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Apr 15 2013

Another Local Pol Spouts Racism

Man, these guys seem to be coming out of the woodwork. A commissioner in Salina County, Kansas is in hot water after being taped in a session saying that if they’re going to renovate a county building they should hire an architect rather than “nigger-rigging” it.

Saline County Commissioner Jim Gile said it was a “bad choice of words” Tuesday when he used the expression “nigger-rigging it” in a heated discussion with Commissioner John Price.

Gile, 68, who is serving his first term after taking office in January, used the phrase during a discussion about whether to hire an architect to design repairs to the county’s Road and Bridge Department building.

In a recording made by County Clerk Don Merriman of the study session, Gile, who is white, can be heard to say the county needed to hire an architect to design the improvements rather than “nigger-rigging it.”

His comment brought laughter from others in the room. Salinan Ray Hruska, who attends most commission meetings and study sessions, asked Gile what he said.

“Afro-Americanized,” Gile replied…

Gile said Friday that he meant to say “jury-rigged.”

“I had it (jury-rigged) on my brain and this came out,” Gile said. “It was a bad choice of words. I’m sorry.”

Yeah, because those two words sound so much alike.

45 comments

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  1. 1
    Who Knows?

    “Jury-rigged” That’s why he had to clarify with “Afro-Americanized.”

  2. 2
    Gretchen

    I’ve never heard this term. Is that actually a term people use? “Nigger-rigging”?

  3. 3
    blorf

    If he had skipped straight to jury-rigged I might believe that he has heard the two used interchangeably and just picked the wrong one himself. I certainly hear both frequently. But adding “Afro-Americanized” rather guts that defense doesn’t it?

  4. 4
    dingojack

    Whew! Lucky he didn’t say ‘jerry-built’, ’cause that would be hard to explain away.
    Dingo

  5. 5
    Synfandel

    I’m with Gretchen. The expression is a new one on me. But then I’m lucky enough to live in a place where I’ve never heard anyone say “nigger” anything.

  6. 6
    Modusoperandi

    This is part of their minority outreach program. They already got Hispanics with the “wetbacks” comment last month.
     
    I can’t wait to see how they bring Asians in to the the GOP tent.

  7. 7
    tubi

    RE: Gretchen and Synfandel…

    I have heard it before, but rarely. The last time I can remember hearing was over 20 years ago after a black friend of mine (I’m not racist, I have black friends!) helped me fix my car and then said I should still take it to the shop because all he did was nigger-rig it.

    Not sure what that implies generally, though.

  8. 8
    blf

    There apparently is such a term as “nigger-rigging“, but I’ve not found any source which claims it is or ever was equivalent to “jury-rigged”, “jerry-built”, or similar.

  9. 9
    marcus

    tubi@7 “Not sure what that implies generally, though.”
    It’s means being so poor that you have to make do with have you have and repair anything that is repairable. This is because black people in the south (where I grew up) were (intentionally) kept in such an impoverished state that they had very few resources with which to work. Similar to ‘jury-rigged’ but with an extra helping of racism and condescension.

  10. 10
    Ben P

    His comment brought laughter from others in the room. Salinan Ray Hruska, who attends most commission meetings and study sessions, asked Gile what he said.

    Sadly, I’ve heard exactly this term and this was generally the reaction.

    There apparently is such a term as “nigger-rigging“, but I’ve not found any source which claims it is or ever was equivalent to “jury-rigged”, “jerry-built”, or similar.

    You probably weren’t looking in the right place.

    Urban Dictionary

    And it does have the same or at least a similar meaning to “jury-rigging” or “jerry rigging”

  11. 11
    Bronze Dog

    I heard the expression once before in a similar context to this news: Some public official who couldn’t keep up with the times by drilling himself into using non-racist terms. It seems likely to me these sorts of people hang out in circles where they don’t bat an eye at such language so there was no motivation to improve their vocabulary.

  12. 12
    Ben P

    It’s means being so poor that you have to make do with have you have and repair anything that is repairable. This is because black people in the south (where I grew up) were (intentionally) kept in such an impoverished state that they had very few resources with which to work. Similar to ‘jury-rigged’ but with an extra helping of racism and condescension.

    You phrase that a way that provides an interesting contrast with what’s in the urban dictionary link above. The common usage may even be more racist.

    You framed it in context of being so poor that you use whatever’s available to make repairs. The other usage implies not necessarily poverty, but laziness, and unwillingness or inability to do something correctly.

  13. 13
    tubi

    My friend was using it in the “make do with what you have” sense. He tied my radiator back on with wire used to hang drop ceilings. He was not lazy. But I think lazy is what most people would infer from the expression.

  14. 14
    blf

    I did check the Urban Dictionary, but it does not “[claim] it is or ever was equivalent to ‘jury-rigged’, ‘jerry-built’, or similar.” Only that it has about the same meaning. Emphasis on about: As marcus pointed out, there seems to be an extra dimension of condescension and, very possibly, racism.

  15. 15
    dingojack

    Blf – So they ‘had about the same meaning’, but were not ‘equivalent’ in meaning.
    So what does ‘equivalent’ mean in your world?
    Dingo

  16. 16
    kosk11348

    I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland in the 1980s, so not that long ago, and “nigger-rig” was a very common expression. Another was to “Jew down” a person, meaning to lower an asking price through haggling. These phrases were a part of every school kid’s vernacular.

  17. 17
    flex

    Ben P,

    I’ve also only heard the term used as description of work performed by people too poor to do better repairs, not because they didn’t have the ability to make better repairs but because they didn’t have the resources to do so.

    Not that I use the term myself, but I’ve heard it quite a few times here in SE Michigan. I work a lot with technicians who are regularly required to build one-off devices. While jury-rigging is used to make something perform a task it wasn’t really meant to do (or repair a device in an unorthodox way), nigger-rigging is (rarely) used when a request is made to build (or repair) a device without being allowed to purchase any parts. It is synonymous with cludge.

    There is certainly a racist component to it, but it seems to have come from laughing at the black people who were so poor that they maintained the things they owned with baling wire. Poor white people would be ignored, but poor black people could be the butt of jokes and laughed at.

    None of this makes it any less inappropriate a term to use, but it makes the Commissioner’s comment a little more intelligible. He was saying that the work needs to be designed properly or else it is going to be of poor quality, a sentiment I agree with. However, his choice of words is deplorable.

  18. 18
    marcus

    BenP @ 12 There was also the connotation of ‘laziness’, however since all the black people I ever saw or knew worked extremely hard for everything they ever got it never made any sense to me. I think the fact that most African-Americans saw, reasonably, very little reward in trying to please white people is the reason that white people thought they were ‘lazy’.
    blf @ 14 I think that any phrase that includes the word ‘nigger’ passes the racism test, definitely.

  19. 19
    blf

    So what does ‘equivalent’ mean in your world?

    Isomorphic. (This isn’t the first time I’ve somewhat unintentionally used the precise mathematical meaning when I could have phrased it a bit better.)

  20. 20
    Drew

    I’ve never heard of it used in the context of laziness but perhaps “lack of enough expertise to completely fix it” might be in line.

    Generally the impression was, do enough so that it works well enough to buy some time before you’ve got to pay an expert a bunch of money (mechanic in the terms of an automobile), or if you’re in the middle of the highway doing enough so you can get to the service station at the next exit without needing a tow. Though I’ve not heard the phrase in quite some time, it was always used in the same context as jury-rig, macgyvering, seat of your pants repair, etc.

    People would also use “afro-engineering” to be “more politically correct”

  21. 21
    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    I don’t remember where I read it, but when this first came up someone commented that it would be interesting to hear what he would have come up with if he’d had “hung jury” on his brain.

  22. 22
    blf

    I think that any phrase that includes the word ‘nigger’ passes the racism test, definitely

    Niggardly or niggling? Although I suppose those examples are words (and spelt differently, probably due to not having the same origin as nigger), not phrases…

  23. 23
    jamessweet

    I’ve never heard this term. Is that actually a term people use? “Nigger-rigging”?

    Yep. I’ve heard a couple of people use it. One is actually the drummer in my band; he’s not particularly racist (he’s pretty clueless about race issues, but isn’t actively/consciously prejudiced against African-Americans), and just hadn’t really given thought to the fact that such a term is like really obviously super-offensive. I told him it was really not cool and he hasn’t said it in front of me anymore, at least.

    Anyway, yeah, believe it or not, some people don’t connect the expression to race. Seriously. It’s like people who use the term “jap” to mean “reneg on something”, and have never realized it’s offensive to Japanese people.

  24. 24
    marcus

    @22 Precisely.

  25. 25
    Alverant

    Well I can understand if a politician doesn’t want to use the term “jury-rigging” in case they get quoted at their upcoming trial. *rimshot*

    I don’t care if the etomology of the phrase is racist or not, the first word has become a very racist word so it’s for the best that the phrase fade into obsolense. I’m not sure what’s wrong with “jerry-rigged” though. I thought it was a sailing term. Is it like calling British sailors “Limies” because they had lime trees on their sailing ships to prevent scurvy?

  26. 26
    Alverant

    #23 I’d give the guy the benefit of the doubt. It might not have occured to him (you did say he was clueless) that the word may be offensive. If he hasn’t used it in front of you since you told him, he might not have used it period.

    #22 Those two words may not have started out racist, but they became tainted just as certain religious symbol for good luck made up of 4 right angles became tainted when some guys in 1930s Germany adopted it. Casualties of history and all that.

  27. 27
    anubisprime

    @ OP

    His comment brought laughter from others in the room.

    That is the disturbing aspect, a tacit wink wink nod nod we know what ya mean and find it funny.

    I have heard the term ‘Nigger rigged’ and as far as I was aware at the time it was to imply a temporary if not actually a shoddy fix.
    I worked for an aviation company and in compliance with a strict method of working and considering the quality control checks it was rare even back then.
    The several times I actually heard it was in relation to aircraft returning having been patched up in some manner to get it back to base.

    It was used in general terms and not, as far as it went in those days,considered to be a particularly racist comment.
    Although in this day and age it will have definitely been deep sixed on the shop floor I would like to think.

    It scored as much comment at the time as another term used back then which was a euphemism for a micro measurement…

    ‘Just shave it a midges dick’s worth’ …that was common and is probably still in use somewhere.

    But it was a very long time ago…maybe early 1970′s when I was an apprentice, I have never heard or come across it since and as far as I know it is not in regular usage in present day Blighty.

  28. 28
    democommie

    “I can’t wait to see how they bring Asians in to the the GOP tent.”

    Duh! Through the “chinks”, no doubt! Jeez!!

    “You framed it in context of being so poor that you use whatever’s available to make repairs. The other usage implies not necessarily poverty, but laziness, and unwillingness or inability to do something correctly.”

    Umm, to those folks who use such terms, poverty is not only inseparable from laziness, unwillingnes or inability to do something correctly it’s caused by those things and they deserve it, too, also, shut-up, that’s why, PRAISE JESUS!!

    “Niggardly or niggling? Although I suppose those examples are words (and spelt differently, probably due to not having the same origin as nigger), not phrases…”

    Both of those words are from other roots than “negro”, neither of them has anything to do with race or racism, excepting in the minds of complete morons (I’m not including you in that group).

    Oddly with all of the other common racist slurs that flew around me at home and in society when I was growing up, “nigger rigged” is not a term that I heard often, until I moved to the northeast. I have no idea why but it was very common in the area I lived in from about 1973 till at least the mid 80′s and is still in use, there.

    To me, and considering the circumstance in which it was used, to most of the people who used the term it WAS intended to mean the work was sub-standard or inferior and not from a lack of necessary monies to buy decent repair materials.

  29. 29
    busterggi

    Jim: [consoling Bart]” What did you expect? “Welcome, sonny”? “Make yourself at home”? “Marry my daughter”? You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”

    Which is why Blazing Saddles remains relevant.

  30. 30
    democommie

    “a euphemism for a micro measurement…”

    On this side of OUR ocean, a differnt term is in current use. {;>0!

    “Salinan Ray Hruska, who attends most commission meetings and study sessions…”

    I wonder if Ray is any relation to our esteemed former Senator from Nebraska, Roman Hruska, a man that my dad said was somewhere to the right of Attilla the Hun (and my dad was NOT a liberal).

  31. 31
    cry4turtles

    Like a few other posters, I grew up with this word; however, I personally never used it in a racist context, at least not that I knew of. I didn’t even know any blacks folks while growing up. I had no clue if they “rigged” stuff. To us it meant to fix something half-assed. Did black people do that? I didn’t know. Curiously, now that I’m all grown up, I wouldn’t say nigger-rig to my best friend, who’s black. If I ever did, I hope she would not think me racist. This topic makes me ponder if there were other covert racist utterances in my childhood?

  32. 32
    Steve Morrison

    @25:
    The nautical term is jury-rigged. “jerry-rigged” seems to be a confusion of that term with “jerry-built”; seemingly no one knows where either term came from, though.

  33. 33
    badgersdaughter

    I had always understood that “jerry-rigged” came from the Allies, as the war was winding down, to refer to equipment left behind by underequipped and somewhat desperate German soldiers in their retreat, as “Jerry” was a fairly common way to refer to Germans at the time.

  34. 34
    Gretchen

    anubisprime said:

    It scored as much comment at the time as another term used back then which was a euphemism for a micro measurement…

    ‘Just shave it a midges dick’s worth’ …that was common and is probably still in use somewhere.

    But it was a very long time ago…maybe early 1970′s when I was an apprentice, I have never heard or come across it since and as far as I know it is not in regular usage in present day Blighty.

    When I first moved to England (in the summer), I had a bit of a problem remembering the difference between a midge and a minge.

    That was rectified pretty quickly, after some interesting reactions.

  35. 35
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    From my 18-volume OED

    Jury mast: Origin unknown, traced back into the 1600s and earlier. A temporary mast, replacement for a damaged original, implying that it’s not the correct replacement. Jury rigging is the rigging that holds the jury mast in place … by extension it’s a temporary device to get you to the next port or off the freeway for repairs. No implication of shoddy, just improvised.

    Jerry built – Origin unknown. Shoddily constructed housing, traces to first printed use in England in 1869 … well before WWII and calling the German soldiers “jerries”.

    Jury-built and Jerry-rigged would be the semi-literate bastard offspring of the above terms.

    “nigger-rigged” as used by my bigoted relatives was definitely disparaging, implying slovenly makeshift repair done by feckless pigmented people for lack of desire to really fix it.

  36. 36
    Synfandel

    It’s like people who use the term “jap” to mean “reneg on something”, and have never realized it’s offensive to Japanese people.

    There’s another one I’ve never heard. I need to get out more.

  37. 37
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    In my defense…

    Said the commissioner later in a clarification …in my mind…

    whenever I think of Black folk I alwasy start thinking about juries, and whenever I start thinking about juries, images of Black folk pop into my brain. So it’s not racist at all: it’s just that I’ve got these two words associated in my brain.

  38. 38
    Didaktylos

    I presume that in his part of the world “jury-rigging” is used in the context of ensuring a trial turns out right …

  39. 39
    freemage

    Like a lot of others who remember the 80s as their time of adolescence, I’m familiar with this one. In fact, for whites in the near south suburbs of Chicago, using the straight term was considered ‘fighting words’, but using it as a prefix often got a pass. It was usually affixed to some other term to imply that ‘this is how blacks do it’. Drinking from a bottle with your lips fully around the bottle’s opening was “n*-lips”; cutting across four lanes of traffic on Lake Shore Drive or the Dan Ryan was a “n*-slide”.

    Looking back on it, of course, I’ve come to realize that yeah, we were a bunch of racist fuckheads, but at least we were teenagers who could grow out of it. This shithead’s got no excuse.

  40. 40
    Nick Gotts

    Jerry built – Origin unknown. Shoddily constructed housing, traces to first printed use in England in 1869

    Those who jerry build are of course jerry builders, but may also in Britspeak be cowboy builders – particularly those domestic builders you get in to renovate or alter your home, and who then remove load-bearing walls, or disappear leaving your floorboards up and water disconnected. A Birmingham firm set up by a family of south Asian origin used the slogan: “You’ve tried the cowboys – now try the Indians”.

  41. 41
    democommie

    Nick Gotts:

    Now you’ve taken the lid off a big ol’ can-o-worms. Without looking, I think I can say that in the western and southwestern states there are multiple firms with some variation of, “Cowboy Carpentry” as part of their legal name. Them boys’ll be waitin’ out on main street for ya, at high noon; it’s gonna be framin’ hammers at 20 paces!!

  42. 42
    scienceavenger

    Anyone who grew up in the south probably heard this phrase a lot. For us it wan’t used in a directly racist way, similar to the way many people use “gypped” without ever thinking about the etymology. It referred to slipshod work done with whatever was handy instead of the “proper” way

    Personally, I have some sympathy for older people like Gile when this happens to them. Hardening of the arteries is a reality, and changing from a word you’ve used your whole life can be harder than it seems. Where my sympathy dissipates is when they try to rationalize the use instead of just saying what I’ve said “Sorry, I grew up in a semi-racist environment and some bad habits are hard to break. My bad.”

  43. 43
    slc1

    Re democommie @ #30

    Not necessarily. The mayor of Denver, whose name is Hickenlooper, is apparently no relation to the late former senator from Iowa, Bourke B. Hickenlooper.

  44. 44
    democommie

    slc1:

    I did wonder about Hickenlooper a while back, so I looked it up. That part of the mid-west was pretty heavily settled by czechs, hungarians, ukrainians and other central and eastern european groups. The name “Hruska” is instantly recognizable to generations of nebraskans and the federal courthouse in Omaha is named for him. I just think it would be nice if his grandson or nephew (about the right age, I think) was that fella.

  45. 45
    bullet

    @23 jamessweet

    …use the term “jap” to mean “reneg on something”

    Are you thinking of “gyp” as in “Gypsy”?

    I remember being in college and having no way to explain to someone what I had just done because I realized as I was talking that “nigger-rigged” was the only term I knew to describe it. That culture slips in every crack it can find.

    Also “nigger-knock” – to knock on someone’s door and run away; if there’s another term to describe this, I don’t know what it is.

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