The “M” Word
posted by December 29 at 11:17 AMon
In the ongoing Blatant and Unapologetic Use of Racial Slurs, Specifically Aimed a Black People, in Standup Comedy Routines meme, it looks as though George Lopez was channeling Michael Richards Thursday night. Here’s the reader report [sic on the whole thing and the emphasis is mine]:
George was going on about text alerts - then he said we have to send each other texts saying Mayate Alert, Mayate Alert. Anyway, Mayate means [The N Word] in Spanish. Some of the Mexicans were making sounds like - Whoa I can’t believe he just said that. See some Black people think Negro or Nigerita means [The N Word] in Spanish. So, he thought the few black people there wouldn’t catch it.
He was also like f*ck ‘em, they ain’t here tonight - and if YOU are here - you’re Dominican tonight damn it.
Then he went on to promote the racial tensions (as if this needs instigating) in LA. He went on and ON about how Mexicans run L.A. and run the U.S. He also spoke about how young Mexican boys are dying on the front line in Iraq while the Whites are in the back partying (offensive to anyone of any race who has lost loved ones in Iraq).
I can take a joke, but I am no longer friend with this Vato. So disappointed - I have love for the LAtinos too.
I didn’t get a chance to record it, but he’s sold out at the Nokia Theater all this week performing up until New Years day.
The word mayate, it doesn’t literally mean “ni**er.” It’s a Spanish word that basically means “black beetle.” It comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word mayatli— academically, the fig beetle Cotinus mutabilis, which isn’t even black, but possibly also meaning “dung beetle.” But anyway the word is never used in this context. It is an extremely derisive and offensive term that some racist Mexican-Americans use to refer to black people among their other racist friends and family and that has the same taboo and meaning as the English N-word. The fact that it was used in public—to an audience, no less—is deeply disturbing and upsetting to me as a Mexican and a human being, which of course doesn’t even touch how the black community must feel.
My experience with that awful word comes from hearing my uncle, who was often drunk when I was young, ramble on and punctuate his sentences with all kinds of foul language in English and Spanish. He used mayate on occasion. But then one day when he was working with a crew installing telephone poles alongside a road, someone accidentally unloosed a whole trailer load of the poles, which fell out and crushed my uncle like giant rolling pins.
Take a lesson, Lopez; that is comedy.
UPDATE: In doing a little more research on Aztequismos, I was reminded of another word that I heard in Mexico—camote, from the Nahuatl word camotl (meaning “yam”), used to refer to male partner in a sexual relationship; I heard it used in a gay context. But anyway, here’s a passage from Streets, Bedrooms, and Patios (2000), a book about diversity in Oaxaca, by Michael James Higgins and Tanya Leigh Coen. Apparently some gay male prostitutes there use mayate to refer to their clients!