What do you see?


That was the vanity license plate for a Muskegon man.  Before you click the link, what do you think it stands for?

(In this post, E. K. Gordon and Christie both thought the writer used the term “flesh-colored” with malicious intent.  Have you previously experienced the Oh-I-Didn’t-Mean-Anything-By-It racist?)


13 thoughts on “What do you see?

  1. I believe that ignorance is no excuse to keep doing something, especially when someone has pointed out it is problematic. but I believe (with 75% of my gut) the individual didn’t think of it that way when he created it. people are blind to how their words and actions hurt those who are othered.

    But that’s the point. He doesn’t have to think of those connotations because he is “normal” instead of “other”, and those “other” people’s feelings and experiences aren’t even on the radar.

    its in his response that we can see how much he respects and listens to the voice of people he has hurt.

    Oh wait, that is a bit fail. He gets 50 bonus points for derailing using many tactics in a few short quotes:

    “I agree with the lady in one respect, and that is that I don’t know what it’s like to be picked on racially,” Macaulay said. “But she immediately took umbrage without accepting that it could mean something else.”

    “There are so many other things going on, like the war,” he said. “People have nothing better to do than spend their lives being pissed off.”

    “People who know me know that I’m not a racist. But she didn’t really know what the plate meant.” (this was in the same breath as the apology)

  2. I saw danger. I saw a strange form of danger, but that was what jumped out at me. When I read further and determined it was thought to have racist connotations, I looked more, and thought for a while, and still couldn’t figure out what the other reading could possibly be. I didn’t catch it until reading macon’s comment gave me the ‘die’ to start from.
    Disclosure: I am white.
    Perhaps I tend less to be accustomed to seeing what isn’t directed at me.
    I think the majority is that I automatically looked for single, complete words. Separating the letters into two words does not come naturally. Or perhaps my inner linguist seens DYN as a syllable before anything else, and has trouble parting it.

  3. Since your comments in parentheses mention racism, and this blog is about racism, the racist meaning immediately jumped out at me. Then I felt guilty, because apparently the n-word is part of my mental vocabulary. But then again, I think I was primed to think about racism.

  4. One thing to consider – how likely is the general public to read the plate in a racist connotation vs the guy’s very obscure abbreviation?
    Actually, how likely is a motorcycle enthusiast going to even understand what it means?

  5. As restructure says, “Since your comments in parentheses mention racism, and this blog is about racism, the racist meaning immediately jumped out at me.” I also didn’t know anything about motorbikes so I never would have picked up his intended meaning.


    1. if I just saw it in the street the racist meaning wouldn’t occur to me
    2. if I was that guy I would be happy to change it because I wouldn’t WANT anyone to think I meant the other meaning.

  6. Soda and Candy wrote,

    if I was that guy I would be happy to change it because I wouldn’t WANT anyone to think I meant the other meaning.

    Exactly! I wouldn’t want anyone to have to see it and think the other meaning, period.

    The biggest problem I see with this story is the bike owner’s common white insistence on the importance of his intentions, and of his own perspective, both of which, in a better world, would be replaced by common white attention to the importance of effects and of the perspectives of others.

  7. I didn’t see it when I first looked and I had the thought that well, Harleys do have long acronyms for model designations.

    But I can’t believe he didn’t eventually see that himself or have someone he knows point it out to him.

    I’m betting he had quite a few laughs over it before finally being called on it. His current story is likely only an attempt to save face.

  8. Call me stupid…I got to this article through a link from another. the headline caught my eye because I couldn’t decipher its meaning, and after reading the articles and comments I still can’t!! Will someone enlighten me?

  9. @Marmen: The plate could be read as “Die, N****r.”
    Frankly, I didn’t figure it out on my own either. I’m black, BTW. I kept seeing some weird version of “danger.” And since there’s no way “danger” hasn’t already been taken, I figured that was just the next best available version. I even got as far as considering “dyna… something?” (I don’t know anything about Harleys, but I do know a bit about etymology) before I gave up and looked at the comments.

    What’s odd about this is that, at least in every state I’ve lived in, vanity plates are heavily censored— you can’t just request anything you want. For example, the DMV in my state repeatedly notes that it has “the right to refuse any combination of letters and/or letters and numbers that may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency.” And from what I hear, they apply this policy liberally. (“Okaaay…? That’s kind of a stretch, don’t you think?” “Request DENIED!”) So I’m surprised that plate was even issued in the first place.

    Note, I just checked my DMV’s online form, and there’s a space for you to indicate what the plate means. However, it doesn’t look like it’s required.

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