20 Nov 2008, Comments (12)

Call the Waaaaaaaaaaaaahmbulance: Queenslanders forced to sit in sports stand without n-word in name!

Author: Helen

Yes, that’s right. The pee-cee, academic (Hiss!), activist (Boo!) Stephen Hagan has been oppressing the good citizens of Toowoomba, in Queensland, who just wanted to sit quietly in their rugby stadium named after a (white) player called E.S. “Nigger” Brown. Then he has the nerve to complain when they express their sadness!

(Transcript): I’ve had police patrol my street because of death threats from the Ku Klux Klan; I’ve had to actually change house because somehow my silent phone number was placed on the internet; My whole life has been turned upside down because I dared to challenge the status quo in Toowoomba. …I had the full weight of the local media and the civic leaders who thought that I was a black interloper who needed to be put in his place… I certainly have experienced a lot of ill-will and a lot of vitriol because of my stance.

Sheesh! Let’s get some perspective! How do you even begin to compare this friendly hazing with the terrible psychic pain of a Queensland rugby fan who’s forced to… sit in a stadium not named after “Nigger” Brown? And this is only the thin end of the wedge. Of cheese. Yes, this objectionable Hagan is going after our wonderful national icon, Coon cheese. Because, as the cheese company and their supporters patiently explain, Coon cheese was totally named after the American Edward Coon who invented a curing process and was thus immortalised. As everyone in Australia knows- which makes everything OK, right? Except that it may not be true, or very relevant to the case. So many poor, poor Australian consumers may eventually be forced to buy cheese in green and blue packets which are named… something other than “Coon”.

Oh, the humanity. Someone call the Waaaaaahmbulance!

(I might even try a packet of that cheese once the name changes; I’ve been boycotting it for more than twenty years, but I never liked it much anyway.)

Comments (12)

  • kayla says:

    Just wanted to say you have a wonderful blog.

  • Helen says:

    Thanks Kayla and welcome!
    From your blog it appears you have to grapple with the US health system. (See previous post). I don’t know how you mothers in the US do it. I take off my hat to you.

  • and there’s a special cemetery in Alabama for Coon Dogs.

    re Kayla above – I went to her blog about her loved and wanted baby, and wondered where those Right To Lifers are when their constructive help is actually needed.
    and don’t get me started on Baby P and bloody Haringay council in London.

    peace and love, it’s so hard to be anodyne

  • Fine says:

    But Coon is a genuine last name. It’s not an objectionable nickname like ‘Nigger’. I checked because it got me thinking – there’s 18 Coons in the Melbourne White Pages. What do they do? Change their names? Feel ashamed because of one meaning of he word? Not start up a business using their name? Objecting to Coon as a brandname is ignoring meaning and context. It damages language. And Stephen Hagan is really silly if he’s going after this change.

    Blue tick coon hounds were named that because they were raccooon hunters. Again, an innocuous name.

  • blue milk says:

    Blurk – how sad that it took until 2008 to do this.

    I am surprised about Coon, I wondered about their name but was sure it must be a coincidence. Now I’m suspicious enough to stop buying it.

  • Helen says:

    Fine, have you read this post at Hoyden? There is a benign explanation for this “Christmas decoration”. It wasn’t meant to be offensive either. It’s just that the producers of it failed to make the imaginative leap from the way the cross looked to the “burning crosses” of Missisippi and Alabama.

    So too with the Coon cheese thing – the decision to name it Coon was taken by older white men who were the decisionmakers in those days. Not that they were wanting to rub aboriginals’ noses in a racist appellation – like the burning cross makers, it just wouldn’t have occurred to them that not everyone lived in their respectable and (relatively) well educated bubble. But – and you have to understand that we’re talking about FNQ and not Victoria! – very few people look at a packet of Coon and say to themselves “Oh yes, the Coon cheese named after Mr Edward Coon who developed the curing process for cheddar back in the 1950s”. I think you’d have to be a bit of a booster to think that. No, for years most of us- I’d say almost all of us except those directly employed by the cheesemakers’ marketing division, have had no idea about Edward Coon. So the cheese packets in the supermarket remain a kind of rorschach on which people like me project a mild distate and wonderment, and knuckle-draggers would project a mild hurh-hurh. If they think about it at all.

    “Coon” is still in use in the North. It might not be used or used very often as an insult down here, but it certainly is there. Stephen Hagan himself reports the word being used against him during the standoff about the E S Brown Stand.

    Damaging language? You bet it does, but taking the Coon away from cheese packets does nothing to damage language. It’s the knuckledraggers who have damaged it by making it a racist epithet, unfortunately. I do agree that it is a legitimate word when used to describe a raccoon, but as we have no raccoons in Australia, that’s not really germane to the Coon Cheese thing, either.

  • Fine says:

    I don’t get your point at all. Helen. You still haven’t answered my question about the people who are called Coon, Why are you avoiding that? Should they change their name? Should they not have businesses called Coon? Would you find that distasteful and boycott their businesses? Because if you’re going to find one business called Coon offensive, surely you’d find all the others called Coon offensive as well and recommend that they’d all change their names

    I also know people called Negro – genuinely – it’s a Spanish name, I think. Certainly an offensive word in a different context. Should people of Chinese heritage not use the last name of Poon because it’s also an insulting name for women’s genitalia? We don’t have raccoons here. But we have Blue Tick Coon Hounds and Maine Coon Cats. Should those breeds change their names? Should we not have Crackerbarrel Cheese because ‘cracker’ is an insulting term for poor people from the American south?

    And yes, it does damage language to separate it from meaning and context. Because if you don’t have meaning and context you don’t have a language which functions very well. Personally, I don’t eat Coon cheese because it isn’t very good. That’s all I register when I see it on the supermarket shelves.

  • Helen says:

    I think 99.9% know that people have no control over their surnames, and some are a bit funny / embarrassing. In the case of Negro, we have a popular local, Fred Negro and no-one’s complained about his name. It’s a surname.

    But my point it, which I kind of failed to make in the above paragraph, is that people – including children – feel actual hurt and humiliation when they see the word employed in a context where it’s not obvious that it’s a surname.

    Yes, the name has been damaged but that’s not their fault. It’s the fault of the people who turned it into an epithet and an insult – which it is, in FNQ where these events are taking place.

  • Bernice says:

    Brands being everything in the corporate world, Diary Farmer’s sensitivity rating could be much improved (apart from their active production of evil foul non-foods in the snack market) if they ran a twee ad campaign, tastefully sepia with the aforementioned Mr Coon inventing cooning….

    Except there is a bit of doubt as to whether Mr Coon invented it. Except in the heads of corporate types, looking to evade patent law. The cheese was originally distributed in a black skin. Indeed cooning as a cheese making process seems to exist only on the Diary Farmers’ website…

    “Australians don’t say cheese, they say coon.”

    never a truer word

  • mmh full page ad for this blog in The AGE

  • Helen says:

    You didn’t know I was so rich, FX 😉

  • kayla says:

    Thanks so much for the kind comments and I will definitely take your advice. Thank you so much. xoxoxo kayla

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.