By Bill Matthews
Tchula third-graders line up to vote
(TCHULA, MS) Third-graders at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in this tiny Southern town are doing their once-a-decade duty of coming up with a new name to identify African Americans.
“Wow, has it been 10 years already,” wondered King principal Calvin Blanks. “It seems like just yesterday we were coming up with a new name.”
The students will vote on the identifier, which will then be field tested to see if it sticks. They don’t always prove popular. In 1997, for instance, King third-graders voted for ‘Bronzillas.’ Some people loved the catchy name, but it couldn’t overtake ‘African American,’ which 8-year-olds coined in 1988 (though Jesse Jackson is sometimes mistakenly given credit).
“We’re really hoping they come up with something good,” said Clevon Edwards, president of the Council to Replace Jigaboo. “I mean, my people change their name about every 20 years, so we’re overdue.”
The CJR has led the charge to rename African Americans since successfully bringing ‘Colored’ into the lexicon in 1901. Colored was replaced by ‘Negro’ in 1922, and that held sway until the third-graders came up with the highly controversial ‘black’ in 1959.
“Crayola sponsored the voting that year, which is why we ended up being called a color. The final vote somehow came down between two bizarre choices: ‘black’ and ‘lemon yellow,'” Edwards said. “Since then we cut out sponsorships.”
King students have been doing the choosing since 1900, when CRJ founder Lindsay Bucknell, a teacher at the then-called Robert E. Lee Schoolhouse for Jigaboos Who Want to Learn, asked his class to come up with a better identifier. Eight-year-old Simon Jefferson is credited with coming up with ‘Colored,’ which is why third-graders now get to choose. Since then, every other name they’ve picked has gained popularity.
“In 1939, my class voted to rename Negroes ‘Holocausters,’ you know, because slavery was a holocaust for our people,” said Buck Crawford, 79, a retired janitor. “It was catching on like wildfire too, but dammit to hell if World War II didn’t just squash that right out.”
Edwards said the new name should reflect the era and give African Americans a greater sense of ethnic pride. But not everyone will use it.
“I’ve always preferred ‘black’ myself,” said activist Youssouf Chameray, 37. “I mean, I’ve always thought of myself as being marked by anger and sullenness, soiled, and reflecting little light. No word encompasses all that quite like ‘black.'”
Older people will use Colored, but younger people choose African American.
“I prefer African American because you have to capitalize it, like with Hispanic or Asian,” said Jewelethea Chalk, 22. “Why shouldn’t I be able to capitalize what I am if they get to? That don’t make no kinda sense.”
None of the third-graders would consent to interviews, but Blanks said he expects them to complete their vote by the end of next week. The results should be online shortly after that.
“The kids are really tight-lipped about their selections, so I don’t have any idea what they’re leaning toward,” Blanks said. “But when it comes down to it, I can say I’m hoping for ‘Obamans.'”
Whatever the name, whites will still be 7 percent more likely to own a home, 12 percent less likely to be overweight, and 72 percent more likely to have a female relative named Amy.
Note: This article is satire, brought to you by the creative minds at The Peoples News.
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