- ABOUT US
In good ways and bad, one name has defined Oklahomans for most of our history. Follow this controversial word as it transforms from a Dust Bowl slur to a twenty-first century badge of honor.
By Brian Ted Jones
Published January/February 2016
The word begins life as a hateful thing. A slur, an epithet, with a moral ooze that drips from the syllables like spittle from a jaw. There’s a whole family of words like this. They’re often used against refugees and exiles, people reduced to the basic grains of existence—hunger, thirst, the need for shelter. These words appear when men, women, and children are uprooted, driven down, assaulted—used against people who’ve lost their homes and been forced to wander.
Maybe we use the worst words we have for these people because they remind us of things we’d like to forget, things like our own vulnerability—and our children’s—and the fact that anyone who lives in relative peace and plenty does so at the unpredictable mercy of fate.
Because if we couldn’t tell the difference between ourselves and the refugees, maybe that would mean there wasn’t any difference. Maybe that would mean we owed them something. “Same as kin,” as the old Oklahomans might say.