Americans have a great and exuberant tradition that touches our sense of belonging and our pride in coming together. No, I am not referring to Thanksgiving, that festival of gratitude, generosity, and welcome. I am referring to the equally great and exuberant tradition of trash-talking other people.
Supposedly we have reformed. Ethnic slurs that were once common have retreated to the dark corners of dive bars and the even darker corners of anti-social media. We live in a time when a whole new admonitory vocabulary has emerged to warn people away from anything remotely racist. “Cultural appropriation” is taboo—as must be the word “taboo” itself, a Tongan word appropriated into English by Capt. James Cook.
We worry about demeaning stereotypes, microaggressions, implicit bias, normativity, neo-colonialism,