Every time an individual or a corporation meekly submits to the demands of bullies, it harms the rest of society by giving that bully more power and credibility. It doesn’t matter if the bullies are jihad-minded Islamic extremists threatening the creators of “South Park,” an extortion-minded Congresswoman threatening NBC of dire consequences if it doesn’t start meeting her racial quotas, or a schoolyard bully intent on stealing lunch money. Give a bullies what they want, and they will continue to abuse their power until someone else does his or her ethical duty, which is to confront bullying and stop it. I call this “The Duty to Confront,” and it is a responsibility of citizenship and being a member of society. Corporations will hold symposiums and issue bold words about their commitment to good citizenship and corporate responsibility, but when it comes to a citizen’s duty to oppose bullies, they are worse than the meekest. weakest wimp in the school yard. Exhibit A: the disgraceful example of Hallmark, which has capitulated to the N.A.A.C.P.’s most ridiculous and embarrassing accusation of racism yet, which is quite an accomplishment.
For three years, Hallmark has sold a graduation card featuring the cartoon characters “Hoops” ( a pink cat) and “Yo-Yo” ( a green bunny). It has an outer space theme. On the front of the card, Hoops and Yo-Yo say, “Hey world, we are officially putting you on notice!” But the world isn’t enough for this graduate—oh, no! “Watch out, Saturn, this grad is gonna run rings around you!” it continues. When the recipient opens the card, Hoops and Yo-Yo’s printed message expands the new grad’s realm to the “whole universe!”, as an audio chip features the two characters in their helium-voices excitedly speculating on all the wonderful things the new graduate will do:
“You better watch out `cause this graduate here’s kicking rear and takin’ names (laughter). This graduate’s gonna run the world, run the universe, and run everything after that, whatever that is. And you black holes – you’re so ominous (laughter). Congratulations! And you planets – watch your back! Congratulations!”
Some members of the Los Angeles Chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., however, listened to the card and concluded that Hoops and Yo-Yo were really saying “you black whores (or “ho’s”) are so ominous, despite the fact that 1) they obviously aren’t [you can listen to the card here, or here], 2) it would make no sense at all in the context of the outer space card’s theme, and 3) it would be certifiably insane for Hallmark to put such a sentiment in a graduation card. Nevertheless, the organization protested to Hallmark.
“It’s passive intent aggressively stated in a way that makes African-Americans feel insulted,” fumed Olivia Verrett, president of the Carson-Torrance branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“The card is saying that I am below class, and feel as though I can run the universe, but I’m not going to run the universe because I have to watch my back.”
No, Ms. Varrett isn’t going to run the universe because she is either paranoid, ignorant, devoid of principles or all three. She might also be a little deaf. Shockingly, Hallmark dignified this nonsense with a response swearing that Hoops and Yo-Yo were not racially insensitive, and then pulled the card anyway, because they certainly wouldn’t want to get on the bad side of African Americans who never heard of black holes. Then again, I guess there’s a chance that all these years, Stephen Hawking has been fantasizing about black ho’s.
This cowardly surrender was an easy business decision for Hallmark; the card was old anyway, and due to be retired. It had a duty not to legitimize and reward this kind of naked power play, however. It had a duty to loudly and publicly condemn the irresponsible conduct of the N.A.A.C.P., the bigoted and offensive message it sends (“White America hides racist messages and sentiments everywhere!”), the cripplingly narrow perspective it represents, and the intellectual and educational void it demonstrates. Instead it rewarded all of these by doing what the race-bullies wanted, and thus emboldening them for their next attack. To make it worse, many African-Americans, and probably others who are eager to see “proof” of American bigotry, will never learn the facts of this fiasco, and assume that Hallmark was indeed denigrating black women.
Hallmark has already flunked its test of character. Now the national N.A.A.C.P. has a duty to be responsible and to tell its L.A. chapter to stop embarrassing the organization and exacerbating racial distrust. If it has any integrity, the N.A.A.C.P. will apologize to Hallmark.