How "Coon" Became The New "Female"


"while the word female is appropriate under certain contexts, beware of the cat who uses it as his universal descriptor of all women. honestly, although i have a few theories (my favorite one has something to do with sting and the police), i have absolutely no idea why this is such a strong indicator of aint sh*tness. but, every guy i’ve known who regularly incorporates female in their daily lexicon in lieu of other appropriate substitutes (woman, chick, earth, concubine, etc) has been an aint sh*t dude, so go figure"


This passage is from "Five Subtle Signs He Aint Shit" — a six-year-old piece I'm highlighting today for two reasons.

1. I'm gloating

As I mentioned in the piece, "female" itself isn't a bad word. And, in some contexts, it's necessary because substituting "woman" would be linguistically awkward. That said, there is quite a bit of truth to the fact that people who almost always say "female" when they're talking about women — and both men and women are guilty of this — also seem to have, how should I put it, less-than-progressive feelings and views about women. It's almost as if "female" is a polite substitution for "bitch," and a person who does it frequently is basically announcing "Don't invite me to game night. Because all I'll bring are Newports and half-empty packets of Mystic Dragon Capri Sun."


Anyway, tons of people have written about this troublesome language trend. But — and correct me if I'm wrong — I do not remember anyone writing about it before I did. And since I don't have many opportunities to be first and right about something (buying land on Kyrie Irving island back when first seeing him in 2010 is literally the only other time this has happened) I'm taking this time to gloat about being first and right about this.

2. The exact same thing is happening with "coon"

If you're a person who enjoys discussing, debating, and deconstructing issues concerning the intersection of race and culture, this is a great time to exist. Race and how it influences thought and behavior permeates the entire fabric of our cultural/political zeitgeist, and there have never been more avenues for these types of conversations — and more ways to make a living off of them.

And, if you're a person like me who's both very interested in these types of conversations and connected to multiple avenues where these conversations take place, you hear/read all types of race-related thoughts, questions, opinions, and theories from all types of (mostly Black) people. And you start to notice some patterns.

One of these patterns is that, for whatever reason, "coon" and all its variations (cooning, coonish, etc) has become a go-to word for Black people who have "aint shit" thoughts and opinions about race. It's become the same type of announcement "female" is. Except, in this case, the "aint shit" is this awkward combination of respectability politics, sexism, and homophobia that labels anything outside of how they believe Black people should act as coonery.


A Black person tells a joke they don't particularly like? They're cooning. A show depicts Blackness in a way that they don't believe it should be depicted? It's coonery. President Obama? Coon. Kanye West? Coon. Skinny jeans? Coonish. Baggy jeans? Coonish. The gay agenda? Perpetuated by a bunch of coons. You, if you don't agree with their archaic views on race? Coon.

Of course, not all Black people who use coon think this way. Coon can be a fun word. If our dog ever dies and we decide to get a new dog, Coon will definitely be the name of that new dog. But, if you do happen to know a Black person who's hyperconscious of — and worried about — What The White People Might Think or one who believes Black women/gays are ruining Blackness or one who even believes Blackness is being ruined, best believe he's harboring several coons in his linguistic closet.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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Nicholas Peters

I'm going to have to disagree…

While some people do take it too far the word c@@n, it is an insignia of black people who actively work against or don't work towards the progress of black people (which unfortunately there are a lot of…because black people are the only organism that I can think of that go out of their way not to work in their best interests and prosperity) is extremely valuable. It clearly identifies what black people we need to separate from, or as I call them "The 5 stages of F#ck n!gg@s or when combined form "F#ck n!gg@ Voltron"… if the black community is ever going to get the foot of white supremacy off of their neck.