Teresa Heinz Kerry: African American

This flap is rather amusing: Group Runs Anti-Kerry Ads on Black Radio Stations

A group financed by a major Republican contributor has begun running radio ads in about a dozen cities, many in battleground states, attacking Sen. John F. Kerry as “rich, white and wishy-washy” and mocking his wife for boasting of her African roots.

The D.C.-based group, People of Color United, has substantial financial backing from J. Patrick Rooney, the former chairman of Golden Rule Insurance Co. and the founder of a new firm, Medical Savings Insurance Co. Both firms specialize in medical savings accounts, created by Republican-backed 1996 legislation, and health savings accounts, which were created by President Bush’s 2003 Medicare prescription drug legislation. One of the radio ads addresses Kerry’s failure to vote on a bill to extend unemployment benefits for 13 weeks: “It needed 60 votes to pass. Ninety-nine out of 100 senators voted — Kerry did not! It lost by one vote! Maybe Kerry thought the more of us who are unemployed and hurting, the more likely we would vote Democrat.”

Another ad attacks Teresa Heinz Kerry, who, at the Democratic convention last month cited her birth and upbringing in Mozambique and who has described herself as African American. In the radio commercial, the announcer says: “His wife says she’s an African American. While technically true, I don’t believe a white woman, raised in Africa, surrounded by servants, qualifies.”

The Kerry campaign denounced the ads, all of which are being aired on radio stations with largely black audiences. “It’s disgusting that the president’s political allies are now using race as a political weapon,” said Bill Lynch, deputy manager of the Kerry campaign. “First a group of right-wing Swift boat veterans began smearing John Kerry’s military service, and now another group has resorted to playing racial politics.”

It’s always amusing to see the Democrats get upset when someone plays racial politics.

While I’m no big fan of TuhRAYsuh Heinz-Kerry, she is unquestionably African American. This just shows the silliness of trying to create a euphemism for “black,” a concept that needs no euphemism. “African American” is one of my least favorite politically correct affectations, in that it’s not only silly, it’s awkward and inaccurately conveys the concept it is intended to communicate.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Nick says:

    I find “Asian” to be the most annoying of the PC monikers. People clearly use it to mean what “Chinese” used to mean. They definitely do not mean to include Israel, Iraq, Turmkenistan or India in the appellation.

    I had a friend who annoyingly only liked to date “Asian” women. So, I taught him a lesson. I got the darkest skinned Tamil Indian I knew (she was a friend of mine who agreed to go along with the prank) to go out on a blind date with my friend. I promised him that I had found him the “hottest Asian chick I’ve ever seen”. To judge from the collapse in his facial features, my friend wasn’t quite as enlightened as his PC verbiage might have led one to believe.

  2. Rusty says:

    Right, just like Charlize Theron is ‘African-American’ I’m down brotha.

  3. La Femme Crickita says:

    The Dumbocrats are upset about a so-called ‘race
    card?’ Scusa, but we need to ask WHY she is saying
    she is African American. She isn’t black, she is
    considered ‘white’ though of Iberian descent.
    Why can’t she say she is a Portuguese-American?
    Is she ashamed of her roots?

  4. beo says:

    What would you call a black man from London? He wouldn’t be an African-American, obviously. Yet he is the same race as a black man from North Carolina. So, how can the term “African-American” be racial in any way? Think about it!

    Also, I was born in the US, so I am a Native American. Deal with it.

  5. Paul says:

    heh- The Dems play the race card then say: “It’s disgusting that the president’s political allies are now using race as a political weapon,”

    Why is this party still taken seriously?

  6. McGehee says:

    Why is this party still taken seriously?

    Call it the soft bigotry of low expectations.

  7. dw says:

    Charlize Theron isn’t an African-American. She’s South African.

    The problem with “African-American” is that, to the black community, it means “a person who is descended from slaves taken from West Africa.” Thus, Ethiopeans and Kenyans are, technically, not African-American (not to mention blacks from southern Africa), and this has caused a lot of problems.

    Obama, of course, is Kenyan. There has been some scuttlebutt among the African-American community about how he’s not part of “their story.”

    Asian-American is a very funny label, since an Iranian-American is as Asian-American as a Chinese-American. And since they’re all “wunderkinds,” descendants of Laotian boat people don’t get the breaks, since they’re obviously smart like those Japanese. Doesn’t matter, mind you, that their incomes are half what the Japanese make.

    Maybe it’s time to set aside race. Problem is, that leaves income disparity, and that’s a double-edged sword that no Republican or Dem would ever want to pick up.

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    The sociologist Charles Moskos makes a distinction that I think is useful. Teresa Heinz Kerry, Kim Du Toit, and Condoleeza Rice are all African Americans. Condoleeza Rice is also an Afro-American. Barack Obama is probably not Afro-American by Moskos’s standards (father Kenyan immigrant, mother Kansan of European descent, reared in Hawaii).

  9. sqd says:

    The advertising on both sides is slowly but surely sinking into the abyss. The next few months should be a pungent trip through the city sewers.

  10. Attila Girl says:

    Asian means what *oriental* used to mean.

    And Afro-American was replaced by African-American, probably because it wasn’t confusing or divisive enough.

    I wish we could just use something descriptive, like Black or Negro. Something that doesn’t have to be parsed nine ways to Sunday.

  11. LJD says:

    How ironic is it: the more Democrats tout diversity and identify America as the “melting pot”, the more they want to separate people with such terminology? It would be far more appropriate to separate on political affiliation. What about Bleeding-Heart Americans or Marxist Americans? You may not know their lineage, but you at least know what you’re dealing with.

    I love the previous comment… I too, am a Native American. (Maybe the dinosaurs are the TRUE native Americans).

    There is no rule of thumb… What it comes down to is using a term that will not piss anybody off, which changes from time to time and depending on the venue…

    I live in a New England town that is extemely white, where the lefties are incredibly militant about political correctness. Of course, having never lived with any “minorities” they have no idea what they’re talking about. God forbid I should refer to an old friend from CA as “My Niggah”.

    I, on the other hand, was living in L.A. during the riots and have much experience with “diversity”. People need to get over… A man is measured on merit, not the color of his skin. (Oops, I said “Man” what I meant to say was “Non-gender-specific, un-sexually oriented, Earth-based…. Oh the heck with it.)