You know, I didn't place much stock in those "dispatches" that Governor Phil Bredesen has been sending back from his trip to China until the Tennessean's Jennifer Peebles reported earlier this afternoon that he wrote one that referred to Chinese by the archaic and derogatory term of "coolies." "Coolies" is a catch-all term for lower caste and class laborers in Asia, India and South Africa, and it usually had racist connotations. When he was a practicing attorney in South Africa, future Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi was called a "coolie barrister" to distinguish his status as second class because of the color of his skin.
So, without being accused of undue political correctness, I think that I can fairly say that Gov. Bredesen's reference was regressive, ill-advised, and unstatemanlike. No serious leader of diverse peoples in the 21st Century should ever refer to another race of people by old terms that are based on degrading views of race and class. There is no rationalization for the sour taste this might leave with some people. The Governor is not in China as a professor teaching history. So, there is no reason to recall an archaic and controversial classification that has nothing to do with the business of his trip.