Dennis Prager: ‘Negro had no negative connotation’


Right-wing radio host Dennis Prager opened Wednesday’s edition of his show by complaining about the NAACP’s travel advisory about Florida, which the organization released last weekend in response to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ erasure of Black history in schools.

“The NAACP has announced that Blacks should not visit Florida because it is hostile to Blacks and there is ‘open hostility toward African-Americans’ and people of color,” said Prager, who in 2010 whined that it was “idiotic that you cannot say the N-Word.”

Prager then fell into a tangent regarding the NAACP’s chosen vocabulary.

READ MORE: ‘Openly hostile toward African Americans’: NAACP issues ‘formal travel advisory’ for Florida

“By the way, that is fascinating that the NAACP, whose name is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, calls colored people African-Americans. I thought that that term died,” Prager pondered before he imposed his perspective. “By the way, I have been using Black all of my life. It’s really funny, I never wavered. That was what seemed to me to make the most sense. I didn’t fall into any of the traps of African-American, African hyphen American, Afro-American, whatever — whatever the word that Jesse Jackson came up with at the time. I didn’t understand what was wrong with Black to begin with. By the way, when you think about it, ‘negro’ had no negative connotation whatsoever either. But I understand because it could sound like the n-word, or whatever other reason that it was dropped. I get that, but Black is fine.”

The term was dropped by the Census in 2013. Author John McWhorter explained at the time that “‘Negro’ until fairly recently was a perfectly acceptable way to refer to what we now call African Americans or blacks. But it fell out of fashion and now for many people it hearkens back to the days of Jim Crow and overt racism and so it makes people uncomfortable.”

National Public Radio noted in 2017 that while there has been some lingering debate surrounding the word “negro,” the general consensus is that it is outdated and no longer appropriate due to its discriminatory connotation and its association with systemic injustices.

The United States National Archives and Records Administration further expounds on the nuances of racial vernacular on its website:

Due to its complex history, negro cannot be uniformly replaced with another term in NARA’s archival descriptions or authority records. Each instance must be reviewed for context.

Black is the preferred term when referring to an individual’s race. The term should be capitalized and used as an adjective, not as a noun. For example: ‘Benjamin Robinson was a Black soldier in the U.S. Army.’ Note that Blacks and the Blacks are both considered offensive and should not be used. Black people is the preferred plural form of Black.

African American (pl. African Americans) is also acceptable, but it is not necessarily interchangeable with Black. Black can be used regardless of nationality, while African American is specific to Americans of African, and especially Black African, descent. Some individuals in the United States self-identify with both terms, while others prefer one term over the other; some may prefer a different but related term (e.g., Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino). Descriptions of individuals should use the individual’s preferred self-identifier, if known and a current, non-harmful term.

Some defunct organizations included Negro in their formal names, and some organizations continue to do so (e.g., United Negro College Fund). Some geographic place names also include the term. Formal names for defunct organizations should not be changed. Formal names for current organizations and place names should not be changed unless or until the organization or place is renamed. However, additional descriptions within an authority record (e.g., Administrative History Notes) should avoid using the term, except in reference to the organization or place name.

READ MORE: MLK’s daughter fires back at Ted Cruz for invoking her father in Twitter rant against the NAACP

Next, Prager asserted that the NAACP “lied because the NAACP is a left-wing organization and truth is not a left-wing value.” He conceded, though, that DeSantis and Republicans in Florida are indeed forcing schools to “restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.”

Yet Prager nonetheless maintained that the issue is being overblown.

Based on the Legal Defense Fund’s analysis of the recent wave of legislation in the Sunshine State, Prager’s assessment is incorrect:

Three chilling anti-education laws are working in concert to undermine the quality of education in Florida’s public schools. The first is HB 7, a measure derisively branded as the ‘Stop W.O.K.E.’ Act, which restricts discussion around certain topics related to race and gender in Florida public schools. The restrictions imposed by Stop W.O.K.E. were reportedly what resulted in the barring of the AP African American Studies pilot course from Florida high schools. Notably, the Legal Defense Fund and co-counsel Ballard Spahr, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Florida, won a preliminary injunction to stop HB 7 from being enforced in public universities and colleges while litigation over its constitutionality continues. But this injunction does not stop the state from mandating the restriction of topics related to race and gender at the elementary, junior high, and high school levels in the meantime.

Meanwhile, there is also HB 1557, widely known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law which bans lessons and instructional materials related to gender identity and sexual orientation for students in kindergarten through third grade. And, finally, there’s HB 1467, a law that has recently led to the removal of classroom books in public school districts in Florida due to its requirement that reading materials undergo a sustained review and preapproval process before students use them.

‘The thing with those three [laws], is that they are all interconnected,’ says Andrew Spar, President of the Florida Education Association, in a recent interview with LDF. ‘Also, all three were very, very vague in how they were worded, and I personally believe that’s intentional for them to be vague. Because it’s opened the door to create some chaos and confusion and distrust in our schools.’

Watch Prager’s unsolicited diatribe below via Media Matters for America or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Whatever you want to call them’: Jesse Watters ridicules the NAACP’s Florida travel advisory

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