In the past few weeks, strong-minded African Americans have hurled the harsh term at Black celebrities who have met with President-elect Donald Trump in his gilded Trump Tower or have participated in his increasingly pathetic inauguration ceremonies.
Critics have come down on folks ranging from entertainer Steve Harvey to sports legend Jim Brown to the Tornadoes, the Talladega College marching band in Alabama.
The Urban Dictionary says a coon is “a Black actor or actress, who takes roles that stereotypically portrays Black people.”
Webster’s dictionary, after classifying it as short for “raccoon,” defined it as offensive term “used as an insulting and contemptuous term for a Black person.”
Historians meanwhile have traced it back to the term, “baracoons” a cage inside of which Africans awaited the voyage into international slavery, or even to the Coon Carnival, described by Wikipedia as “a yearly minstrel festival in Cape Town, South Africa, where “as many as 13,000 minstrels take to the streets garbed in bright colours, either carrying colourful umbrellas or playing an array of musical instruments.”
With no formal definition, the slang term is commonly applied to a person who parades his or her racial identity for entertainment or puts his or her Blackness on display for others’ enjoyment.
Some African Americans have raced to the defense of those criticized, arguing that communication with a man in such a powerful position as Trump, who as of Friday afternoon will be the president of all Americans, is nothing to to be shunned or ridiculed.
Yes, labels are harsh and cruel. That said, the impression we make collectively is important right now.
Resistance is a form of communicating. And our unified demand to be treated better than the rhetoric Trump and his followers have spewed speaks for us.
One’s expertise on a government policy issue is worth sharing, one’s blonde hairdo (Kanye West) and few slaps on the back before a lobby of reporters, is not.
While labels are hurtful, unity is important right now. Stand as one. Stand for something more than notoriety or the all mighty dollar.
And when we think of how comfortable rolling with Donald Trump might be, resolve to stay uncomfortable. Keep in mind the words of Mother Pollard, one of the historic participants of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. For 381 days – from 1955 into 1956 – public transit riders of Montgomery, Ala., abandoned their racist bus system. Until they were allowed the dignity of sitting in any section of the bus available, they carpooled, or more often, walked – for miles — to work, school, church, etc.
And all Mother Pollard had to say was, “My feets is tired, but my soul is rested.”
Black America, choose the rested soul.