What The Eskimos Can Teach Us About PC Culture 2

A lot of my friends growing up were Eskimos. There aren’t a lot of people who can say that. I realize the term Eskimo has recently come under fire, as I have experienced first hand by a lot of heroic white people who have never met an Eskimo informing me that they prefer to be called Inuits now.

That was news to me, so I went ahead and texted some of the Eskimos I grew up with in Fairbanks Alaska, asking them if they wanted to be called Inuits.

They all said some variation of no.

But, some compost heap owning guy I was talking to at the airport bar with a man bun and a tribal tattoo said that’s what you’re into now, I sternly informed them.

Dost thou disavow the word of Chad?

When asked to identify their ethnicity, these people I grew up with would generally say that they were Eskimo, and sometimes, I would say often, further clarify which tribe they were a part of, which in the interior of Alaska was usually Yupik or Inupiat.

There is some disagreement as to the origin of the term Eskimo. It is not a term which originated in any Eskimo language, but, linguists usually agree, was initially applied to them as a descriptor meaning “one who nets snowshoes.”

That doesn’t seem particularly offensive, as Eskimos most certainly did at that time net a lot of snowshoes, although the term beaner is considered a pejorative towards Mexicans for some reason even though everyone knows that beans are prominently featured in their traditional cuisine and eating beans isn’t in any way considered immoral.

It doesn’t make a ton of sense if you think about it, but apparently when describing a group of people you shouldn’t just latch on to one specific thing.

I do more than just net snowshoes bro, I’m a human being.

It would be interesting to see if the Irish would take offense to being referred to as Tater Tots, the English as Tea Bags, the Italians as Noodlers, or the French as croissanwiches.

It is interesting that Kraut is a slur to describe a German person.

It is also interesting that they consume so much sauerkraut.

Apparently, the entire point of words is to describe things, but I digress.

There are several instances of people being fired from their jobs because they used the word niggardly in a memo or conversation.

The word means to act in a cheap or stingy manner, and is, as linguists universally agree, in no way related to or derived from the word nigger.

In one instance back in 1999, an aide to the mayor of Washington DC was forced to resign for his use of this word. The event sent shock waves through crumby depressing teacher’s lounges nationwide, and the issue was later resolved.

As then chairman of the NAACP (National Association of Colored People), no comment, Julian Bond bluntly stated:

“You hate to think you have to censor your language to meet other people’s lack of understanding.”

Indeed, yet that is exactly what the chick in the yoga pants at the Santa Monica dog park is asking me to do.

She asks me where I’m from, I say Alaska. The conversation progresses and eventually, in describing where I grew up, I say that I knew several Eskimos.

They actually prefer the term Inuit she blathers, checking off her social justice act for the day, next move, pedicure.

Here is why, in a country full of very real and also decidedly very not real racism, this is actually kind of racist.

The term Inuit is a term native to the languages of the tribes of Western Canada and Greenland which share a regional language variation and lexicon.

In these tribes the word Inuit basically means person, and that’s what they call themselves.

Yet to refer to an Alaskan Yupik guy as an Inuit would pretty much be like calling every Latino person you meet a Mexican.

So, in going so far out of their way to not be racist, it turns out these progressive white people are essentially accomplishing the opposite.

I’m going to posit a theory: Living in Los Angeles and being in the entertainment industry, many of the people I meet are also. The film industry in Canada is thriving. People from Los Angeles routinely travel there for productions. Greenland also, to a lesser degree.

While in Canada shooting their stupid ass reality shows, these people meet an Inuit. Later that night they google the word Inuit and learn that the Inuit are not Eskimos. In their stupid fucking heads, they then form the belief that Eskimos don’t like to be called Eskimos, and chamber this nugget of information so they can appear on the cutting edge of progressiveness at a posh charity fundraiser which breaks even.

In a twist of irony, as it turns out the word Eskimo, meaning one who nets snowshoes, is an Innu-aimun word, which is an Inuit dialect spoken only in small parts of Eastern Canada, which is roughly six thousand miles from Alaska.

So, if the word Eskimo is racist, the Inuits are racists too.

Shit, that doesn’t work.

This whole Eskimo/Inuit saga appears to be the only instance in American history where we have taken Canada’s lead on anything whatsoever.

It should be noted that the country of Canada has throughout history worked extensively to exterminate the Inuit, and that their record on this matter is even worse than that of the United States, which is really saying a lot.

Maybe they’re overcompensating by telling us how to talk, using semantics as a form of false compassion, as frankly none of the upwardly mobile Eskimos I talked to gave a flying fuck what some douchebag with a Prius calls them.

Before he was succeeded by a really cocky functionally illiterate wasp, President Obama signed a measure which revised the language referring to ethnic groups in federal laws.

This doesn’t just mean going forward, the measure means that the language will be retroactively changed in existing laws, the previous terms permanently struck.

Negro is now African American. Oriental is now Asian American. Indian is now Native American. Eskimo is now Alaska Native.

Nothing bad happened.

I would posit that many of these terms are pretty racist.

For example, is an Indian, as many of my native friends call themselves, actually native to a country which didn’t exist before their ancestors were the victims of genocide?

Sure, Eskimo isn’t a word in Yupik, but I’m almost a hundred percent certain that America isn’t fucking Shawnee.

The logic seems to be crumbling in front of our eyes.

It would be like stealing someone’s car, joyriding it and fucking it up really badly, putting a personalized license plate on it, then returning it with the doors missing and insisting the person not remove the new plate reading ASSLOVR, and then referring to them as ASSLOVR even though they never called themselves that.

The point is, in the case of the Eskimos, the Obama administration was, as the gentleman from the NAACP put it, censoring language to meet other people’s lack of understanding.

You have to wonder, if you’re that ignorant to the cause, how much do you really care about it.

Roughly the same amount my Eskimo friends care about this topic, so, not much.


Matt Ralston is a comedian and writer based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewRalston

2 thoughts on “What The Eskimos Can Teach Us About PC Culture

  1. Reply Bill Ralston May 31,2017 5:21 pm

    I enjoyed this blog, Matt. I guess a lot of people “Outside” don’t realize that we have 4 distinct Eskimo groups here in Alaska — Inupiat (aka Inipiaq), Siberian Yupik, Yupik (aka Central Yupik), and Southern Yupik. I have spent nearly 50 years here in Alaska and I too have several Eskimo friends, and they are from various parts of Alaska — so some are Inupiat, some are Siberian Yupik, some are Yupik… None of them call themselves Inuit, as none are from Canada or Greenland. Informative blog, Matt. Your writing style reminds me a lot of Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors.

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