To the editor:
With her call to her Republican audience for a “white hope” presidential candidate (Aug. 27), Rep. Lynn Jenkins unwittingly echoed a century-old call. It was 1908 when an incensed and urgent call went out for a “great white hope” to rise up and defeat Jack Johnson, the dangerous upstart who had just become the first black heavyweight champion of the world. With her explanation for her colorful language, Jenkins also echoed the doublespeak language of countless politicians. She said that “white hope” had no racial meaning. She added that it simply meant “bright lights” and said “I was unaware of any negative connotation.”
After time for reflection, Jenkins illustrated what she had learned about the art of apology: “If I offended somebody, obviously I apologize.” Throughout, she echoes no one more than Dr. Seuss, but upside down and in reverse. The popular Seuss verse goes: “I meant what I said/And I said what I meant/An elephant’s faithful/one hundred percent.” Jenkins’ language in verse might read: “I dare not say what I meant/The opposite is my intent/You can count on me to doublespeak/One hundred and ten percent.”
Imagine an apology reflecting the spirit of Seuss in prose: “I apologize for my recent use of ‘white hope’ at a political gathering. I was insensitive at the time to its hostile racial meaning. Such degrading language is inexcusable and has no place in our discourse. I vow to eliminate all such injurious terms from my own vocabulary.” Maybe impossible to imagine. Maybe, just maybe, a winner.