Why I refuse to use the term “African-American”

The English language fluctuates. A lot. No news there.

I’m a curmudgeon. I’ll change, but only after I’ve seen the wisdom of the change; I’ll choose the action, or verbiage, that makes sense to me. I use “retarded” not to degrade an individual, but to make dispassionate observation that his/her development is slower than the norm. I’ll use “album” for music, even though most “albums” are now on CD.

“African-American” is a term I cannot ever see using.

I live in the Metro DC area. In the first apartment building I lived in when I moved here, there were individuals from at least five different continents, either at birth or one generation removed. About half were US citizens; some were not *yet* citizens, and some were simply here working legally.

This is a very, very diverse area. I love that about it. But there is NO way to know if the individual next to me is American or not. S/he may be of African descent, but until I learn something about that person as an individual, I cannot tell if s/he’s “of African descent” or African or American or hoping-to-be-an-American, or what.

Not only that, but two in my circle are Americans of African descent, but are white. One was born in Africa to Africans, another was born in America to Africans legally present in the US. They are truly African-American, but each has been chastised for referring to himself as such. Some in similar circumstances (and I forget the specifics of the cases) have been denied scholarships or programs designed for African-Americans — because their skin is not black.

So, if I must refer to one’s race, I’ll use “black”.

In fact, I spoke a couple of years ago to an older black man who also uses that term. He told me his rationale — “they keep changing my group. First it was Negro, then black, then African-American, and ‘person of color'”. I’m tired of living by others’ labels. I stopped at “black”.

Very wise, my friend.

More things that aren’t in the driver’s manual

Think back to driver education classes.  They may have been a long time ago; they may have been more recent.

What did your instructor(s) teach you about turns?  Did it go something like this:

  • Choose the proper lane
  • Signal first, then brake
  • Stay in your lane
  • Reach turning speed, and accelerate through the turn
  • If you miss a turn, some safe places to turn around are parking lots, side streets, and the like.

If you’ve learned to drive in a newer car, you might have learned to look at the navigation system to see where the next turn is, and how to get back to your original route.

I’m reasonably certain that even in Prince William County, Virginia, no one was taught to make a left turn from the left-most of marked no-turn lanes, when cars in both the dedicated left turn lanes were moving.
I’m pretty sure they didn’t say stop in the middle of your turn to yield the right-of-way to obliviot in who chose to turn from the straight-through lane.   I’m also pretty sure they didn’t say let two obliviots through. Recall the part where I said two lanes of left-turning traffic were turning at their green arrow?

In what universe do you screw up three lanes of traffic – and then get pissed when the guy behind you flashes his high beams?


Published in: on March 6, 2016 at 7:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

In Which I Start a New Category

I’m starting a new category –“How Not To Be a Dipshit Driver”. It will cover rules of the road, generally because I’ve seen someone with an egregious disregard for that particular rule recently.

When I capture these egregious drivers on my dashcam, I tweet them with the #DipshitDrivers hashtag. Often, though, they happen alongside me, behind me, or somewhere within my vision but not within that of my camera.

Where possible, I will cite laws, safe-driving manuals, or other relatively authoritative sources.

Today’s inaugural post doesn’t deal with anything particularly illegal, but with simple failure to use common sense and common courtesy.

Imagine this. Two lanes each direction, city driving, speed limit 25. At the upcoming intersection, the *right* lane splits into two for those headed southbound; the left lane remains a single lane for those headed straight. No left turn is permissible at the intersection.   For those interested, the intersection is in this google map.  It shows clearly when zoomed.

Here’s a hint. Put yourself in the correct lane before you need to turn. NOT 40 feet before, but well enough before that you don’t interfere with others who are already in that lane.

Yesterday, I was driving in that situation. I was in the right lane – the one that splits in two – and planned to take the left-most of the lanes after the split. A woman who was traveling in the left lane on the approach to the intersection was traveling at almost precisely the same speed as I. I’ll admit I don’t know if I was keeping to the 25MPH limit, and we were the only two cars in the vicinity.

As I pulled into the left-most of the two southbound lanes, the vehicle to my left (in the left lane) slowed considerably, crossed behind me, and pulled to the rightmost of the two lanes. When I looked over to see WTF, she stuck her tongue out at me.

What I did wrong:
– I failed to ensure I was doing at or below the speed limit. I may unconsciously have been pacing her.

What she did wrong:
– She failed to signal – or if she did, I could not see it as she was directly alongside me.
– She failed to plan ahead. Apparently, she had made the assumption that I would pull to the right-most lane. That was a bad assumption; I had planned ahead for the rest of my route, and the left-most southbound lane was where I needed to be. BTW, the right-most southbound lane was where she needed to be anyway.
– She failed to adult.  Most drivers get licenses after age 16.  By that age, people understand that sticking out one’s tongue is really not adult behavior.  All it did for me was cause me to laugh like hell, which, if her expression was any indication, did not make her feel better.

Okay, so that last is not exactly a rule of the road.  It is, however, common sense.

Published in: on March 2, 2016 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment