Yesterday, President Barack Obama visited daytime talk show “The View” and touched on a wide range of topics, including Lindsay Lohan’s prison term. But during a more serious exchange, Obama used a word to describe African-Americans that has its own complex and emotional history: “mongrel.”
The president and the five “View” co-hosts were discussing the recent controversy around Shirley Sherrod and the dilemmas of race in America. Barbara Walters offered this comment and question to President Obama: “You do not describe yourself as a black president. Your mother was white. Would it be helpful or why don’t you say ’I'm not a black president, I’m bi-racial?”
Obama responded, in part: “The interesting thing about the African-American experience in this country is that we are sort of a mongrel people, I mean we’re all kinds of mixed-up. Now that’’s actually true for white America as well, but we just know more about it.”
Mongrel has several meanings. In botany, it refers to “any plant resulting from the crossing of different breeds or varieties.” Used generally, it can describe “of mixed breed, nature, or origin.” If you are talking about breeding animals, especially dogs, a mongrel is “a dog of mixed or indeterminate breed.” And in the ugly history of racism, “mongrel” has been used to demean couples of different ethnicities and children of mixed race.
This last sense of mongrel invokes another nasty word, miscegenation, which is a derogatory term for couples of mixed race who marry and have kids. In many states anti-miscegenation laws made it a crime for two people of different races to have a relationship or engage in intimate activities. The Supreme Court found these laws to be unconstitutional in 1967.
This explanation barely scratches the surface of the context behind “mongrel,” and doesn’t begin to touch upon Obama’s use of the word or his intentions. That’s where you come in. The president is known for his precise and astute use of language. Do you think he meant to rehabilitate the word, by emphasizing the positive or neutral aspects of its history? Did he use “mongre,l” knowing full well that it has some an offensive tinge, as a reminder of the hardships that mixed-race families have faced for centuries? Or do you think he was simply not thinking about every word that came out of his mouth? Tell us what you think.
I’ve always thought of Filipinos as a “mongrel” sort of nation in the sense I think Obama is trying to use it here. I often think it in my head but don’t say it only because I don’t think a lot of people are familiar with the more innocuous, less loaded meanings of the word. I’m Filipino, but as a “mongrel” I feel like I’m connected to many other cultures. In elementary school we were taught that we were descended from all kinds of people: Spanish, Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, Muslim/Middle Eastern peoples… the list went on and on! So while “purity” may mean different things (and some of the meanings, not so positive) “mongrel” does too, and I’m not offended because I understand how it applies to me, as it does to the President.
The president may have applied this term a little too broadly in regards to the African-American population as a whole. However, his lineage does afford him a certain level of authority on the subject. I personally would not have chosen the turn “mongrel”, but then again I personally don’t see anything wrong with the term “miscegengated”.
I really like the idea that using the word “mongrel” can connect people of different races instead of pulling them apart. It’s too bad that the word has a negative connotation, but I’m sure the president thought about his word choice before answering.
I applaud you for the topic however I don’t think you did a complete enough job setting up your question, in fact your set up is somewhat misleading. African-Americans are of mixed ancestry primarily because of the American system of slavery, not because two consenting adults of different races desired to marry and pro-create.
Legally, African-Americans were chattel to whom their owners could do whatever they pleased. African-American women were raped regularly by their “masters”, often beginning at a very young age, producing mixed children. This is how the bulk of any “mongrelism” in the African-American community was created.
Today, obviously people are choosing to marry other races, but again I don’t think your set up was fair since it did not state that historical fact. And to answer your question, I don’t have any problem with his use of the word, so perhaps he is trying to “rehabilitate” it. The country is undergoing a major shift in its attitudes about race due to more and more mixed race and ethnicity couples intermarrying. This president has the ability to become a symbol of that new more tolerant America.
RADIOHEAD SONG (hail to the thief):
the mongrel cat came home
holding half a head
Proceeded to show it off
to all his new found friends
he said “i been where i liked
i slept with who i liked
she ate me up for breakfast
and screwed me in a vice
and now i don’t know why
i feel so tongue-tied”
I believe that we should all get over ourselves, including President Obama. Most people walking this earth have descendants from other lands and are essentially “muts”. We may have a predominant race within our immediate ancestry but where did that race come from and why is this so important? I think any language that seperates one person from another because of immediate ethnicity is truly one example of pure ignorance and racism.
I think what Obama was trying to say came down to the fact that African-Americans come from a diverse background, just like all Americans (and indeed, that’s what he said). African-Americans do not have a purely African heritage, and that diversity one of the things that makes them, and all Americans so wonderful.
Obama’s intentions were innocent. “Mongrel” does describe the situation well, however it does have other connotations. Therefore, although he should have perhaps chosen a different word, we all know what he meant, so we should just let it go.
What a great response! No need to start feuding, over this anyway. Most of us U.S. residents are “mixed” with so many lines it’s practically incomprehensible. Measure folks on how they act; Not so much what their skin (or their checkbook) looks like.
Obama was surely well aware of the use of this word. He really makes a great point about being of african decent in america today.I just love his language. How refreshing to hear a well spoken leader!
I hope that he was saying, like I belive, that in another hundred years, our children will all be like a big cup of coffee with cream. Not black, not white, but just a brown “conglomeration of goodness”. I hope that our children can get past this race crap that consumes our society now.
The word “mongrel” from a scientific point of view, specifically botany, sounds less packed with different meanings and it is more likely acceptable.
Of what i think of the use of it in a general terminology and at a social level; it is inappropriate because it carries a dark and negative side to it.
The word is disgusting and discriminative in nature, thus society should continue to not use it in everyday language.
Obama is an idealist and the United States has a history of rewarding idealism with leadership. He has always been a leader who chose his words carefully and precisely.
I think you are reaching on this one. He’s talking about people of mixed race and that’s it. I wouldn’t look too deep into it. Just for the record, I am a registered Republican. Thanks!
When I talk about my ancestry, I’ve called myself a Euro-mutt. I think the idea is the same, and I suspect that Obama consciously decided to use the word even with the notion that it might concern some people. The word certainly made people pay attention.
The losers who watch the View also know how to use a computer, and have decided to look in a dictionary?!? You people are what’s wrong with America and with society. Why not just jump off a cliff you pathetic, pathetic people?
Interesting Americans refer to African Americans as black, regardless of our obvious mixed heritage, primarily because of White Americas adoption of the “One drop rule”. It is absolutely true that most if not all African Americans are Mongrels. How you feel about that fact says more about your socialization than the word.
To me, referring to the dog world, the world “mongrel” has been the antithesis to “snooty separatist”, “inbred”, “purebred so-called superior”, and has meant just a plain old healthy dog. I would like to think Obama chose the word “mongrel” to insinuate that we can lighten up about the division and specialness of any one race, racial identity and purity, etc., and move towards just calling ourselves humans.
I think the author is guilty of over-analyis. Obama is merely saying we are a nation of mutts. While he was talking about African-Americans, he could just as easily be talking of Americans in general. I don’t know if he considers white Americans a mongrel race or not. Tiger Woods is one-quarter each Thai, African-American, Euro-American, and American Indian, so I’ve read. Many whites and blacks in this country intermarry with hispanics. We are rightly called mongrel, mutt, melting pot and like terms. Some mean it for harm, others for good. Some attach no pejorative or affirmation to such terms.
@FrootJoos, I agree with you and especially love and agree with your last sentence “”So while “purity” may mean different things (and some of the meanings, not so positive) “mongrel” does too, and I’m not offended because I understand how it applies to me, as it does to the President.”" I believe he was coming from the right place indeed.
President Obama uses his words carefully and accurately. While the term “mongrel” has questionable historic connotations (racist, snobbish, etc.), it is indeed accurate for all of us whose family trees consist of more than one branch. In fact, over time, the term has come to have a modern connotation of strength, toughness, and resiliance — cosmopolitan survivors, if you will. By contrast, the term “purebred” is acquiring a connotation of weakness, exclusivity and potential genetic defects. I like the President’s skill with language and the sharpness of his mind. He means what he says and says what he means!
I think Obama used the word mongrel, describing people of mixed breed, to give a connotation that they are lovable, like a dog. However, people aren’t meant to be a conglomeration as Lynn wishes them to be. The people who harp on diversity are in truth attempting to destroy diversity. The white race isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, Lynn, sorry.
I’d read that Obama’s codename, was–
Maybe it’s, ‘Mongrel’… Or–
Maybe it’s, ‘Timberwhale’….
I got the feeling, from your report, (I did not view the sixfold-way of punditation you mentioned and I’d doubt he can compute half the product of two-times-five … he wouldn’t know which-half), that he was drawing on a children’s-school pejorative, he hadn’t yet cleared, (Those nasty-archons at Pun-a-hou).
‘Mongrel’ is a pejorative that implies non breeding, not mixed-breeding: Or, that is to say, basal-breeding for no purpose but breeding… That’s like starting-over, like the way States have done to decriminalize -his- renegade-drug-of-choice since 1979, the year true-high-technology ended.
The more difficult interpretation, that he was probably never taught in his religiously-accredited school years, was the original ‘mongrel’ man that was a mixed-breed of the gods’ genetics and the aboriginal mankind for the purpose of stronger men to serve the gods: as is the true-story of Creation that Creationists and anti-Creationists are alike ignorant.
I believe Obama’s intentions were good when using that word. I don’t see much controversy regarding that comment. However, one must wonder…had a white President said the same word, would people’s reactions to it be the same?
Allowing words to dictate our opinions is as ignorant as allowing skin color to dictate our opinions. A word has no more power than the listener allows. “Mongrel” by it’s textbook definition is no more offensive than “bi-racial” or “multi-racial” or “mixed race.” If we allow mere words to reopen the scars of slavery, we are only showing our own weakness. Slavery was a horrible time in our nations history, horrible things happened, but it is in the past. We should leave it there. This sounds like another instance of the general population’s ignorance changing an innocent statement into a controversy. President Obama is a man of color. He is a man of mixed heritage. If he can describe himself as a mongrel and be okay with that, then who is America to tell him he is wrong? The United States has many times been descibed as a melting pot… there is good reason for that… show me one American that is “pure” anything, except pure American. We’re all mongrels…
I find it so silly that we have terms like “African-American, Black Americans, White Americans. This is one time that I (somewhat) agree with Obama, for the most part we are all ‘mongrels’, though I prefer the term my Grandmother used ‘Heinz 57′. Some of us, regardless of color, etc., can trace our ancestors back several generations and some can’t. So what? Being white doesn’t mean you have no national background, I think it’s just been accepted that we are a mix of possibly more than one nationality. This issue is tearing our country apart and it’s got to stop. You know the bible says it best “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart”. Can’t we all try to look at the heart of an individual instead of being stuck on what’s on the outside? That is a cancer for much of our society where we are so concerned with outward appearance. To the point that a woman that would once be thought of as beautiful is now only that way on the outside with the inside being full of lust, deceit and other evil things. I hate to tell them, but that ain’t beauty!
Another thing, I get harped on if I say the word “Mexican” (I live in the Southwest) in reference to someone with that heritage, yet, the people of this descent refer to themselves that way. It is tiring anymore to try and have a conversation without someone somewhere feeling like we are being racial. We need to quit being so sensitive about all this.
To put it plainly I don’t like Obama, but it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH HIS COLOR. It’s his politics!!!! So those of you that DO like him (and that is your right in this great country) please understand that we that don’t are not bigots, we just have a difference of opinion. In fact, it’s like someone that is black (I really hate using that term, but I do so just to make a point here) not liking him and being accused of being a bigot because of Obama’s white heritage. See, it makes no sense. I think the fact that he has a varied background should be a way we can all come together and simply forget about color differences. They really don’t matter.
Being of half ‘Mauritian’ half ‘English’ decent I do not find the word offensive in this context. I think it is all about the way in which a word is used and what is inferred by the person who chooses to use this descriptive term.
In this instance ‘Obama’ is purely stating a truism that a huge majority of the ‘american’ people are descended from a variety of cultures as are the English, Brazilian, Spanish, Russian etc.. It is still unfortunately true that skin can be used to define a stereotypical social status/behaviour which allows for discrimination. It is that concept that needs to be addressed and social situations improved, and not the use/misuse of a word.
While political correctness is clumsy and awkward sometimes covering the need for discussion and debate. It does have the social benefit of allowing for cultures to mix and progress without stigma. This is something to be celebrated. May we find more ways to celebrate our similarities rather than vilify each other for our differences
I believe he explained himself perfectly after realizing he had spoken a word that may have a pejorative connotation. “…I mean we’re all kinds of mixed-up.” He tends to immediately correct for his clinical or studied use of language with more down-home or unpretentious language. It’s a normal practice for him as it is for most public speakers. I think he did fine here.
I think Obama is aware of what he says but is not trying to be controversial. Either way, our origin is the same. We are all God’s children.
I just looked the word up on the Merrium-Webster On-line Dictionary. Here is one official definition:
Main Entry: mon·grel
Pronunciation: \ˈmäŋ-grəl, ˈməŋ-\
Etymology: Middle English, probably from mong mixture, short for ymong, from Old English gemong crowd — more at among
Date: 15th century
1 : an individual resulting from the interbreeding of diverse breeds or strains; especially : one of unknown ancestry
2 : a cross between types of persons or things
— mongrel adjective
— mon·grel·i·za·tion \ˌmäŋ-grə-lə-ˈzā-shən, ˌməŋ-\ noun
— mon·grel·ize \ˈmäŋ-grə-ˌlīz, ˈməŋ-\ transitive verb
Looking at this definition, I think President Obama was right on with his use of the word. My family is mixed, Asian and Caucasion; we tend to use the word “mixed” and not “mongrel.” But whichever is used, the real message is that we are all mixed, no matter what we think. Race is different in different cultures; Brazil, for instance apparently (I haven’t been there) has a very different “take” on race than many in the USA. According to an artical in Scientific American, there is more diversity genetically within what we call a “race” than between the races. I understand that from my own background, I have English, Irish, Scottish, German and probably some Native American (not confirmed). But if we go back far enough, we are all African. Scientifically, we know that mixing or mongrelizing the population strengthens it genetically, by keeping recessive genes from being expressed. Many of the genetic diseases are double-recessive expressed genes. Here are a couple of websites which discuss this:
So there can be an advantage to being mixed, or a mongrel.
I don’t think the connotation is as important as the definition. I refer to myself as a “mutt”, no big deal.
The word “mongrel” has, at least throughout Obama’s lifetime, always been considered a derogatory term. Obama’s not the kind of guy who would use a word like that in its proper, noncontroversial context in an impromptu session like The View. Then again, there’s also the theory that it was a written response intentionally meant to stir up controversy? Personally, I don’t think Obama meant any harm but I also don’t think he was smart enough to have been using it in the scientific sense of the word.
I’ve always thought of Americans as being “mutts”, and honestly, I was thinking more about white Americans. Our ancestors came from all over the place. I had never heard of the association with anti-miscegenation laws. I can understand why, in that case, the term might bother some people, but I don’t think there was anything wrong with Obama’s use of the word “mongrel” in describing Americans, black, biracial, white, or otherwise.
The problem with using the word mongrel is the same problem that any word that refers to “race” or “lineage” has: it implies that there is a meaningful distinction that can be made among races. There isn’t. Race is entirely a social construct. We are all both a unique blend of many, many genes and essentially identical to one another in our basic DNA. We can differentiate among species because members of different species can not reproduce with each other. That is the objective, scientific reason behind grouping different animals into species. However, all “races” can reproduce with “each other”; in other words there is no biological basis for drawing racial lines or grouping. Am I a “mongrel” because I’m Polish and Hungarian, or does this term only apply to those who are a mix of darker vs. lighter skin tones? See how quickly this becomes a meaningless way of describing people? I am sure President Obama is simply trying to use folksy language, but it perpetuates the myth that “race” or “lineage” is a meaningful concept. What is meaningful is how a culture treats people based on their perceived status, which is often connected to physical appearance (as well as family lineage, religion and other factors). Thus race as a concept will always be a necessary term to discuss cultural situations, but it should not be applied to biological attributes or status.
Many use the term “Heinz 57″ to describe ourselves when people ask what our back ground is. How is that any different from mongrel?
Respectfully, the President opened mouth, and inserted foot. There are times I think he is a little too informal, and is not as mindful of his words as he should be.
Whenever I hear the word, mongrel, it’s in reference to a mixed breed of dog. So, for me, he used an inappropriate term.
I think his choice of words was fine, given the actual meaning of “mongrel.” But most viewers of The View probably do not know the full meaning and are therefore more likely to summon up the common, negative connotation, if they can summon anything up at all. Which is why Obama should not have gone on the show in the first place, in my opinion. How tacky. Doesn’t he have more important things to do with his time?
I think he just wants to push the envelope. Lenny Bruce would have definitely approved, he wanted all derogatory terms for races used continually until they lost the power to “make a little boy cry when somebody called him a n,,,,,r”.
If flaunting mongrelism is meant to dilute other points, I would question it. It might not be necessary to always remember that the English were the first to outlaw slavery on the high seas, that American’s died to end slavery in the US, that the Constitution which enshrines men’s sovereignty was the product of the Western Civilization. But I do think it should be noted that there has never been a civil rights movement in Mexico or Saudi Arabia, that Spain kept a facist president after WWII and that Mexico was allied with Japan during WWII. It is more important to identify an individual or people by their politics than by their race in the first place.
People don’t generally talk about what a word means, they talk about what it connotes. I find it difficult to believe the POTUS meant this word to convey a negative connotation. He’s just not that stupid. It’s called giving the man the benefit of the doubt.
If you say that the President shouldn’t use uncommon words like this, you are pretty much saying that he needs to dumb down his speech. Why not allow the President to make use of the english language? We have a beautiful vocabulary. The word itself is not ugly. Ugly people from the past used it in an ugly way. So, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start burning any books with the word “mongrel” in it. I have atleast eight different origins and non of which are African-American, but I would consider myself mongrel like the President did for him. Peace people, stop being negative.
“The plague of Greece upon thee, thou mongrel beef-witted lord!”
William Shakespeare (1564–1616), British dramatist, poet. Thersites, in Troilus and Cressida, act 2, sc. 1, l. 12-13.
Bandying insults with Ajax; a diet of beef was thought to make people stupid.
I dont think that Obama meant that in a racist manner, just that we as a people are a mix of many different races. White people and black people both are usually made up of multiple nationalities and origins
Interesting topic that has a different linguistic flavour dependent on where the speaker is from.
‘Mongrel’ used in Australian English, and is true for UK, and Kiwi English, has a negative connotation but especially in Australia can be a term of great endearment also.
Interesting that Obama’s comment may give rise to fresh rounds of idiocy from those who believe that they are ‘pure-breeds’ as of course there is no such thing.
I don’t know what ‘the view’ is as I live in England but found myself drawn back here out of interest to see what other people had to share on this matter (and yes i should be working, procrastination rules ).. As a humanist (this is not a cult, simply a choice of acknowledging the fact that we cannot comprehend our existence in our own mortality) it is encouraging to see such positive comments here.. Quite simply whatever the reasons that we choose to find to treat each other with respect is far more important. The fact that we can globally share an intelligent opinion means that we are all choosing to evolve together.. May we through our own lives make this life..
[...] we a “MONGREL” or a “MUTT” — Rousseau is a pure bred Standard Poodle but he’s a dog and [...]
There is nothing more worthy than reigniting the correct use of language or provoking an audience to debate an issue of merit. We are all mongrels and therefore can not be offended by the use of the word. It is similar to the term, that English is a ‘bastardisation’ of many languages. The sooner we stop using catch phrases such as ‘African-Americans’ or Anglo-Saxons or Multi-cultural-Australians, the quicker we can get on with the ‘job’ of just being people.
he doesn’t have to think about every word that comes out of his mouth.. he’s got you to do that for him. good lord, move on people!
To the author, go find something of value to write about. I came here to look up a synonym, I shame dictionary.com for wasting A few kilobytes on this foolishness
BASICALLY IT MEANS NOTHING DEROGATORY OR PRUDE IF YOU WILL, MANY PEOPLE ARE SIMPLY TOO SENSITIVE, QUICK TO TAKE THE NEGATIVE FROM OUT OF THIN AIR AND RUN TO HELL WITH ALL THE NEGATIVE CONNOTATIONS. AS AN AFRICAN AMERICAN, MY BLOOD LINE IS IRISH, CHEROKEE, BLACKFOOT, AND AFRICAN, SO YES mONgREL FITS FINE. IT IS WHAT IT IS AND NOTHING MORE OR LESS. IF THINK FOLKS JUST NEED TO FALL BACK FROM THE PRESIDENTS ASS AND LET HIM BREATHE!
Oh, for the love of–! Almost everyone in America is a mongrel! I’m proud to say I’m an American mutt. It’s not inappropriate or racist, and if everyone would cool down, they’d realize it’s true. If you have African ancestors, chances are you are a mongrel/mutt/mixed breed/cross/hybrid. If you were born in America, you’re probably one too. And, if people would stop reacting so badly to words, you’d discover they aren’t that bad.
For once, I am impressed by Obama. I am glad the bi-racial president isn’t afraid to be blunt, because if we had more of that, people might stop being so sensitive.
I think we are adults who can learn to be more objective than subjective. Let’s all take it at face value, he meant mongrel being a mixed breed – which we all are – one way or another. It’s part of humanity that he pointed out. No biggie. Mongrel is just a more casual term for multi-racial or bi-racial.
Implying there is such a thing as a “purebred” organism…
Even as a pretty hardcore right-winger I don’t take any offence nor should I think anyone should…
However, I just can’t shake the feeling that if this had been Sarah Palin or Karl Rove, that they would have been crucified by the media and left-wing. Jus’ sayin’…
I, too, have always referred to myself as a “mutt,” although I know I look like a pure WASP, red hair, blue eyes and all. I know the truth, to some degree about my roots and am proud of all of them. I married a woman of east Indian beginnings and the Indian people have likewise been mixed up for thousands of years by invaders, colonizers, etc from the west and internally. There is no end to it. We have a wonderful son that I envy as he has his mother’s good looks and great personality. I respect all races and am especially proud of our “mongrel president.”
Obviously the teleprompter suffered an electronic glitch, causing our Prez to gaff, but since he is man of the Left and a “mongrel” to boot (his word, NOT mine), he will get a total pass on it. If W had said this, South LA would be burning again. Say it ain’t so.
Sure, we are all mongrels, but what is important is we are all Americans. Our wonderful American culture was formed from all this wonderful diversity. Let’s recognize it as such. I love Bo Diddley! And I am Euro-American mongrel.
African-American, I recently discovered, is a good word to describe American Blacks, as the MAJORITY of them are descended from Africans who came here since the end of slavery (surprise!). That possibly puts the lie to the idea that most people of mixed African and European ancestry are descended from raped slaves (not that it didn’t happen). Why did they come here? To seek a better life, like everyone’s ancestors did. In other words, African Blacks thought they could have a better life in the US than in Africa.
Even with the dark spots in our history, on balance the US has done more to spread freedom and possibly more importantly, the IDEA of freedom, than any other nation. It has taken us a long time to really begin to live up to that idea, but in most of the world, even today the very idea is still preposterous, and you can be killed for just saying so.
I don’t find this word offensive to the fact that Mr. President used the word in context of diverse culture,origin that he belongs to. He used it to highlight the positive ad the grey shade of the word.
Let’s stop picking apart evey word people say. Soon you will have to carry around a dictionary and a thesaurus to have a simple conversation. I think Obama is the anti-christ and I only half saw that kiddingly. Remember those Russian spys planted here and blending into the community. Why not the same for President O.”Change you can believe in”? Where’s the change…..and then again not all change is good. This Country is going down the toilet and being flushed by the likes of the head janitors Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Schumer (sic)and Dodd just to name a few. And no I’m not a Republican. This entire banking fiasco started with the Carter administration. The Community Re-Investment Act. I was a VP for Chase in NYC. We were required to make loans within our local community, whether they were qualified credit wise or not.
I don’t like Obama, because he and those behind him bought the election and the American people let them do it. I didn’t vote for him but he is my president. I have to say in all fairness that I have no problem with using this word to describe Americans in general, no matter their color. I may look white but I have native American in my background and way back when, some Spanish. Who knows what else is in there. I’ve often described myself as a Heinz 57 American or a Mutt, is that any different from Mongrel? I may not like Obama but I’m not going to nit pick everything he says to pieces just because of that. Come on, America is the Melting Pot of the world, even if your family hasn’t joined in with the homogenization of the species it will eventually happen. I don’t care if humanity turns brown or tan or purple in the future. People are people and there are good ones and bad ones. I’m a mongrel and I don’t care who calls me one, as long as they say it with a smile. There is no offense if none is taken. Be proud America, be Proud.
He probably wasn’t thinking of every word that came out of his mouth because he tends to draw attention away from race issues, but I think it was an appropriate word to use & highlighted that race issues are real and subconsciously present, even in the most careful of speakers.
in the above post, the last sentence says “… highlight the positive and not the grey shade of the word.”
i mistyped it. sorry.
President Obama’s use of a word that he and/or others has personal experience with is not an issue. The real issue is that the question of “calling himself” or identifying himself as any particular race shows that racism is alive and well. No one should have to justify their racial heritage or label themselves as a race for the comfort/convenience of others. The question should not have been presented to him or any one else for that matter. Race is a question that involves more than just skin color & heritage, it encompasses the culture of that person. Contrary to what most organizations think race is not on the forefront of most peoples minds.
If a person was to look into an interesting concept referred to as Neural Linguistic Programming, they would find that the idea of “Mongrel” (and many other descriptives) -being a derogatory term is a personal interpretation based in actuality on that or those particular person(s) ability to express deeply engrained ignorance, and as such offense (hate). Curious about it?
I have substantial reason to believe that even to be “racist” would implicate, in a more emotionally neutral way, that the individual is aware and knowledgeable about their culture or origin. (More self-aware than knowing simply about family of origin). This applies, of course to all sorts of uncivilized descriptives although some are more difficult to accept than others. Neural Linguistic Programming would refer to these differences as speaking from position of “Meta” which is third person and fourth person which possess no obvious identity.
In reality the expression of any emotion is the reflection of shock in the psyche when it became aware that it was not pre-cognisant; like how ego is promoted and encouraged to see itself. “God(s)” show us about this, eternally.
Does THIS make me important yet? I still haven’t heard the answer from God. What does THAT mean? lol
If you saw the show then you know actually what he meant & would know he said nothing wrong…But if you did see the show or hearing it second hand & in same way offend by what he said or by even taking the time to be on the show…all I can do is feel sorry for you & faulty thought process…I think this hot word of the day is no more than a blogger attempting to start some phoney baloney internet frenzy…Pathetic
Mongrel means mutt, simple and clear. Don’t speak for BO, let me speak for himself, ok? If a president doesn’t or can’t speak for himself, then he’s elected for a show.
I believe it’s just one of the political gimmicks to drive attention away from key issues.
Mongrel means mutt, simple and clear. Don’t speak for Barack Hussein Obama, let him speak for himself, ok? If a president doesn’t or can’t speak for himself, then he’s elected for a show.
I believe it’s just one of the political gimmicks to drive attention away from key issues.
It’s sickening when a black president says something awfully wrong, the media tries to cover up his naked shame, again and again. Very disgusting.
Let Barack Hussein Obama speak for himself.
Imagine the same word uttered from a white president. U get the picture.
He should have said mutt. Everybody has heard someone say “I’m a mutt” when they discuss
their origins. Mongrel has negative connotations – racist white people have used it in the past to describe non-whites. If a white politician used it, people would be going crazy. However, the fact that Obama is mixed race himself and obviously well-intended gets him off the hook. Still, there are better word choices.
I think the real issue here is what the HELL is the President doing appearing on The View?!?!?!?!? Is there no important business that he needs to attend to?
I think it is highly arrogant of this president to presume that “white people” (whatever the hell that means these days) don’t have a consciousness regarding their “mongrel-ness”. But such comments are to be expected from an Aristotelian snob like him.
Oh god people. Relax. They look for anything to criticize him for. If he said “African-American’s are trash” then that would be something to talk about. He probably didn’t mean anything disrespectful about it. He included himself in that category. He didn’t single any one person or group of people out. Just shut up.
Oh for crying out loud, we are all mongrels.
My ancestors came over here to the good ol’ USA on the Mayflower.
I am a blond, of British, German, Scotish, you name it, heritage.
I am NOT a Brit-American, a German-American, whatever.
If you are not prepared to be a plain AMERICAN, don’t come here.
Your skin may be darker than mine, but that’s supposed to matter… why????
I think the comments here show how truly ignorant white (or mixed people of european descent or whatever they want to call themselves) are about black American culture. President Obama did not use the term “mongrel” to emphasize the diversity or heterogeneity of black Americans. His point was that no matter how much non-African blood they carry, African-Americans all have a common identification with each other as being one people – thats why his response was that African-Americans are a mongrel GROUP of people, in response to Barbara Walter’s question about why he doesnt just identify himself as bi-racial.
No matter how much African Americans continue to be discriminated against by White Americans, they will continue to grow stronger socially, economically, and politically, because they have a common identity. They have not organized as effectively as other ethnic groups in the US, but like Hispanic Americans, they are learning not to think as individuals, but instead to stand up for their own interests and protect their own people.
President Obama is a brilliant and articulate man, and its a shame that so many of the White “mutt” commenters here criticize his vocabulary, when they dont even understand the how he was actually using the word.
This was published by a dictionary website? Really? There’s no biological basis for separating humans into “races” – it’s just folk taxonomy. We’re all of the same subspecies (not taking into consideration the recent finding of interbreeding with Neanderthals 50,000 years ago). Thanks (facetiously) for contributing to the continued misconstruction of this term.
I watched all of “The View” on Thursday, as I do every day. The President used “mongrel” in the context “of mixed breed.” He did not use it in a derogatory manner, and only people looking to make a mole-hill issue into a mountain would think otherwise.
Frootjoos: I like your comment.
It’s amazing how people defending Obama’s use of such an ugly word, that would have gotten any white person using it crusified, say white people “dont even understand how he was actually using the word.” And Obama says “we just know more about it.” And yet they can’t articulate what it is that blacks know more about or how he’s actually using the word. I wish they would if they could, because using such an ugly word just leaves a vile devise stench behind. Which is why is it raises so much controversy.
Once again Obama creates far more distance between the races than any healing but then that’s his intention.
I dont think the divide is amongst the races .. He does not at all really claim any part of being Black or African. If any thing he is not all what he is cracked up to be. In time we all will see the face behind this Obama.
The question was about the use of the word. Not the user of the word. Words have meaning. They exist for clarity. All this talk indicating otherwise is a waste of time. You may call yourself a mutt, or a mongrel, or whatever you wish. You can disrespect yourself all you want. I am not a mutt or a mongrel I am a person. Now if you want to call yourself a mutt or mongrel , then you are no longer allowed to get upset if someone calls you the “B-word”. Because after all, that word has multiple meanings too ranging from female mutt to difficult experience. So you should be diverse enough not to take offense. See how your logic does not work out? It is time to stop being lazy and learn what words mean and use them like we should. Words have meaning. And this is a Dictionary site. It’s about the meaning of words, not the worn out boring race arguments that are only used to divide people.
And folks ..please.. you are so much more than mutts or mongrels.
The use of the word is scientificly spot on. It is our intepretation of why and how the american population got to be mixed. Yes to an extent it is as a result of slavery and it pains to think about it. But to a large extent it was by choice. Either way you are still mix and that is what the president was referring to at that point. The how america got to have people of mixed race is a differrent topic altogether, then we can bring in the factors like slavery and choice. Could he have used another word, yes but he is an intellect, he used a word with a broader meaning like mongrel, with a clear scientific meaning but implied differently by society.
I like being Black and African American. Why do you really want to be called Mongrels … I am sure there is a better word. I am just not a fan of him anymore. I like being different I dont want to be a one race. All this oneness … creation of a new world order …
*enhanced* it is our intepretation of how and why american population got to be mixed, that makes use of the word unbearable.
I agree with Suz, who posted (on July 30, 2010 at 3:16 pm) a very brief
”Respectfully, the President opened mouth, and inserted foot. There are times I think he is a little too informal, and is
not as mindful of his words as he should be.
Whenever I hear the word, mongrel, it’s in reference to a mixed breed of dog. So, for me, he used an inappropriate term.”
But I have more to say. First, I am caucasian. (”White” has become a pejorative term, as in the movie title ”White Men
Can’t Jump”, akin to ”cracker”, ”kike”, ‘’spic” … more offensive terminology to come below.) But, I probably am not
”purely” caucasian, and about that, care not I.
Second, I am what one may call a ”xenophile” (as opposed to ”xenophobe”). I _like_ people of other races. I _enjoy_
interacting with others, whether they are similar to me or quite different. Interactions with other races, creeds, and
cultures, including African, African-American, Arnbic, Indian, Native American
, Hispanic, European, Oriental, etc, all present me with the opportunity to LOVE MY FELLOW HUMANS, sometimes in unique and
exhillarating ways. (For example, I can discuss at length with an Indian acquaintance the nuances of the culture-shock she or
he felt upon arrival in the U.S.A., and I can empathize, or even sympathize, with him or her.) — However, I do not enjoy
interacting with bullies, be they of my own race or creed, etc, or any other. So if I can be described as having any
prejudices, then I may reasonably be called a ”mis-aggressivist” (as far as I can tell, I coined that one).
I am _not_ a ”mongrel”, in the cultural sense of the term, even if the scientific use of the term applies to me, because
the cultural use of the term ”mongrel” is pejorative, meaning something like ”dog (or beast) of questionable parentage”
(Note that I do _not_ say ”… questionable heritage”, which is closer to the _scientific_ use of the term ”mongrel”.
Thus, if you call me a mongrel, you de-humanize me in the same way you would if you called me a ‘’son of a bitch”, which is
a slur on my _mother_, and not just a _description_ of my ancestry.) Using the word ”mongrel” to describe African-Americans
is derogatory, whether spoken by a caucasian like me or a popular African-American like our current president.
I watched a movie called ”Towelhead”, which, among other things, decried the use of this pejorative that is reminiscent of
”raghead”, to describe Arabs or Sikh Indians. The commentary in the special features on the DVD included protestations from
a representative of the Sikh community, who said he doubted that the American film industry would be willing to produce and
distribute a movie with certain slang pejoratives of African-Americans in the title. (Specifically, he singled out a term
that is often referred to as ” The ‘N’ word”.) He was wrong of course, for in fact, there are quite a few movies, usually
the brainchildren of African-American comedians, musicians, or other non-caucasian entertainers, which use the ”N word”,
either in the titles or pervasively by African-American or Latino characters in the plot. Yet if he had said that he doubted
that the American film industry would be willing to produce and distribute such a movie in which a caucasian uses the ‘N’
word, he may have come closer to an accurate depiction of reality. For in our current duplicitous society, it is acceptable
for African-Americans to sling slang epithets at members of my race, at members of their own race, etc, especially in the
entertainment industry, but a caucasian must tread broken calcitic keratin fibers and crystals at all times, as part of an
inherited common penance for the actions of our unmet ancestors, sometimes passionately referred to as ”reparations”. —–
Apparently, the colour of my visage encumbers me with a debt I do not recall incurring, probably because it was incurred
prior to my introduction to this plane of existence.
Our current federal chief executive may wish to claim that his use of the term ”mongrel” is in the scientific sense, but he
spoke it in a _cultural_ context, and he _knew_ so, so such a claim is disingenuous, to say the least. Moreover, as chief
executive of our federal government _every_ time he speaks publicly, the context _is_ cultural, and not purely scientific.
Thus either he incompetently adhered to the flawed verbiage from an overly enthusiastic (professional or amateur)
anthropologist on his speech-writing team, or he intentionally joins the ranks of non-caucasian celebrities who, _because_
they are not caucasian, can publicly get away with slurring any one on the basis of race with impunity, and with this
particular incident, ”tests the waters”, to measure the reaction of the American people.
Now, the fact that non-caucasians, celebrity or no, and perhaps a few caucasian celebrities – mainly comedians and
entertainers, such as ‘rap artists’ and athletes – sometimes use racial slurs and other bullying epithets, and are rewarded
for doing so by a flock of ovine fans dumping significant chunks of economic resources into the coffers of these celebrated
nabobs, is a problem for the advancement of the cause of racial equality, for the following reason(s): I do not want my
children to have such pompous popularity predators as role models. The reason I feel this Way is simple to enunciate, and is
summed up in a single word: entrapment. Here’s how “racial entrapment” works: A culture I can otherwise appreciate, enjoy,
and respect, such as the African or African-American culture, produces for our society several recent cultural and
entertainment iconic personalities, who behave publicly a certain way; for example, calling other African-Americans by the “N
word”. Several such personalities are rewarded for such behaviour, and then my children, who are of course Caucasian, observe
such behaviour, if I allow them to observe it (and sometimes whether I allow it or not). Hypothetically, let us assume that I
even _encourage_ my children to observe such cultural icons, believing it is good __for promotion of racial equality__ that
my children have such celebrities as role models. Assume my son is named George, and he goes to kindergarten or first grade,
and referrs to a dark-complected classmate using the “N word”, because his _role model_ regularly does so. What happens
__because__ my caucasian son did this? Of course, __”white boy”__ gets punished for a racist act.
Now, suppose a caucasian male high school science teacher named Simon refers NOW — after the president (our ultimate current
[African-American] role model) did this segment on ‘The View’, refers to a classroom full of inner city students, most of
whom happen to be people of colour, as mongrels. What happens?
When I watched The View I had a inner chuckle to myself because Obama was spot on in reference to ‘mongrel people’, you can describe a large number of black/brown races as ‘mongrel people’ – I too am from a mongrel race (Sri Lankan)! I too was surprised that he chose those particular words, when in fact Obama probably could have used a better term. I guess the baby-boomers and Gen-X struggle more with the word ‘mongrel’ than Gen-Y, due to negative stigmas in reference to mix/cross-cultural breeding! I don’t consider Obama as African American, to me he’s half White and half African And a man who is a citizen of America first and foremost! I am not a citizen of America but from an outsiders point of view Americans tend to dwell to much on the race issue, is it so difficult to move past colour?
President Obama understands extremely well that the word MONGREL is an Old English word. He knows as a BI-RACIAL child that people refered to him as a mixed child,Afro-American, sometimes,a “Nigra.” Obama also knows that even his mother’s mother,(The grandmother), would make racial slurs that made him understand. Be as it may, they loved each other. I am sure that he is well educated. He surely comprehends HISTORICAL LINGUISTICS which helps one to understand the history of our language. Obama not only calls himself a MONGREL, but all people. Historical linguistics tells us how mixed we humans are when we study surnames like MOORE, MORROW,McDONALD (descendant of Blacks),of our connections. Even though I may have BLUE EYES and BLOND HAIR, my DNA IS related to the KHOISAN. Obama is well educated;he loves people & wants people to learn. Beethoven was also a MONGREL. Beethoven says that his friends called him “Der Mohr”(The Dark One). Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, related to King Ferdinand of Spain was AFRICOID. Yes, we are all MONGRELS. lET’S ALL REJOICE IN BEING HUMANS.
I don’t know why people are so proud of their skin colour or heritage to the point that they become racist or feel they are superior to another human being. So what if, for example, “white man” invented planes and medicine first or have more money than other races. It’s such a shallow and stupid ideology. People need to get OVER themselves and give other people other than “their own kind” some well deserved crdit.
TO USE THE TERM ‘MONGREL’ SHOULD BE OFFENSIVE TO ALL! PRESIDENT OBAMA OPENED HIS MOUTH AND PUT HIS FOOT IN IT, AS USUAL.
nice post. thanks.
I think you guys think to hard sometimes, since the way obama used the term mongrel seems to be for a mix of races, leading to the reason of why he cannot be called a Black president since he’s an oreo(half black and white…I hope you get this…), just like myself.
The thing about his comment that offended me was that “…but we just know more about it.” As if those of us that are of mixed breed but have no “black” in us are less in tune with the discrimination Mutts experience. That right there is a divisive comment. Why is his mixed breed different than mine? Why can’t he ever just equate all people as equal? Why does one group always have to be more deserving then another? I really hate this attitude. It is a chauvinist and racist attitude. if you can’t look beyond skin color, gender, religion, hair color, height, or some other “difference”, then you are just promulgating discrimination.
“Obama responded, in part: ‘The interesting thing about the African-American experience in this country is that we are sort of a mongrel people, I mean we’re all kinds of mixed-up. Now that’s actually true for white America as well, but we just know more about it.’”
He identifies himself with a group (a.k.a. “we”); I’m wondering which group he’s associated himself with: the son of a Caucasian mother, the son of an African-American father, or an American. This sounds like political double-speak to me. Hopefully there was more content to his response than the quote above.
I was taught btw, that there is only one race, i.e., the human race, and skin pigment, or other physical characteristics is a matter of DNA coding…
We may have a predominant race within our immediate ancestry but where did that race come from and why is this so important? I think any language that seperates one person from another because of immediate ethnicity is truly one example of pure ignorance and racism.
Americans come from a diverse background, just like all Americans (and indeed, that’s what he said). African-Americans do not have a purely African heritage, and that diversity one of the things that makes them, and all Americans so wonderful.
However, his lineage does afford him a certain level of authority on the subject. I personally would not have chosen the turn “mongrel”, but then again I personally don’t see anything wrong with the term “miscegengated”.
nice post. thanks.
He identifies himself with a group (a.k.a. “we”); I’m wondering which group he’s associated himself with: the son of a Caucasian mother, the son of an African-American father, or an American. This sounds like political double-speak to me. Hopefully there was more content to his response than the quote above.
i think that blacks are a mongrel people, too.
if my statement is racist and his is not, then you are intellectually dishonest, and probably a racist yourself.
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Whatever he said, I’m sure he did’nt mean bad. I mean he is a mixed-breed after all and in regards to what Barbara Walters’ comment that Obbama is not really black, I think he actually is because his father is black.