Beyond the Pale… Racist or Ignorant?


Hand Painted Roses Cover Sec Gen IIIShouts of xenophobia, white supremacy, double dealing, crony capitalism, sexual predators, rigged elections, fake news and all other unconscionable and un-American dirty misdeeds have been getting labeled as “beyond the pale.” I have heard countless political pundits use it. I keep hearing it repeatedly. I saw it today in the Los Angeles Times, in a commentary by David Horsey.

“Conservatives absolutely love to mock political correctness and namby-pamby, safe-space liberalism. But there is one line of offensive humor they may now consider beyond the pale: blonde jokes.”Secret Genealogy

For months, I have been thinking that this expression was not “politically correct.” Here’s why:

Over two hundred years ago, the Czars of Russia expelled Jews from Moscow and St Petersburg. From 1791 to 1915 they were ordered to remain within certain boundaries known as “The Pale of Settlement.” This Pale included Belorussia, Lithuania, Crimea and part of Poland. In the late 1800s, thousands of Jews left Russia and immigrated to America because they were heavily persecuted and confined to that tough geographical region. The “Pale of Settlement” suffered from overcrowding, leading to disease and poverty.

So… I have been thinking that when someone said, “beyond the pale,” that they were saying, “it’s worse than how Russian Jews lived.” But today, I stand corrected. I looked in the dictionary and “pale” also refers to a boundary line, or a barrier. So, it’s like saying, “Hey, that’s really out-of-bounds.” There were other territories that were named the “Pale.” The “English Pale” in Calais, France and “the Pale” around Dublin, Ireland. Both areas were controlled by the English.

The next time I hear someone say, “It is beyond the pale,” I will still probably think of the suffering that persecuted groups suffered at the hands of others. That history should never be forgotten and certainly, not repeated.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret GenealogyA How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry, Secret Genealogy IIUncovering the Jewish Roots of Our Christian Ancestors, Secret Genealogy III From Jewish Anglo-Saxon Tribes to New France Acadians, Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees and Secret Genealogy V– Black, White and Hamite; Ancestors of Color in Our Family Trees.  Available here:

Secret Genealogy:

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Secret Genealogy V:




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