I must say the word “boy” a dozen times a day. I take one of my two young boys into my arms and I proclaim him a “sweet, sweet boy” or “my pumpkin boy.” If I make a mistake and call one of them “my little boy” I’m quickly corrected – “no, I’m a BIG boy.” Yes, you are, sweet one.
Given this context, it is sometimes hard to remember that there could be disturbingly ugly use of that word. Geoff Davis, Republican representative of Kentucky, could have gone without reminding me.
At a recent GOP dinner, when discussing whether Senator Barack Obama was qualified to be our nation’s commander in chief, Davis stated, “I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button,” Mr. Davis said. “He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country.”
First, Obama has shown the judgement and temperment that I want as the leader of our nation’s military and diplomatic efforts. That’s a given.
What’s most disturbing, of course, is the use of the word “boy.” White people have, for too long, tried to exert power and control over other grown men, reducing them to a childlike status by calling them “boy.” It doesn’t matter how accomplished, it seems, how distinguished, how intelligent and responsible an African American man may be, some white people continue to denigrate with the use of one little word.
We are not living in a post-racist society. We still all need to do a great deal of work. Representative Davis has apologized, but just in case he and others need reminding, here we go.
This is a boy.
This is not a boy. This is the next leader of the free world.
Everybody got that now?