Friday, April 20, 2007

sue their butts off

Thanks to Darryl for posting this so that I could steal it and make a new rant. I haven't ranted in nearly long enough, so it's nice to have a softball tossed out for me.

According to THIS story, a woman in Canada purchased a sofa. Upon getting it to her house she learned that the tag on the furniture described its dark brown color as "nigger brown." The Chinese manufacturer pointed to a translation software problem that the company was sure they had fixed. Apparently it had something to do with an old Chinese/English dictionary.

Part of me thinks it's a little bit funny and wonders if the also sells a couch in a honkey white or wetback tan. Of course, I assume the color is a fairly dark brown, but then that doesn't really do justice to the myriad hues of black people. Big Brother's soccer team includes two kids, cousins even, who are black, though admittedly black doesn't really describe either child's skin color. One of the boys is very light complected while the other is fairly dark. We have a homeschool friend who would be assumed to be white though his skin is actually darker than the light skinned soccer teammate.

How does all this relate to nigger brown? Good question, and it probably doesn't. The rant here is more about the fact that the purchaser of the sofa wants compensation and wants more than just an apology. So now we get to it, the lawsuit. She's wants to get paid over her daughter having supposedly learned the word nigger from a tag on a sofa. I don't know the average age of black children when they are first exposed to the word, and I don't know if the members of this particular family are fans of hip hop music. My own children have heard the word at their young ages due to the little bit of hip hop that Momma and I listen to. I doesn't seem to have stood out as neither child has ever used the word that I'm aware of nor have they asked Momma or I about it.

As a child growing up in the south, I used the word nigger on occasion, sadly even after I began to understand what it meant. I can't pretend to know the power of the word heard through black ears, and honestly, being a fairly typical white guy, I'm sure there are lots of words that I know of or have used that I just won't ever feel the kind of sting they provide for others. I also don't much care what folks may choose to call me (just don't call me late for dinner) and have been referred to in a number of unpleasant ways. I have even once been called a nigger, by a black guy no less.

But what sort of compensation does someone deserve because of an offensive word? Certainly it would be unpleasant to hear, and one has to wonder how many channels this sofa must have passed through bearing the term nigger, and one must wonder how no one else noticed this. Will a large cash payment make this family happy? Will cash change the fact that their daughter saw an offensive word? Will it make the possible sting go away? When the hell did a black family move to Canada?

I've long thought our own country was way too eager to set a lawsuit in motion over any number of imagined or supposed slights. I've read personally of too many ridiculous lawsuits, and I've read of too many idiots winning money they did not deserve. I'm afraid this may be another situation like that. Beyond an apology and maybe a refund of the purchase price of the sofa, the family doesn't really deserve shit.


Chris said...

Who the hell reads the tag on their sofa?

Overpriced Designer Man Bag said...

I agree... what more can they give beyond a sincere apology? it's not like the chinese are known for proper english grammar either...

i guess 'chocolate brown' couldn't fully describe the brownness of the sofa

Audrey said...

While I completely disagree with this obviously frivolous law suit, I wanted to comment on your rhetorical musing of what must it be like to hear the 'n' word through black ears.

I grew up in S. Fla. in a working class neighbourhood and went to an inner-WPB high school that was over 60% black. One of my best friends got really mad at me once for something that I can't even remember now and she called me a 'cracker.' Trailer trash might take pride in being called a cracker, but that was a word that enraged me like none other. It was a word that offended me to my very core. I'm not proud to admit it, but I hauled off and decked him for calling me that. Later, when we both said our apologies, he said "Man, you were so fuckin' mad! You would have thought I'd called you 'nigger.'" I asked him what would he have done if I'd called him 'nigger.' "I would have hit you, 'cept you're a girl, and I don't hit girls."

Well, that's about as close as I can imagine as to what it must feel like to see or hear such a racially derogative word. My husband, a Canadian, of course, has absolutely no idea of the connotations of the word 'cracker,' and doesn't understand why it pisses me off so much. On the other hand, he swears he never heard an actual person say the word 'nigger' until we got a priest from Congo in our town. One of the old biddies said it at coffee. I hadn't heard the word in years (uttered from an actual - as opposed to a tv - person). Shocking to hear, coming from an old lady, but there you go.