Having dealt (read hated) with my share of casteism (India’s own version of racism and I come from the Hindu-Brahmin caste), I landed in America as a working professional about a decade ago. My husband, who has now lived here for almost three decades and had gone through significant challenges to receive his paperwork, told me this. One of his African-American friends had commented, “Why are you so worried about getting the US citizenship? Once ‘they’ stop and frisk you in front of your family and treat you like a criminal because of the color of your skin, this love affair or American dream will be over for you.” I couldn’t agree with this statement more today.

Pallavi Bharadwaj, Brooklyn, New York

From: Topi Linkala (nes iki.fi)
Subject: Disbelief followed by outrage

When I read that some Black men had told other Black shoppers that they need to ask at the cashier that the receipt is stapled on the side of the grocery bag so that it’s always visible, I didn’t believe. But when I heard that a Black man was shot to death when he reached for his wallet when asked if he had paid for the groceries, I understood what was the problem and I was outraged.

You definitely need to change the laws that allow police to use fatal force. Nowhere in Europe is that allowed except for SWAT teams that are used only against organised crime and terrorists. Here, police can use disabling force but not fatal force and that’s the way it should be. And don’t send SWAT after lollipop thieves.

Topi Linkala, Helsinki, Finland

From: Barry Brunson (mathisfun mac.com)
Subject: compliments

I am encouraged by the long-overdue nationwide increased willingness to move (or just remove) Confederate statues and rename buildings honoring those who fought to preserve slavery and/or those who profited from it. Recently I learned of an effort to that end about my own high school in Nashville, TN (named after John Overton, a slaveowner and a slave trader); I heard of it from some other alumni who sought to dissuade the school board from renaming. Here’s a quotation from my message to the other alumni:

“Thanks for sending this msg. To the extent that Overton alumni have good, and even precious, memories of our time there, those memories stem from interactions with each other and with the teachers and staff, and have very little to do with the name of the school.”

Barry Brunson, Bowling Green, Kentucky

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Jim Crow

Of course, there are instances of discrimination in Canada, too, as the Maclean’s article suggests, bUt it’s not systemic and it doesn’t come from the highest executive office. One of the first songs I learned as I was practising my English in my new country was John Brown’s Body. And nobody stopped me anywhere for singing it out loud.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Paul Brassil (pvbrassil gmail.com)
Subject: Jim Crow

Always enjoy Wordsmith, and you’ve opened a big topic on this one. Observing from Australia (we aren’t perfect either), I’d comment that there are many, many Americas, not just a second one for African-Americans. And most of these Americas are very miserable places for anyone to be.

It seems originally rooted in the silly “Wild West” image, where so much of the gun ownership culture originated, then the horrible slavery period, plus the unrealistic demands for so many individual personal rights over community obligations. What happened to finding a good balance between the two, which most other countries seem to have achieved?

There are so many Americas, but the one which sums it up most for me is simply the harshness of it all. Seeing the vast numbers of people begging and sleeping in the streets, the incredibly low wages for at least 100 million of your countrymen and women, the “at will” employment where people can be terminated at little or no notice or compensation, the virtual non-existent availability of universal health care, and so on. Not to mention the failure of nearly every foreign policy stance over the last 75 years.

It’s little wonder that America’s once high place on the world stage is waning fast.

I find it baffling that Americans can’t see, or do anything about, these fundamental problems. Part of it stems (in my view) from non-compulsory voting -- not enough people need to form a view, one way or the other. And then it’s poor education and poor parenting that perpetuates the problems. That leaves the greediest and the most devious to grab what they can, and work the numbers. But it’s much deeper than that. The shrill, deeply polarised political debate is paralysed, and unending.

Plus all the fake and deluded religiosity -- God help you all!

While I do recognise the amazing ingenuity and technology which have come out of the US over the last 50+ years, what is the point of it all if Americans can’t build a decent society?

Don’t get me wrong -- there is much to admire about the country and its people. But would I want to live there among all the misery and injustice? No way.

Forget about “making America great again”. I’d like to see it made great for the first time.

Paul Brassil, Sydney, Australia

From: Steeve McCauley (steeve.mccauley gmail.com)
Subject: Jim Crow theme #BLM

Congratulations on taking a stand, all great suggestions. I hope you don’t lose too many subscribers, I know you have repeatedly taken a lot of heat from the Trump cult over the years when pointing out the obvious activity of the criminal POTUS.

I’d also like to recommend this recent Stay Tuned With Preet podcast by Preet Bharara, a very enlightening episode. One topic of discussion particularly hit its mark, that of the difference between systemic racism and personal prejudice.

Steeve McCauley, Montreal, Canada

From: Susan Turansky (catsmeowsusan gmail.com)
Subject: Jim Crow

I really like your story about coming to America and recognizing the racism that exists there. I am also glad to see that the example you use for the term “Jim Crow” is about racism in Canada. I live in Montreal and I am tired of people trying to pretend that we are “not like the US”. We have a premier who refuses to admit that we have systemic racism here while the police continue to harass and murder people of colour including indigenous people at a much higher rate than happens to White people.

Susan Turansky, Montreal, Canada

From: Adrian Ryan (via website comments)
Subject: Black experience

One of my childhood friends (Andrew) is an African-American. After many years of owning and running a successful business he downsized to a beautiful, upscale condo. His 20-year-old grandson, who was completing college at the time, moved in with him. Within their first four months of living there his grandson was stopped no fewer than four times by Whites asking what he was doing in the building. One actually called the police. Thankfully, the incident was smoothed over quickly, but it left Andrew (and me) nervous for his grandson’s welfare. I’ve read comments suggesting that “All you have to do is (fill in the blank)” or “The police will treat you the way you treat them.” All so not true and all victim shaming. It’s time Americans face the truth of discrimination and put it in the past where it belongs.

Adrian Ryan

From: Dorothy S Stewart (latinlogos8 att.net)
Subject: Police

Thank you for your introductory comments and suggestions for further reading. I have forwarded this to many people. All Americans should read it. Some police, like some people, are cruel. Some police, like some people, are kind. My father was a policeman and a NY state trooper.and fell into the latter category.

Dorothy S. Stewart, Cedar Park, Texas

From: Terence Singh (terencesinghs gmail.com)
Subject: America

The best thing you have ever written -- and I think I have been reading your mail every day for over 20 years and you have written some brilliant introductions. I come from one of the most violent and crime-ridden countries in the world: South Africa. Yet I fear for my sister who is emigrating to the States in the next few months.

Terence Singh, Johannesburg, South Africa

From: Carrie Klein (kleincarrie1964 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Jim Crow

I’m a fifth grade teacher, by the way, and we always have a really rich conversation early in the year about the difference between the subtle but insidious objectification implicit in the word “slave” and working to recognize the condition while still seeing the humanity when using “enslaved person”.

Carrie Klein, San Antonio, Texas

From: Richard Ball (richball comcast.net)
Subject: Jim Crow and John Crow

Many years ago, while working on a project in Jamaica, I learned that vultures, turkey vultures or their cousins, were commonly referred to as John crows. And in the days of slavery enslaved people referred to slavers by the same name: John crows: vultures. Sadly, after all the years gone by, “Jim crow” and “John crow” still have currency.

Rich Ball, Oak Park, Illinois

From: Laurie Kaniarz (lauriszka att.net)
Subject: Excellent consciousness raising this week, Mr. Garg!

Just yesterday my brother told me that, when he sold our parents’ house in Detroit in the 90s, the 1950s-era title abstract stated that the property could not be re-sold to Jews or Blacks. He said, “We were living in the Jim Crow North.” After such discrimination was outlawed in the 60s, “block busters” came around the city to warn people to sell their houses while they could -- Black people would be moving in and ruining their property values! The White flight to the suburbs is a shameful part of Michigan history and ruined this once-world-class city. Look it up. Isn’t it time to wake up, stop seeing Black people as “other”, and finally realize that we are all one? And as for reparations for this kind of systemic injustice to our fellow human beings? Hell, yeah! It’s the very least we could do.

Laurie Kaniarz, Kalamazoo, Michigan

From: Tim Hyland (hyland hey.com)
Subject: Thank you for this week’s intro

Thank you again for your introduction about the words this week. It’s a great reminder to me, as a PWM (privileged White male), that there is more I can do. I may be cis-male and White and be able to pass as straight, but as a gay man from the San Francisco Bay Area, I have so many friends who are trans, BIPOC, and unable to disappear into the background as I can. Your message is a reminder to not fade into the background but to be a voice for change when and how I can.

I know how my PWM background has helped me, but it’s harder to identify and rectify how my upbringing (liberal parents, thank goodness) and background shape my thoughts and even word choice. I learn that some little phrase I’ve used for decades without thinking about it has roots in slavery or is anti-feminine or can hurt someone unintentionally.

Tim Hyland, Palm Springs, California

From: Rodrigo Dezubiria (rdezub gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Jim Crow

I have seen the films mentioned and I have read Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, all in my opinion true and relevant to our nation. In my mind what is particularly tragic is that the same concept is happening today in real time with our money (tax money) and with our implicit approval to the Palestinian people in what is now called Israel Palestine.

Rodrigo Dezubiria, Fresno, California

From: Mary Kennedy (conneide yahoo.com)
Subject: Today’s Jim Crow article

Sometimes, words fail us.

It’s not only Black people who are terrorized by the police, though it is true that they are the focus of so many racist cops. When I was 12, a police representative came to my Catholic school in Manhattan to advise kids the “See something, say something” 1950s’ version. My mother had taken over my father’s cabaret when he suddenly died of a ruptured brain aneurysm at 46.

So I, following the police directive, saw a cop asking my mother for money ... “or else” he said. I took out a pencil and paper from my school bag to write down his badge number. And when he asked me what I was doing, I told him about what the police had said in my school that very day. He hit me on the head with his nightstick. Blood ran down my face and my mother screamed: Run to Lenox Hill hospital, Mary. So I did. And when the MD sewed up the split, he asked me how this had happened. The look between him and the nurse who was present was a lesson in complicity. But there is no Jim Crow equivalent for what I experienced other than general police brutality.

My mother never got a bill for that surgery. Our regular MD who took out the stitches about a week later never sent a bill either. And you can guess how I, a White NYC woman of 81 years, still think about how police treat some people. But, still, there is no word for my experience.

Mary Kennedy Baumslag, New York, New York

From: Alexandra Halsey (alexandra.s.halsey gmail.com)
Subject: Honoring other ethnicities via AWAD

Our nation has another enormous stain on its soul, for how we disemboweled and destroyed Native American tribes, territories, and culture -- essentially almost vanquishing an entire people. We stole, tortured, marginalized, and created “another America”, as you aptly describe it, for them just as much as we did for African-Americans -- a poverty-stricken, brutal America beset with health and social problems, deemed and judged as inferior to Whites. Without taking one iota of focus, compassion, witness, apology, and reparation away from African-Americans, I hope that we can also do the same honor to the original inhabitants (and far better shepherds) of this grand and beautiful land.

Alexandra Halsey, Seattle, Washington

From: Mary Jean Mailloux (mmailloux1 cogeco.ca)
Subject: Jim Crow

I’m sure you knew when you chose this theme, you would elicit many negative comments. Brave of you to use your media exposure to enlighten and educate your readers. Controversy is a good thing and I for one will consult those articles proposed by the nay-sayers. It’s good to keep an open mind, but first-hand experience is the best teacher. Statistics tell a very compelling story. I, as a Canadian, am appalled and ashamed of our profiling and treatment of our Black citizens historically and currently.

Mary Jean Mailloux, Oakville, Canada

From: Dharmender Goyal (dgoyal yahoo.com)
Subject: Jim Crow Road

City of Flowery Branch, GA, still has a street called Jim Crow Road.

Dharmender Goyal, Atlanta, Georgia

From: Kea Smith (via website comments)
Subject: Jim Crow

Ferris State University in Michigan has a Jim Crow Museum. Take the virtual tour for a quick look at Jim Crow and its effect on Black Americans.

Kea Smith

From: Jenny Anderson (jennyanderson47 gmail.com)
Subject: Jim Crow

It is surely worth mentioning that Jim Crow was a character in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a Black child made to perform tricks like a pet monkey. Highly degrading, of course, but probably instrumental in popularising the term.

Jenny Anderson, London, UK

Email of the Week -- Brought to you by Wise Up! -- the family that plays together stays together

From: Ray Spring (raylois.spring gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Simon Legree

I sent the picture out, “Sorry if I have upset you. Even more sorry if I did not.”

Ray Spring, Christchurch, New Zealand

From: Alison Dundy (alison.shore.dundy gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Simon Legree

Kids are taught in school that history is progressive and this society is the best ever. Life shattered that myth and kindled my social conscience as we drove from NY to Florida on spring break. I had been studying geography in second grade and was obsessed with knowing what latitudes we were passing through as we plunged south. And then I saw a Black chain gang, in prison stripes, manacled while doing road work under the supervision of a White sheriff leaning on the back of his car with a shotgun in his hand. I felt then that we were traveling back in time, not down in latitude. My mother was a Sephardic Jew and a sun-worshipper. On the trip back north people thought my parents were an integrated couple and refused to seat us at a restaurant near the highway.

Alison Dundy, New York, New York

From: Eric Marchbein (emarch333 me.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Simon Legree

The name Simon, despite being the name of not one, but two of Jesus’s disciples, has not been a popular choice for American parents. It is much more common in other parts of the English-speaking world. This is undoubtedly due to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s name for her arch-villain in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

But the question of how she chose that name is shrouded in the mists of History. A very likely nominee is a figure that no loyal early-to-mid-19th century American would ever consider as a namesake: Simon Girty. His name, along with his fellow defector Benedict, was anathema to Americans even before Stowe piled on the scorn.

Eric Marchbein, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Also consider simony, Simple Simon, simon-pure, and even parsimony.
-Anu Garg

From: Joseph Brown (oldschoolfool1950 verizon.net)
Subject: Uncle Tom

Thank you for clearing up the modern-day meaning of the term Uncle Tom, which totally distorts his noble sacrifice. Despite being a slave, he was a hero and anything but subservient. In fact, he was morally superior to the White men who enslaved him. When the evil overseer Simon Legree demands to know the whereabouts of two female slaves he has sexually exploited, Uncle Tom refuses to tell him and is whipped to death for saving them.

So, you might wonder, how did such a courageous character become synonymous with servitude?

It happened when minstrel shows took Uncle Tom’s story to the masses, eliminating or enlarging characters to fit the racist stereotypes of White audiences. At one point, nearly 500 “Tom companies” were performing around the country, mostly performed by White actors in blackface. Over time, the strong Tom of the novel became, in most people’s mind, old, meek, and submissive. By the 1960s, Black radicals were calling any Black person who didn’t conform to their vision of liberation an Uncle Tom.

Joseph H. Brown, Tampa, Florida

From: Steven Stine (scstine1672 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Uncle Tom

Among Native Americans, the corresponding term of disparagement for individuals who act “too White” or are too deferential to Whites is Uncle Tomahawk. According to The Dictionary of Slang, the term originated around 1970.

Steven Stine, Mundelein, Illinois

From: Ginny Stahlman Crooks (via website comments)
Subject: Topsy

It’s disgusting to use the term “cute” to describe the famous line that Topsy says -- she says “I growed” because she doesn’t know who her parents were -- because she was presumably sold away from them. It’s not cute, it’s terribly sad.

Ginny Stahlman Crooks, Bloomfield, New Jersey

From: Norman Holler (via website comments)
Subject: This week’s words

Thank you for the lens you gave us this week, Anu. An uncomfortable lens. What is missing for most of us is a meta-lens that obliges us to see, accept, and eventually embrace, that all of us, all who ever were or who will ever be, are essentially mere blips of organic matter zipping through time. Yes, with some interesting stories, but only to us.

No matter how important we might THINK we are, we too will be forgotten. Be it Jesus Christ, the prophet Mohammed, the Buddha, or anyone else of historical interest. Probably, well before Earth turns into an ice ball or is vaporized by our exploding sun. So, the sooner we all get over ourselves, the sooner we can move past the foolishness of self-importance that spawns subjugation, exploitation, bigotry, and all manner of cruelty and injustice. Most of us suffer from chronocentric and identity-story blindness. We are born into a limiting cultural construct of time, given a name and origin story, and, generally, don’t delve much outside of those parameters.

Norman Holler, Whitehorse, Canada

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Jim Crow and Uncle Tom

Jim Crow laws impacted Black lives on so many levels, barring access to eateries, hotels/motels, swimming pools, public transit, and banning interracial relationships. Here, I’ve pictured a Jim Crow era water fountain scene, one tap for “Coloreds”, and the other for “Whites”. The two kids exchange smiles, whilst their parents drink at the segregated fountains. In my view, racism is taught and mirrored behavior ... the indoctrination of children by adults, usually their hate-filled parents or older siblings.

Separate and Unequal Coin of the Racist Realm
Actor Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry created his Stepin Fetchit persona, initially for the vaudeville stage, later brought to B&W cinema in the 1930s. His Stepin Fetchit character was the quintessential Uncle Tom character, the perpetual yes-man, who projected a subservient mien. Fetchit lived by his street smarts, often assuming the guise of trickster or jolly minstrel. In this scenario, he’s playing the grateful Black man, receiving a paltry coin from a shady character played by Will Rogers. Rogers and Perry were close friends and appeared in at least four films together, back in the ‘30s. I’ve reprised a frame from one of those flicks to simulate this exchange... sprocket holes and all.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Anagrams of This Week’s Words

Characters related to slavery who have
become words in the English language:
1. Jim Crow
2. Simon Legree
3. Uncle Tom
4. Topsy
5. Aunt Tom

1. legal segregation cycle (college)
2. harsh master, he abused
3. common servant
4. complete when joined with “turvy”
5. traitorous woman
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)


Willie Mays. Loved watching him throw,
But poor Blacks live a life full of woe.
Let’s remember George Floyd:
“I can’t breathe”, then the void,
So stop it! Goodbye to Jim Crow!
-Joe Budd Stevens, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (joebuddstevens gmail.com)

In blackface, we put on a show.
Naively, we seemed not to know
that such banter and song
were grievously wrong,
for they served to encourage Jim Crow.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The whole world felt another huge blow,
When a tragedy caused a Black bro
To be yet an example,
Poor George Floyd’s just a sample
Of a life of relentless Jim Crow.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

A knee to the neck of George Floyd,
Another Black life that’s destroyed.
Enough of Jim Crow --
This cruelty must go!
Let’s change how police are deployed.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The evil that’s known as Jim Crow
for too long has remained status quo.
Demonstrations reveal
more and more people feel
inequalities all have to go.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“Though losing the war was a blow,”
Said Jeff Davis, “just wait till Jim Crow.
With the deck that we stack,
Those who dare to be Black
Will feel trapped in a story by Poe.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I’d like to give the third degree
to that racist bully, Simon Legree,
for the whippings he done
shouldn’t happen to anyone
like Uncle Tom or you and me!
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Caronina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

“I’m dropping this class!” declares he.
“It’s not what I thought it would be.
I don’t like the book,
and can tell by the look
of the prof he’s a Simon Legree!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

All the people I know would agree
That all wildlife should stay wild and free.
And I think anyone
With an elephant gun
Is the worst kind of Simon Legree.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Our big hope: to live safely and free,
Without fear of a fascist decree.
One great nation for all
Lacking hatred and gall,
By first ousting our Simon Legree.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

He issued a brand new decree,
As heartlessly harsh as could be.
Employees quite bitter
Then all went on Twitter,
Denouncing this Simon Legree.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

What is known about Simon Legree? A terrible taskmaster, he
Started out in a book
And then later he took
A place in vocab history!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

We ran endlessly round the tree,
While he sat in the shade quite carefree.
This most hated creature
Was the PE teacher,
Our school’s modern-day Simon Legree.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

I think most of us would agree
That Trump is a Simon Legree.
Now his niece, Mary said,
“You can blame it on Fred.
His Dad instilled it, certainly.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

The teacher was mean as could be,
A regular Simon Legree.
Put kids in detention
For faulty declension;
They canned him and set them all free.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

Having turned to a Simon Legree,
The neighbors ignored Anu’s plea.
Thus gathered a mob
To make sticks for kebab
Of a harmless, belov’d cherry tree.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

They call him an old Uncle Tom,
‘cause he always takes sides with their mom.
Though ‘tis very unkind,
he pays siblings no mind,
and carries himself with aplomb.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The original text has been maimed.
The character, Tom, has been tamed.
Now to say “Uncle Tom”
Is like dropping a bomb.
The eponymous man has been framed.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

An end to Jim Crow did he seek.
Of trouble that’s good did he speak.
No Uncle Tom he,
John Lewis, you see,
Showed courage both rare and unique.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Let some Latin or Black Uncle Tom
Go get shot at in South Vietnam,”
Said Fred Trump. “My foot doc
Will come up with some crock;
Onto any excuse, son, we’ll glom.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

He’s having a heckuva spurt,
Outgrowing his pants and his shirt.
He’s growing like topsy;
He’s tall as his Pops, see?
No longer is he “Little Squirt”.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The crabgrass has covered our lawn,
My husband’s attack starts at dawn.
He cries, “This crop spree
Just grows like topsy.
Why can’t this damn weed be gone!”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“The veggies in there grow like topsy,”
Said Peter to Flopsy and Mopsy.
“I snuck through the fence,
But things got pretty tense
When my jacket got stuck like epoxy.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Against Women’s Lib did she fight.
She thought that this cause wasn’t right.
When called an Aunt Tom,
Miss Schlafly stayed calm
And in her odd role took delight.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“For her praise of the meek, docile mom,
Phyllis Schlafly is such an Aunt Tom,”
Said Betty Friedan,
“When our movement began,
We could not even say the f-bomb.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


I have a delightful recurring dream that when I take off my shirt, all the girls at the Jim Crow about my abs.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said Jesus, “I think I’ll call him Peter from now on, if Simon Legree.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

When asked what that spinning toy was in my hands, I said, “It’s a topsy?”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

A word of opposite meaning is an Aunt Tom-nym.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Trump’s Foibles & Follies: It’s a mad, mad, mad ... Corona World

In this scenario, I’ve Alfred E. Neuman-ized Trump. Neuman, being MAD magazine’s mascot and “coverboy”... the epitome of unquestioning stupidity and chronic cluelessness. Need I say more?

It's a mad, mad, mad ... Corona World

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

I’m not at all contemptuous of comforts, but they have their place and it is not first. -E.F. Schumacher, economist and author (16 Aug 1911-1977)

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