The Real Explanation Behind “Macacagate”

When George Allen said that he didn’t know exactly what “Macaca” (as opposed to Macaque, a racial slur), the nickname he publicly used for a James Webb staffer, meant, a lot of people didn’t believe him. They thought that the claim that it was simply a corruption of “mohawk” didn’t quite seem sufficient.

However, there’s now a good explanation for the nickname floating around, albeit one that still isn’t particularly flattering to Allen:

“Three Virginia Republicans confirmed to the Hotline that several Allen campaign aides and advisers are telling allies that the word was a made-up, off-the-cuff neologism that these aides occasionally used to refer to tracker S.R. Sidarth well before last Saturday’s videotaped encounter.

According to two Republicans who heard the word used, “macaca” was a mash-up of “Mohawk,” referring to Sidarth’s distinctive hair, and “caca,” Spanish slang for excrement, or “sh*t.”

Said one Republican close to the campaign: “In other words, he was a sh*t-head, an annoyance.”

We’re talking about anonymous sources here, but the explanation rings true. Either Allen heard a staffer use that word in reference to Webb’s aide and just repeated it without catching on to what the “caca” portion was in reference to or he knew what “caca” meant and was trying to be cute, but didn’t realize that “macaca” was actually a real word and that it had the potential to get him in trouble.

Either way, Allen should have known better. Unfortunately, in the dog days of August, when Congress isn’t in session, any little sack of nothing like this can be blown up and magnified to 100 times its real importance (See Cindy Sheehan last year for a perfect example) and that has resulted in Allen getting an inordinate amount of bad press for a fairly unimportant incident.

PS: Just as an interesting side note, if you look at the staggering list of ethnic slurs on Wikipedia, many of which are extremely obscure, you will not find the word “macaca.” You will however find:

Makak:(Belgium & the Netherlands) a Moroccan; derived from macaque.

Setting aside the fact that this isn’t Belgium, the Netherlands, or Morocco, Allen didn’t say the word “Makak” or “macaque,” he said something that sounded like “Macaca.” So, at best, Macaca is one of most seldom used racial slurs on the planet and at worst, the whole slur angle was drummed up out of nothing from the very beginning.

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