Allen, who is positioning himself for a possible run for president in 2008, said the name was "just made up" and that he had no idea that macaca is a genus of monkeys including macaques. The name also could be spelled Makaka, which is a city in South Africa.
What sense does that make? Why would you single someone out and make up a term?
"This fellow over here with the yellow shirt -- Macaca or whatever his name is -- he's with my opponent," Allen said. "He's following us around everywhere."The mere fact that he looked at a dark-skinned man and said "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia" is repugnant. And it turns out that "macaca" is an offensive racial term. It's hard to believe that's mere chance taken in conjunction with the "Welcome to America" stupidity.
After mentioning that Webb was in California on a fundraising trip, Allen exhorted the crowd: "Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."
Allen has been accused of racial insensitivity before. He wore a Confederate flag pin in his high school yearbook photo, used to keep a Confederate flag in his living room, a noose in his law office and a picture of Confederate troops in his governor's office, but has said he has grown since then.I'm sure some commenters will try to talk me down from this conclusion, and I will give your arguments a respectful listen, but, honestly, I think Allen is toast.
DailyKos assembles some impressive evidence about the repulsiveness of this term. And here's Josh Marshall:
We now know that not only is 'macaque' a French language slur used to describe North Africans but Allen has a dizzyingly direct way of being familiar with the word. His mother is French Tunisian. Given that it would be amongst the French colonial population in North Africa that the word would have the greatest currency (even if only by familiarity rather than use), it seems close to impossible to believe that Allen didn't become familiar with the word growing up....This is all quite reminiscent of the discussion we just had about Mel Gibson. Except Allen wasn't drunk and Allen is asking us to trust him to be President. My trust is shot to hell.
[A]ll sorts of things come out of your mouth when you're speaking extemporaneously. Ask anyone who's spent much time on TV or radio. Not things that weren't in your mind somewhere to say, but some things you might have thought better of if you had a few moments to consider it. If you're not a racist, in most cases racial slurs don't come pouring out or, like one conservative yacker, fantasies about sterilizing African-Americans.
I suspect that Allen started off with a pretty crude effort to make fun of Sidarth as an immigrant, an outsider, perhaps by snidely but in his mind jocularly mispronouncing his name. Who knows? But in the moment, when he was looking at this kid who was clearly getting on his nerves, and amongst a lilly [sic] white crowd, this is the word that came to his mind and he used it.
UPDATE: Here's the video clip of Allen's remarks. He's very jovial and energized, and he slips "macaca" in so smoothly, as if outsiders won't even notice this strange word, camouflaged, as it is, in the happy talk. It seems to signal to insiders in code.