Lately, Z has gotten a little testy about rhetoric. I noticed it first when he yelled to me from where he was doing civics homework in the dining room.
Z: Mom, people have got to be mad that they are being referred to as *illegal aliens.
K: Yes, people have resisted that term.
Z: Aliens? Mom, come on.
K: Remember when some people referred to those displaced by Katrina as refugees? People got ticked about it.
Z: They weren’t escaping persecution.
K: Katrina. They were US citizens, going to other states in their country.
Recently, Z issued me a citation in his new role as language police.
Somehow he brought up Troy Polamalu on the ride home from Tropical Smoothie.
K: Who’s that, the Hawaiian guy on the Steeler’s team?
Z: Gosh, the guy is from **Colorado or somewhere, mom.
K: Uh, do I detect a little hostility?
Z: Yes, He is of Hawaiian descent. I’m of ***African descent. I am not from Africa. I am from Ohio.
****Z: People need to get what they say straight. (Jokingly)
K: Oh, so actually he might be Samoan.
Z: Yes, American Samoan. (He seems satisfied.)
K: Sorry to offend.
Z: You really need to be politically correct, mom. That really upsets me.
I don’t bring up the PC debates and we don’t talk about why naming, rhetoric, and PC have become important to him. Instead, I just walk on into the house sipping my peanut butter/chocolate smoothie, knowing I’m going to pay for it later.
*OK, his textbook must be ancient.
**Actually, some sources say he was born in Hawaii and lives in CA and PA, but Z knows I am making an assumption based on how Troy looks in the shampoo ads in the coupons that come in the Sunday paper. (I don’t watch football.)
***I know where he’s from, and maybe it isn’t Ohio since he was born in VA, but moved to Ohio less than 2 months after his birth. Once again, his point is well taken, as these matters are complicated.
****When I read our conversation to Z, he was concerned about how he’d be perceived, so he wanted me to explain that the tone of this conversation was playful. We realize we are talking about things that are important and connected to identity, be we were doing this in a light-hearted manner, not to diminish its importance, but because it was a sunny Saturday afternoon and we were eating smoothies.
How deep can you get while eating a smoothie?