March 1, 2002
The Scots have it tough.
In an age of ethnic and cultural
hyper-sensitivity, the Scots are apparently the only people left who
can be made fun of in public with impunity.
For any other ethnic group, the Human Rights
Commissions are ready to jump on you if you so much as ask for a
flesh coloured bandage. Last year Mayor Mel Lastman spent a month
apologizing for his ridiculous comment about ending up in a pot if
he went to Africa. If brains were considered a delicacy by Mel's
imaginary cannibals, they'd starve.
In a case of reverse sensitivity, a couple
of weeks back Alliance Senator Gerry St. Germain got into trouble
for saying the Métis were cheated because "whitey stole all
the land". Senator St. Germain is Métis but ended up sounding
like a character on some lame Sanford and Son episode from the '70s.
Still, everyone jumped on him using slang to describe an entire
Besides, as a whitey myself, I didn't steal
land from anyone. I think the people we bought our house from were
The other day I found myself in the
ridiculous position of correcting a Chinese friend who referred to
her own son as "Oriental".
"We don't call people 'Oriental'
anymore," I corrected her. "The proper term is now
"Well, someone better tell us
Orientals," she replied, "because no one mentioned it at
our last meeting."
There will always be some real racist
lunkheads who'll never learn, but the rest of us have become
extremely careful about racial and cultural references.
Except for the way we treat the Scots.
In spite of all the cultural sensitivity
lessons in the world, for some reason it's still acceptable to make
fun of the Scots. Comedians put on red wigs and kilts to sell
everything from oatmeal to golf courses. For some reason a grinning
Scot can be a store mascot to show the value of saving a penny, but
a high school production of the Merchant of Venice will draw an
How else could someone like Quebec Premier
Bernard Landry stand up and say in a recent speech: "There are
millions of Scots. Only one of them has marked the history of
humanity in a decisive way. His name is Adam Smith".
Replace the world "Scot" with
"black" or "Jew" and see how offensive it
Besides - Landry is phenomenally ignorant of
the Scottish people's contribution to the world. There are the
obvious examples, like James Watt's steam engine, or Alexander
Graham Bell's telephone.
Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, but
he never patented it in the hope that it would become as cheap and
plentiful as possible for the good of all mankind - something those
greedy bio-tech companies should remember as they patent the cure
JJR MacLeod co-discovered insulin, James
Young Simpson pioneered in the use of anaesthetics, and Joseph
Lister developed antiseptic surgery and sterile instruments -
something to remember the next time you have your appendix out.
Kirkpatrick MacMillan designed and built the
first foot-pedal bicycle, and Hubert Booth invented the vacuum
cleaner. Other Scots contributions to the world are television,
radar, colour photography, tires and the thermos.
The Scots busted sod and helped build this
country, but in spite of all this they remain the one and maybe only
ethnic group that's still fair game for stereotypes.
So how many Scots does it take to screw in a
One. You have a problem with that?.