Posts tagged ‘racism’

May 30, 2017

#130) How not to offend people #2: Terry Frei

“I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day Weekend,” tweeted sports writer Terry Frei. Hopefully Mr. Frei will ease his discomfort by purchasing some quality shoes that will feel good on his feet while he is standing in the unemployment line.

After the backlash hit, the former Denver Post sports writer tried to walk it back in a manner that made Al Campanis’s 1987 Nightline appearance look articulate. (The Post didn’t buy it). I leave it to better bloggers than myself to debate whether Frei’s words are simply those of a mouthy malcontent or are a dire warning about throngs of racists who now feel emboldened by the current political climate to say whatever is on their mind. I can’t say either whether Frei is innocently operating on a vintage 1956 set of social mores (like Amy Schumer’s grandma in her “Generations” sketch or the “Women in the Workplace” bit from “Family Guy”) or, like someone who overdoes it on Taco Tuesday and then finds themselves stuck in a public place with no restroom in sight, just had to let it loose right then and there, consequences be damned. I really can’t say. When the waffle iron at the Holiday Inn breakfast bar has a sign saying that the griddle must be opened before the batter is to be poured in, it’s hard to make assumptions about peoples’ intelligence.

What I do know is that Frei took the bar for offending people to a new low. Sometimes there can be an upside to offending people. You might get a laugh; your brazenness might be appreciated; you might become the president. But Frei got nothing out of his racist tweet other than not having to worry about showing up to work with a Memorial Day hangover.  His predecessor in this series, Sergio Garcia, made a joke – albeit a wholly unoriginal one – at the expense of a rather self-serious target, Tiger Woods. (Who knows, perhaps there are a few people in the deep south who still soil themselves laughing over black people/fried chicken jokes). Frei could have at least have riffed on the stereotype about Asians being bad drivers and drawn a few cheap laughs on his way out the door. Or perhaps he could have drawn inspiration from Lisa Lampanelli, who built a career on over-the-top racial/ist humor: “Hey, Asian guy! That black guy’s not laughing. Throw a star at him.”

Being a lover of Holocaust humor (what’s the difference between a Jew and a boy scout?) when I see the name Frei, I immediately think of “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work will make you free”) – the phrase that was often seen at the gates to the concentration camps and sometimes shows up in Auschwitz selfies. Well, let’s just say that sportswriter Terry of Denver is now frei of his arbeit.

December 21, 2013

#67) Rosa Parks is the new Hitler

It’s official: Rosa Parks is the new Hitler.

By that, I don’t mean that she’s responsible for the slaughter of 11 million people or that she has a recognizable mustache.  What I mean is, like that of Hitler, Rosa Parks’s name has become a last resort for anyone about to lose a political argument.

It’s generally agreed that during a debate or discussion, if one side has to use Hitler to make their point, by proxy, they’ve admitted defeat.  There’s even a name for the act of bringing Hitler into an argument: Godwin’s Law.  Just as people seem to have no trouble comparing their enemies to Hitler, there’s an emerging trend to conveniently align oneself, or one’s allies, with the civil rights pioneer.  Early adopters were doing it at least as far back as 2001.  After Sandy Hook I had to “unfriend” someone for sharing a photo comparing Parks’s right to sit at the front of the bus with the right to own an AR-15The latest example of playing the “Parks card” comes from congressional candidate Ian Bayne (R-IL).  He compared the plight of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson–recently suspended by A&E, the channel that broadcasts the show, for making anti-gay remarks–to that of Parks: “In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians.”

On behalf of my fellow political independents who on any given issue usually take the side of whoever sounds the least crazy and desperate, I implore Bayne and his like-minded colleagues to lay low on this one.  Don’t make yourselves look nutty.  Last year the GOP lost what should have been an easy-win presidential election on social issues alone.   Insanity is, as the old saying goes, doing the same thing and expecting different results.

I happen to disagree with A&E’s decision to suspend Robertson, not because I sympathize with his sentiments–I don’t–but because he’s DOING WHAT HE’S SUPPOSED TO BE DOING.  If A&E is trying to earn points by showing Robertson and his family at the dinner table, heads bowed in prayer, they also need to accept the less attractive side of his Christianity.  Punishing  him for expressing homophobic views is akin to Indiana University’s firing of Bob Knight for having too many temper tantrums.  But comparing him to Rosa Parks comes off as a little bit self-important.  The very conservatives such as Bayne who embrace capitalism and preach personal responsibility should see Robertson’s suspension as a market response, not censorship.

Nancy Pelosi recently encouraged her colleagues to “embrace the suck.”  Let’s all make that a goal for 2014.  There are certain issues on which not everyone will see eye to eye; that’s a given.  But we have to start somewhere, and we can begin with making our discourse more civilized and literate.  Whatever the debate may be, let’s just agree to leave Hitler and Rosa Parks out of it.

May 22, 2013

#55) How not to offend people

In my list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2013, I suggested pissing someone off as a possible goal. If you do it, though, don’t use Sergio Garcia as an example.

The Spanish golfer recently got into hot water over a comment about Tiger Woods. Garcia and Woods apparently have never exactly been BFFs.  Garcia didn’t help anyone out, including himself, with his response to a reporter’s question about if he would invite Woods over for dinner to reconcile.

I am not offended that Garcia said, “We will have him around every night.  We will serve fried chicken.”  I do have to ask, did he really need to go there?  To borrow a line from Dr. Laura, who has been known to piss off a few people here and there, did he really need to die on that hill?

Being offensive is a gamble that sometimes pays off.  Right or wrong, when Jewish comedienne Sarah Silverman referred to “the alleged Holocaust”, she got laughs.  She broke a true taboo, and has built her career on that sort of humor.  In Garcia’s case, though, making jokes about black people and fried chicken isn’t breaking a taboo; it’s just old.  Yeah, Lee Ermey did it in “Full Metal Jacket”, but it was part of his character.  Besides, he’s Lee Ermey, he can do whatever he wants.

Tiger Woods isn’t a particularly sympathetic individual; he certainly could have handled the situation with a little more humor.  Perhaps in time, he may learn to laugh at himself; perhaps Garcia may learn to take more calculated gambles when it comes to off-color jokes.  Until then, he serves as a great example of how not to do it.