The Cheese of Doom

2 minute read

Australia’s “Coon Cheese” was named after Edward William Coon, an American, who patented a method of making cheese and of course, named it after himself.

However, to some Australians, and certainly Americans, the name itself is a racial term, used as an insult against African Americans to imply laziness and stupidity.

And now, whilst the Black Lives Matter campaign is ongoing, and after 20 years campaigning, Saputo, the trademark owners are changing the name.

COON® Cheese Statement
After thorough consideration, Saputo has decided to retire the COON® brand name. We are working to develop a new brand name that will honour the brand-affinity felt by our valued consumers while aligning with current attitudes and perspectives.

It’s political correctness!

Political correctness is trotted out as a trump card in a lot of arguments around changing society.

It occurs when people of one sort assume people of another are offended by something. They don’t do their due diligence and actually ASK, they just make the change.

This frequently results in members of the former group screaming about how their rights are infringed, while those of the latter scratch their heads and wonder what the trouble is all about. Take Christmas for example:

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However, for the cheese in question, Australian Indigenous people have campaigned for over 20 years for a change, from Dr. Steven Hagan who took his case to the Australian Human Rights Commission back in 1999, various attempts in the meantime and a related battle in the High Court that was recently settled.

But it’s just cheese

Many white Australians don’t see the point in changing the name of what is, in all honesty, a pretty dull cheese.

But white Australians don’t receive insults like this on a regular basis. Terms like “coon” or “wingnut” or “whinging pom” or “retard” or any of thousands of other insults are intended to separate one type of person from another. And the insults and abuse soon become physical.

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And I know what I’m talking about. I was an 11 year old immigrant in the 1980s. I was abused. I was spat on. I was beaten up. All because I came from England, and was therefore a “whinging pom”. In today’s terms, I’m the very definition of White Anglo Saxon. But back then, because I was different, I was hated.

So imagine if you’ve got darker skin, or come from a different background? “Wog”, “Seppo” and related terms were levelled at Italian and Greek immigrants from their post-WW2 arrival and have only been reclaimed in the last 30 or so years.

Bigotry is even inter-generational, such as the ongoing criticism of Millennials, most recently brought up by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Chair Ita Buttrose.

The bottom line

The bottom line is this: Just because something doesn’t affect you, doesn’t mean it’s harmless, and changing it is not political correctness.

Words have meaning, even if the recipient is not of the race being insulted.

We can choose our words with more care, and build a better world, or keep sticking to our tribes, black against white, country against country, and reap the whirlwind of destruction and war.