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Monday, February 21, 2011

HEIDI, HEIDI, HO

I know I shouldn't expect Socratic dialogues on THE BEAT, as one never knows when Heidi MacDonald will kill a thread in question, as mentioned before here. Last week, though, I managed to get in a few salient points near the end of this thread, just before Heidi closed it. Hallelujah, etc.

Except that the Mistress of "Stately Beat Manor," as she likes to call it, finished up this semi-coherent discussion of racial politics with the following brickbat directed at moi:

"I think we’ve all said all we have to say on this topic, and I’m not interested in Gene’s continuing investigation into the Oppression of the White Man."

So now, even though the thread is dead, Heidi's sloppy shot obligates me to do a quick post-mortem.

The gist of the thread's debate was twofold: (1) was the "Obama Nation" cartoon by Hudnall and Lash racist, and (2) was Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC justified in running an expose of it. Dominantly most responses answered in the negative, which squared them up with Heidi's own take, for the most part. I fell into the majority (for once), as evidenced by my first post on 2-17. However, one Dan Rodriguez and a few others were more vociferous about the cartoon's racist content:

I’m disappointed in The Beat’s coverage of this. Whether or not the cartoon is racist is certainly up for debate – although there seems to be a clear “ugliness” as O’Donnell calls it in the portrayal of the Obama’s eating habits. The idea that blacks are gluttonous and slovenly is an old, ugly sterotype, and it seems obvious that the cartoonists are trying to strip the polish from Michelle Obama’s image by presenting her that way. Part of the intended humor is in the revelation that Michelle Obama, in spite of her pretenses, is no different from the typical conception of African Americans. A conception that in this comic seems pretty hateful.


I made no direct response to Rodriguez or others at the time but I began thinking: "If these guys think that even *implied* racial myths deserve absolute moral condemnation, would not consistency demand that they should direct equal excoriation at someone casually tossing out a *direct* (albeit banal) racist insult?" So on 2-18 I wrote:

I think it’s funny after over 100 posts no one commented on an actual racist joke told right here on The Beat, by a guy calling himself BigSamlovesScarlet:

“As a black artist in VA, I can say that the only thing I find offensive about any of this is white outrage in our behalf. Please stop doing it. You look like idiots. Seriously. I meant it. It’s like watching you dance. Horrible. The cartoon isn’t funny and it isn’t racist. Let it go.”

Am I personally offended by this joke at the supposed inability of white people to dance? No.

Am I suggesting that anyone here should be offended by this joke, aside from the fact that it’s a really mouldy oldie and no less lame than the non-racist Hudnall-Lash joke? No.

But I do think it ironic that this picayune racist joke about white people proved as invisible as Sue Storm.


Now, the one thing I might change now would be the "100 posts" thing, since after I said this, a couple of posters said that they did find the remark questionable, as Heidi apparently did as well, since at thread's end she deleted the remarks of BigSamLovesScarlet. I'm sure that most posters probably just passed over the banality of the racial insult without thinking much about it.

However, it's my contention that those posters who found racist vibes in the Hudnall-Lash cartoon SHOULD have shown no less outraged to hear a racist joke told outright, at least within the context of a bunch of strangers posting on an open forum. If one believes that racism OF ANY KIND is heinous-- and not just when directed at certain targets-- then that's the only possible logical response.

Manifestly this has nothing to do with Heidi's silly conceit about "the Oppression of the White Man." If racism's wrong, then it's wrong across the board-- or messageboard, since, once again, I'm concerned only with public forums rather than private venues.

Even more peculiar was Kurt Busiek's response. His first response was to claim the ability to read the minds of every respondent on the thread:

Jennifer deGuzman pegged BigSam as a troll, and I think most others just didn’t take the bait. I expect the “irony” you see is simply that.


A little later Busiek re-iterated that BigSam's "white people can't dance" jibe should have been ignored because it distracted from the topic of the thread:

Maybe when you’ve finished with that, you can scour the internet for more racism that isn’t getting proper attention. If there are still people in this thread, they’re probably going to keep talking about O’Donnell, Batton and Hud.


But of course the topic of the thread brought in other ancillary people as well, ranging from Andrew Breitbart, publisher of the site where the cartoon first appeared, and Jackie Estrada, wife of Batton Lash. One poster asked Estrada outright whether or not she expoused her husband's views, and, as noted above, Dan Rodriguez attacked THE BEAT's handling of the issue. Given that the thread had already grown beyond "O'Donnell, Batton and Hud," a little deeper inquiry into other posters' own responses re: racism RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF THEIR NOSES begged a little waspish inquiry.

Wrapping up, I assume Ms. MacDonald's addled commentary on my motives stems from my next-to-last post:

You make an interesting distinction between racism and prejudice, which reminded me of a quote from the basketball great Bill Russell. He said (in effect) that everyone’s prejudiced in terms of what they like in terms of taste, and that the word “prejudice” should not be conflated with “bigotry,” which goes beyond expressing one’s own taste.

That may or may not gloss what you’re saying but I always liked that thought.

I’d say that there’s still a fine difference between saying “I don’t like the way white people dance” and “white people can’t dance.” But I’ll admit that many here probably reacted as you did: who gives a fuck what the guy thinks? Which is certainly a better reaction that trying to find out where he lives in order to harass him.


Hmm, not a word about the Oppression of the White Man.

Maybe Heidi knows some secret decoding language. Ah, that must be it. Now let's see. The first "o" is in "you," but then I need two "p's" to spell out "oppression." Quite a ways down there's another 'p" in "prejudice," but then there's not another one of those until the next sentence, and there's an "e" just two letters down from that "p."

Darn it. I developed my secret code too well for my own good; even I can't read it as well Heidi can!

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