Nomenclature

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I found an odd name on my tomato plant.

Submitted: November 01, 2017

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Submitted: November 01, 2017

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I bought a couple of tomato plants the other day. To be honest I can take or leave tomatoes, but over the years there was always fierce competition between Keith and me to produce the earliest ripe tomato. The same sort of competition went on with Hooks but with him, whenever I looked like nudging ahead, he brought in new rules! Both of those guys are in the big glasshouse in the sky, but old habits die hard. Anyway, I bought these two plants. I don’t much care about the variety, I just picked a couple of nice looking plants from the store and headed off home. I have my criteria, which is neither here nor there so it didn’t occurred to me to look at the label.

At home and in my glasshouse I planted my tomatoes as usual, and as usual, I ripped off the labels because I keep the pots for other seedlings. I set the label beside the plant in case some smart Alec asks me to name it. One label read Black Krim! It has a small picture of a reddish tomato with almost black patches on it. To be honest, I was a bit shocked. It’s just one letter away from the shortened version of black criminal! Why would anyone call a variety of tomato a name like that? Or is it just me?

Political correctness takes on many forms and I’m not convinced it exists in any useful way. It doesn’t seem to equate to respect or politeness with a few well-meant, lip-service words, supposed in some way to appease minorities. Some of the rants on social media certainly aren’t respectful or polite, which show political correctness ain’t working. In the industry I’ve spent my life in, the environment wasn’t in the least bit politically correct. Before political correctness became a thing, casting slurs and dispersions was the name of the game, with no group excluded! Post political correctness, not much has changed except that what is said, is said amongst like minds.

A woman came into the office where I volunteer, to ask for some English language training. I couldn’t pick up her accent, so asked her where she came from. South America was her reply. Now I don’t know much about South America, but I do know there are twelve sovereign nations, with probably more ethnic languages. I smiled at her and reminded her that South America was a continent, so asked what country she came from. She returned my smile and told me that nobody had asked her that question, people only seemed to know South America. She came from Paraguay. I just wanted to give her the respect being called a Paraguayan.

It’s rare for people not proud of their birthplace. Rural Tanzanian primary school kids might be desperately poor, have poor health care and lack infrastructure but when they sing their National song or their Anthem (they are different) they sing with such pride that a speck of dust always irritates my eye, which makes it water! I’ve have heard those songs time and time again, but every time it affected me thus.

While I’m far from being into the political correctness claptrap, I’ve found if you tender politeness and are respectful, it will generally be returned. I wasn’t outraged with the name of that tomato, but in a way it seemed offensive. Apparently it’s a Russian-bred tomato and probably means something completely different. But why did I jump to the conclusion as I did?

Since the advent of political correctness and Happy Christmas morphed into Happy Holidays, I’ve been baffled: How does the term ‘black’ pass the political correctness test for a group of people? How come the term is in reference to African people when there are plenty of other ethnicities no different in colour? My own sunburnt arms were darker than many of the Africans I worked with! So plainly, if Africans are to be categorised by colour, black is not correct. Trust your eyes!

In the English language black often has negative connotations. Black Friday, Black Tuesday, black cats and bad luck, the clothing of baddies and all that. Certainly in apartheid South Africa, the word was applied to their indigenous peoples in a derogatory way. Likewise in America for their slaves. It was a way of dehumanising and devaluing the race, so bad things could be done to them with a clear conscience. An easy thing to do when you have power over another race.

Ask around. Does a Scot prefer to be called British? Was Ghandi an Asian? Does someone from Abuja identify as African? Are all Muslims Arabs? We are gregarious animals and need to identify as part of our group. I wonder how America’s who have ancestry somewhere in African prefer to be referred to. Anyone asked them?  Certainly Irish Americans see themselves as an ethnic group. Japanese Americans aren’t referred to by colour as they were seventy years ago, and they’re an ethnic group. Maybe it is the same for Indigenous Americans. Has anyone asked them what they would like to be called? The Sioux, Dakota, Chinook and all the rest, were historically referred to as nations. Geographically I’m in Australasia, but never call me an Australasian, I’m a New Zealander and proud of it!

I wonder if the Paraguayan woman I spoke to had any notion of political correctness. We were both respectful and polite, which at least proves my point. In the long run though, political correctness is a bit of a crock. 


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