Thursday, November 3, 2011

That was where my dream began to take hold, of not havin' to pick cotton . . .

Now, just wait just a cotton-picking minute! 

That’s a phrase I used to use all the time.  That is, until a friend of mine . . . a black friend . . . told me that it was a racial slur.  I’d never really thought about it.  It was an expression that I grew up hearing and using. 

From whom did I learn this quaint Americanism?  I can tell you most assuredly that it was none other then Mr. Bugs Bunny himself.   ‘Cotton-picking’ was a phrase that he used all the time and may have been instrumental in fixing into the common vernacular like no other.

In the first lines of the film "Bully for Bugs" he says, "Well, here I am. Hey, just a cotton-picking minute. This don't look like the Coachella Valley to me.  Hmm, I knew I should've taken that left turn at Albuquerque.

Despite, what my friend believes I don’t think it’s racial . . . although I can see where one might come to that conclusion. 

Sure, it’s true that cotton-picking is associated with the slavery in the old South.  But, so again are road-building, field-clearing, farm-working and horse-breeding. 

Personally, I think it’s more a classist slur than a racial one.  There were plenty of poor whites who worked the worst job in the south, the cotton fields, and much of the other hard labor jobs that no-one else wanted to do.   You could equate ‘cotton-picking’ to ‘lower class’ . . . as in ‘get your lower class hands off that.

Anyhoo . . . it's just just like using ‘corn-detasseling’ to put down rural white folks . . . hey, wait a minute!  I did that as a summer job when I was a kid.  Yes, we pulled the tassles out of the corn stalks . . . to keep them from cross-pollinating . . . and, yes, you could say I was a rural white folk.  

So, just because I don't agree that 'cotton picking' is a racial slur, doesn't mean that I think a classist slur any better.Obviously, derogatory language of any kind is not a good thing nor appropriate for use in decent conversation.  

Spam Cornbread Casserole

1 Can SPAM
1 Box (8 1/2 ounce) Corn Muffin Mix
1 Can (8 ounce) Whole Kernel Corn, Drained
1/2 Cup Cheddar Cheese, Shredded

Cut SPAM into 8 slices, then diagonally into 16 triangles. Arrange 8 triangles, spoke or pinwheel fashion, in the bottom of a greased 9 inch round cake pan. Prepare corn bread mix as directed on the box, stir in corn and cheese. Pour into pan. Arrange remaining 8 triangles of SPAM on top of batter in spoke/pinwheel fashion. Bake 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees until corn bread is golden brown. Serve in wedges with or without syrup 

That was where my dream began to take hold, of not havin' to pick cotton and potatoes, and not havin' to be uncomfortable, too hot or too cold. That in itself had driven me to try to find some better way of life.
Buck Owens 

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