It’s All Relative

Filed under: @ 6:12 pm

Last night while channel surfing, trying to find something that wasn’t Oscar related while on commercial break from Discovery’s Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, a show to which we are moderately addicted, we ended up stopping on Channel 2. Northwest Cable News does a pretty good job of collecting local news from the regional NBC affiliates and broadcasting it back in a semi-well knit together fashion. They’re always good for filling a commercial break.
Recently, as with every other 24 hour news channel, they’ve started running a news ticker along the bottom of the screen. I find news tickers to be moderatly annoying. If you’re trying to focus on the newscast they’re always there in the bottom of the screen trying to attract your attention, and if you’re trying to focus on the news ticker, there’s the sound and/or (if you’ve got the mute on) the motion of the main newscast distracting you from what you’re trying to read.

Regardless, last night while watching NWCN my attention was attracted by the following statement scrolling across the weather report: “Al Sharpton descendent of slaves owned by relatives of Strom Thurmond”.

This is, at this point, old news, but I was struck by the language that was used. Try reading it with the following emphasis.

Al Sharpton descendent of slaves owned by relatives of Strom Thurmond.

I find it interesting that the word “descendent” is used in relation to the person whose family was wronged. To me, the use of the word “descendent” indicates, in this case, that Al Sharpton is pretty dang far removed from those people who were slaves.
More interesting is the word “relatives” being used in relationship to the family of the slave owner. To me, a “relative” is a member of one’s close, recent, or immediate family. If they had used the word “ancestor” instead of “relative” it might have been somewhat more accurate under the circumstances. The fact that they used the word “relative” makes a statement. Granted, Strom Thurmond was older than dirt, but I sincerely doubt that he was that closely related to these slave owners.

I’m not really sure what sort of statement was being made and to whom it was insulting. I just found the wording to be quite interesting.
I realize that my analysis of these words likely does not fit with their strict Oxford definitions or derivations. I am merely commenting on the situation from the perspective of an amateur who likes to play with words. Gimme a break, I was a biochemistry major, not an English major. 🙂

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