The news is very sad. The guy, Vester Lee Flanagan, was very crazy. (Please see the news: [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3213821/The-inoffensive-everyday-phrases-used-anchor-Alison-Parker-earned-death-sentence-Flanagan-deemed-racist.html][1])

I would refer you to the paragraph:

'We would say stuff like, "The reporter's out in the field." And he would look at us and say, "What are you saying, cotton fields? That's racist".'

Why is "cotton field" seen as racist by the murderer?

  • You understand that the murderer had mental problems, right?
    – deadrat
    Aug 29, 2015 at 7:53
  • I note that you live in Hong Kong. For balanced and responsible reporting of that story I would counsel you against reading such a newspaper. Try The Guardian
    – WS2
    Aug 29, 2015 at 7:56
  • The Daily Mail is just entertaining.
    – Louis Liu
    Aug 29, 2015 at 8:04
  • @deadrat. Yes obviously. But what does cotton fields refer to in the American societal context?
    – Louis Liu
    Aug 29, 2015 at 8:06
  • Because my ancestors did not have the history of discriminating against black people.
    – Louis Liu
    Aug 29, 2015 at 14:26

2 Answers 2


During the time of slavery in the U.S., there were two main assignments for slaves: agricultural work, in the fields, and service work, in the "master's" house. At that time, the major cash crop in the deep South, where slavery was the most cruel, was cotton. So, a slave assigned to agricultural work spent his or her day working "in the field", which was often a cotton field.

Now, for the modern meaning (for good measure -- I know you didn't ask this): A reporter does some work in the office, such as telephone interviews, research, writing the article, etc., and some work "in the field", observing and asking people questions.

Certain mental illnesses are marked by a this kind of literal-mindedness. Thus you can have someone believing that any car with a license plate containing a particular digit is possessed by the devil. Etc., etc.


In the US before its civil war, black, so-called "field slaves" worked the land for their white owners. The large plantations in the South were planted in cotton. There's a famous antebellum song called "Dixieland," identifying the South with cotton agriculture:

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times there are not forgotten.
Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land!

("Dixieland" is the nickname for the American South and comes from the Mason-Dixon line, set out by the eponymous surveyors to mark the boundaries between Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. The line essentially marked the boundary between the slave states and the free states.)

The murdered reporter used the word "in the field" to mean reporting outside the TV studio. She wasn't talking about land on which crops are grown, and no sane person would believe otherwise. Unfortunately, in the US, being insane is no actual bar to carrying loaded firearms.

  • "Unfortunately, in the US, being insane is no actual bar to carrying loaded firearms." Why would you add this to your answer?
    – user116032
    Aug 29, 2015 at 19:15
  • 2
    As a public service.
    – deadrat
    Aug 29, 2015 at 19:28
  • You do a lot of public service.
    – user116032
    Sep 12, 2015 at 16:04
  • @user116032 vivo ut serviam.
    – deadrat
    Sep 12, 2015 at 16:28
  • Do you? What a guy. (Yah, I had to look it up.)
    – user116032
    Sep 13, 2015 at 0:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.