Tuesday, December 27, 2011

John McWhorter Uses the Term "Bohunk" in a Derogatory Way. Should We Care?

I received an email from Alison Dvorak expressing concern that Manhattan Institute public intellectual and African American John McWhorter used the term "Bohunk" in a derogatory way in a Forbes article published December 30, 2008.

McWhorter was assessing whether or not Barack Obama's election meant that white supremacy was dead in America. Some low class whites are still white supremacists, McWhorter acknowledged. These low class whites hang nooses and use the n-word. He called these "backward" people "bohunks." He didn't bother to capitalize the word.

McWhorter is in good company. Elites have, since the Civil Rights Movement, attributed white supremacy to low class, ethically incorrect people – Bohunks – Americans of Eastern European, Christian, peasant ancestry. Apparently it was we who built and manned the slave ships, ran plantations, invented and maintained Jim Crow.

Chapter four of "Bieganski" talks about this revisionist process in detail.

Obama himself participated in this, in his infamous statement about bitter working class people in Pennsylvania – a big Bohunk state – clinging to white supremacy, guns, and bibles.

In going through my emails, I wondered if I should devote a blog entry to McWhorter's use of "Bohunk." It's not such a big deal, and his article is three years old. I'm mentioning it, though, for the same reason I mentioned the New Jersey joke map that talks about Polacks and toxic fumes in New Jersey. Bieganski is everywhere. He is in popular culture, like the joke map; he is in elite culture, like John McWhorter's high-rent musings.

Bieganski is an unavoidable aspect of American culture. Those concerned about this issue would do well to prepare themselves to confront this reality by buying, reading, and reviewing "Bieganski" and by reading this series of blog posts


  1. I think it's a little too far down the track from the time the remarks were published to make a response or complaint to the writer. Perhaps a note to Forbes's editors is worth it. Otherwise it should be filed under "to be used on another occasion', when the debate re-emerges, as it surely will.

  2. document it, document it, document it. it's a part of reality that will fall back into the "normal" cultural subtext, unless you point it out. Thanks for doing so, but -- imagine my surprise.

    you mean ethnically incorrect people right? downside of spell checkers.

    oh, who is this guy? what mags that publish him should I not buy?


  3. And this is why we eschew newspaper and magazine subscriptions, only borrow books from the library, etc. In fact, we rarely even click on a lot of links to the news, because it's really just the schmooz, or was that the schnooz?


  4. Bieganski is very expensive. Will it ever be available as an ebook? (I'm assuming that an ebook would be cheaper...maybe a wrong assumption.) No library around here has it, so I'll have to wait until I can afford it.

    I've seen other black folks use the term "Bohunk" the way McWhorter does too. I was guessing that they were assuming it was an ahem "back-formation" from "honky" and didn't realize the history.

    But then "honky" may or may not come from the same root ("Hunky"). "Bring me a Hunky, I need a donkey"? Interesting rhyme scheme there.

    This is a history that needs to be addressed so we can move forward. But it's a very emotional issue, so people have a very hard time discussing it. It's very easy to insult someone without meaning to.

  5. concerned people need to support "bieganski" by purchasing it.

    buying, and not buying, books are political acts.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
These themes include the false and damaging stereotype of Poles as brutes who are uniquely hateful and responsible for atrocity, and this stereotype's use in distorting WW II history and all accounts of atrocity.
This blog welcomes comments from readers that address those themes. Off-topic and anti-Semitic posts are likely to be deleted.
Your comment is more likely to be posted if:
Your comment includes a real first and last name.
Your comment uses Standard English spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Your comment uses I-statements rather than You-statements.
Your comment states a position based on facts, rather than on ad hominem material.
Your comment includes readily verifiable factual material, rather than speculation that veers wildly away from established facts.
T'he full meaning of your comment is clear to the comment moderator the first time he or she glances over it.
You comment is less likely to be posted if:
You do not include a first and last name.
Your comment is not in Standard English, with enough errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar to make the comment's meaning difficult to discern.
Your comment includes ad hominem statements, or You-statements.
You have previously posted, or attempted to post, in an inappropriate manner.
You keep repeating the same things over and over and over again.