Learned a New Word Today
Well, okay, it was yesterday that I learned the word. While catching up on the whole Don Imus imbroglio involving the comments that he made about the Rutgers Women’s basketball team, I stumbled across journalist Gwen Ifill’s [yes, that Gwen Ifill. The one from PBS. The one who has moderated Presidential Debates] op-ed essay in the New York Times [registration and other soul-numbing routines are required in order to read any of the substantial news at site of the publication that prints everything that is fit to print. So, if you are not already registered at the NY Times site, as I suspect way too many folx already are- and I hope, if you are reading this you are a dedicated Times reader- be prepared to spend some time doing so. I think it’ll be worth your time if you only read this article and never go back again. Yup, it’s that good. That Gwen.]. For you rock dwellers unfamiliar with the Imus situation, last week, the morning after the Rutgers ladies lost to Tennessee in the Women’s College B-Ball final, Mr. Imus, on his nationally broadcast radio show, referred to the team as “nappy-headed hos,” a slang-addled phrase that for speakers of the Queen’s English roughly translates into “African-American women with naturally kinky hair who are also prostitutes of the lowest, street-walker sort.” As one could expectedly assume, this is not exactly, especially when offered in the vernacular, a compliment of highest regard.
As has been widely reported since this incident, Mr. Imus, some years back, dropped a racially-charged insult on Ms. Ifill, who is African-American, referring to her as “a cleaning woman.” The invective leveled at Ifill, who was covering the White House for the NY Times at the time, went something like this [and I’m paraphrasing]- “Oh, those wonderful, esteemed publishers at the NY Times, they let the cleaning lady cover the White House.”
So of course, Ms. Ifill, who has apparently been ignoring the slight for more than ten years, finally gets her last laugh – in a rather didactic way – on Imus in the pages of the Times, and she gets to hurl a new word at me. That word is carapace. For those of you already familiar with the word, good for you, and for those who have one, even better for you. A carapace is basically, a protective shell. The context in which Ifill used the term is: “They [the Rutgers Bball team] are not old enough, or established enough, to have built up the sort of carapace many women I know — black women in particular — develop to guard themselves against casual insult.”
Women aren’t the only ones in need of a good carapace. It’s virtually impossible to exist in today’s world as a sentient being without one. I myself, a big ugly repressive white guy of the basest gentile variety, have been accused over the years of being a bit thin-skinned, and letting things get to me. It’s true. I was thrown in with sensitive lot at birth, and have made some efforts to don a carapace in my daily excursions through this sphere in order to get along and have a decent, somewhat fulfilling existence. Still, it’s easy to leave it at home sometimes. It is a bit of a cumbersome thing. Even more frustrating are the things that get inside the shell, and get stuck there, to be obsessed over- over and over again. Ouch! Everyone has those things that come back to haunt them over the years- the failed marriage, the job they wish they’d taken, the girlfriend they wish they had never met. Those things get stuck in the shell, and the only thing that can get them out is patience and the occasional psychic vacuuming. Here’s hoping for the Rutgers Women’s Bball Team that this whole Imus incident, and I have faith that for these outstanding young ladies, it will- just bounces off them, and onto the curb where it belongs. From all indications so far, they seem to be more bewildered by the whole thing, and anything but insulted. I think Ifill has underestimated them. I appears they do indeed possess, at least, a collective carapace, and it is doing just fine.