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EVERYONE'S A LITTLE BIT RACIST
12 April 2007
It's a lyric from Avenue Q...
The song comes about because someone asks if two monsters are related, which one monster finds offensive, implying that "all monsters look alike," which he feels is a racist sentiment. The song then goes on to prove that everyone is a little bit racist, when the original accuser, who is not a monster, points out that he can't attend the monster school because it's only for monsters.
Then the black character, who gets upset when someone begins a joke about "a rabbi, a priest and a black guy..." tells a Polish joke, which can't be racist because it's funny (unless you are Polish).
I've been thinking about that a lot as the accusations and posturing has gone on about the Imus incident. While there is no denying the distasteful and insulting characteristics of the statement, it's hard to believe people who have made songs with lyrics like this...
...one of the top rap songs ... being upset about Imus' comments.
As more than one person has pointed out, there was little outrage when Jesse Jackson referred to New York as Hymietown.
And as much as I love Rosie O'Donnell and leap to her defense, I listened to her this morning talking about Imus' comments and remembered that it was not all that long ago that she herself was in hot water for making fun of a Chinese accent. Her defense was just the same, too..."it was just a joke" and she was surprised at how incensed members of the Chinese community became.
Words hurt. People who are the brunt of humor laugh because it's too embarrassing to admit how the words really make you feel.
I laugh at fat jokes, but I die inside all the while, because I know that I am the joke and, being a very sensitive person ("too sensitive," I was told all my life by my father), having people point fingers and laugh at my fat hurts.
Maybe it's different when fat people make jokes about fat people, when Jewish people make jokes about Jews, when African American people make jokes about Blacks, when gay people make joke about homosexuals. But I never liked put-down humor of any kind.
I don't care how nice a person Don Rickles is in real life, I would never attend one of his shows.
I admire comics like Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres who are very funny people and never put down any other group of people. Their humor comes either at their own expense, or at the funny situations of everyday life.
Imus is the end result of put-down humor. Chris Rock laughs about his own people and we laugh with him because he's funny. But then when we make the same jokes, it's offensive because we're the wrong ethnicity to be saying those things.
Put-down humor desensitizes us to the feelings of others, and it gives the "wrong" people the notion that because something is funny, it's funny no matter who says it.
I'm not defending Imus at all, but Imus heard those comments made in rap music. He thought it was funny and he repeated it, to the detriment of a group of what looks to be highly intelligent, talented, motivated and downright classy women. The fall-out from his comments is that he deprived those women of their opportunity to enjoy a sports victory because instead they had to spend time answering the intrusive press questions for comments about how they felt being insulted. Would Imus have even used the phrase if he had not heard it come out of the mouths of rap artists?
It all comes full circle. We sew what we reap. And if we sew what we reap, where does it stop? If you're a Mel Gibson you go into rehab and then come back out and resume your career with another blockbuster film. If you're a Michael Richards or a Mark Foley, you go into rehab and then into hiding, but have you learned anything in the process?
It's probably unlikely that we'll ever stop making fun of the foibles of groups. I have a friend whom I like very much, but who sends me the most awful put-down jokes all the time. Most of the time I don't even read them, and when I do, I don't think they are funny. His Jewish jokes (he's Irish) are particularly in bad taste, but where does he get his jokes? From a Jewish friend.
I don't have a point or a solution or even know what I think should happen to Imus. I have never listened to Imus because in the few brief moments when I happen to catch him, there is nothing there that interests me. But is it fair to throw him to the wolves while ignoring racist comments by Jesse Jackson, or letting Mel Gibson make another blockbuster?
I honestly don't know.
(As I was writing this, I just heard that Imus is being taken off MSNBC)
PHOTO OF THE DAY
This is entry #2569