Ethics Quiz: If There Is Going To Be A Racial Double Standard For Bigoted Statements, Can We Please At Least Know What It Is?

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Item: Donald Sterling, billionaire owner of the NBA Clippers, while speaking with his mistress/girl friend/ escort in the bedroom, announces that he doesn’t want her bringing black men to Clippers games. In the process, he does not say anything specifically derogatory about African- Americans. He believes the statement is private, and that he is talking to someone he could trust.He was wrong. A recording of the conversation was leaked to the press, and Sterling has been roundly vilified as a vile racist, threatened with a boycott by the players, mostly African-American, in the NBA, fined 2.5 million dollars and banned from the game.

Item: Via Mike Wise, Washington Post sports writer—

“Following Wednesday’s Pacers-Wizards game in Indianapolis, during the time when NBA rules permit media members to be present, the music blaring in the Indiana locker room was filled with vile language: racist, homophobic and misogynist. Afterward, I complained on Twitter that if Commissioner Adam Silver truly wants an inclusive league, he ought to address this (common) practice.”

Result: Wise, who is white, was attacked as a racist. What NBA players listen to in the locker room is none of his business, he is told (but what Donal Sterling says in his bed room is their business.) The NBA has done, and is expected to do, nothing.

Item: Appearing on ESPN where he is a commentator, Charles Barkley, former NBA star (and an African-American), decided to deride the women of San Antonio, Texas as fat. “There’s some big ‘ol women down there,” said Barkley. “That’s a gold mine for Weight Watchers.” He added, “Victoria is definitely a secret. They can’t wear no Victoria’s Secret down there.” A spokesperson for a fat acceptance group protested:

“Making slurs about body size is just as offensive as making comments about body color. One would think being a black man, he’d be more sensitive to having his physical body criticized. It’s totally out of line. He should absolutely apologize.”

Barkley not only refused to apologize, but defiantly challenged anyone objecting to his remarks, jokes or future comments to “change the channel.”  Nobody expects Barkley to suffer any consequences from this series of events.

Item: In 2007, talk show provocateur Don Imus got into a facetious discussion with a broadcast team member about how te women’s basket ball team from Rutgers was “rough looking” and had some “nappy-looking ho’s.” He also referenced Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” and the film’s “Jigaboos vs.  Wannabes.” Imus apologized profusely, pronouncing the exchange inappropriate, thoughtless and stupid. Under pressure from various civil rights groups,  WFAN, which produced his show, fired Imus, who has never regained his previous prominence.

Item: In 2013, media professional Justine Sacco tweeted a race-based joke before boarding a plane to Africa: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” A furious cyber mob condemned her as a racist, and demanded her punishment. When she landed in Africa, she learned that she had  been fired.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today is…

What the hell is going on here?

All right, this isn’t a typical quiz, but I have to wonder how long rational, fair-minded citizens can tolerate this. How can these situations be reconciled with consistency, transparency and fairness, or the United States of America? Black athletes endorsing sexist and racist music is a matter of choice and privacy, even when reported in a major newspaper, but private conversations between a couple in a bedroom is grounds for massive penalties and vilification? Publicly denigrating a largely Hispanic population as fat is acceptable by a black commentator, but a white man publicly joking about a black women’s basketball team is sufficient provocation to wreck his career? Or are consistency, transparency and fairness irrelevant to the question, and whether a single bigoted statement condemns one to horrible, life altering consequences depends on…one’s color?  Celebrity?  Socioeconomic class? Politics? The power of one’s target? The relative popularity of target and utterer? The mood of the Twitterverse? What?

Over on the conservative political blog Power Line, Paul Mirengoff has a theory…cynical, infuriating, but it certainly reconciles the inconsistency of the facts above:

“…[M]odern liberalism isn’t about inclusiveness or preventing people from being offended. Modern liberalism has established a pecking order in which the rights and feelings of some groups trump the rights and feelings of others…”

Mirengoff adds that the feeling of white, gainfully employed males are at the bottom of the list, and “irrelevant.”

It is a tempting theory, but I think Hanlon’s Razor applies here. I think this incoherent, unjust, destructive hysteria over words is just chaos spawned by the unpredictable collision of a lot of unrelated factors—technology, the rise of social media, America’s guilt over not addressing certain inequalities for so long, a race and gender grievance industry that has proven profitable, the abdication of American journalism from its duty to seek objectivity, competence, diversity and fairness, the toxic polarization of the political parties resulting from the bad luck of Bill Clinton’s libido, the 2000 election tie, 9-11,  the botched Iraq War, the first black President, and a black President who, tragically, decided that if he couldn’t be competent or effective, he had to be divisive as a matter of political survival.

I think the phenomenon can and eventually will be recognized as beneficial to no one and un-American in its content and results, however well-intentioned it might be in some cases. It can be irradicated too, but that will require the creation of societal pressure…

  • To reject racial double standards in every aspect of American life, at all levels. They are divisive, unfair, and undermine racial understanding and respect.
  • To embrace free thought and speech as a core American value, not just a “right” that the government cannot legally infringe. Nobody, for example, should have to pay a $2.5 million dollar fine to anyone for a single, private statement, no matter what its content. Countenancing this undermines free speech across the culture.
  • To use the Golden Rule frequently, liberally and well, to focus on whether any of us want to live in a society where an ill-considered word, phrase, joke or expressed thought can ruin our lives. (See: Justin Carter…remember him?)
  • To identify, call out and condemn hypocrites, race-baiters, race-hucksters and censors as vociferously as they have attacked their victims. …except without demanding that they be fired or burned at the stake.
  • To encourage the news media to resist speech-bullying and mob censorship, rather than participating in it.
  • To embrace sincere apologies and voluntary reparations as the proper remedy for a single offensive statement, except in truly exceptional circumstances.
  • To reward companies, corporations, associations and other organizations for showing courage in the face of unjust threats and boycotts, and refusing to capitulate when the result is unfair to an employee. If this means erring to the extent of allowing someone like Martin Bashir to keep a job he deserved to lose, so be it.
  • To create a cultural consensus that conduct rather than words, especially spontaneous, briefly considered words, is the measure of ethical character.
  • To resist and condemn all efforts at boycotts, mob justice, and other organized collective efforts to bend the words, beliefs, opinions and political view of others to the will of a well-funded, media-favored, or politically correct group.
  • To condemn social media hit squads and hashtag attacks aimed at getting individuals fired for mere words or free exercise of political activism.
  • To pronounce private utterances, made in reasonable assumptions of trust and privacy, as off-limits for public attacks.

In what is rapidly becoming one of my favorite wise observations, Clarence Darrow once said that in order to have enough freedom, it is necessary to have too much. Those who react vengefully to the occasional abuse of freedom of speech are becoming a dire threat to freedom of thought. This threatens the foundations of American life, and the core values of the United States. It has to stop.

______________________________

Sources: Fox News, Washington Post, Boston.com, Power Line

 

22 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: If There Is Going To Be A Racial Double Standard For Bigoted Statements, Can We Please At Least Know What It Is?

  1. Jack, you have it mostly right. And you didnt even mention Kareems call to jump on anyone’s distasteful comments . There is a divisive war of political correctness going on. And those who oppose being intellectually oppressed or who speak their minds will need to be strong against the PC culture. Fortunately I know you are. Keep up the good work.

  2. Barkley’s gonna be Barkley’s no matter what any “fat acceptance” group says about his “insensitivity”. He’s a spokesman for Weight Watchers according to what I’ve read on Wikipedia. Why don’t these people just get a life and quit being offended about everything.

    • Kind of misses the point. If Barkley’s going to be Barkley, he’d better support Sterling being Sterling and Imus being Imus. “Barkley’s going to be Barkley” doesn’t justify him being Barkley on national television, and if our standards let him have a free pass for always being a jackass, individuals who are jackasses just once certainly deserve a break.

      • I think Barkley was a comparison too far. He said something that offended people, but it didnt also imply something unethical about his character. Criticisms of fat and race are fundamentally different. Sterling said something offensive that could also imply something negative about his character. I dont think he should be punished for it, and I think the rest of the argument is spot on, but Barkley is the odd duck here.

  3. Well maybe the jackasses do just once deserve a break. Remember the commercial that Barkley made featuring his “sail size underwear”. Has America totally lost it’s sense of humor? I am truly sick and tired about “offended groups” and their demands for politically correct speech.

  4. Being sick and tired won’t stop them. Requiring that they live by their own rules should slow them down. I’m willing to let Bill Maher get away with calling Sarah Palin a “twat”—with an apology, because that is not acceptable broadcast conduct, if Rush Limbaugh isn’t made the object of a jihad because he suggested Sandra Fluke is a slut, and Don Imus (who I can’t stand, by the way), isn’t fired for a riff that strays into rude, cruel and insulting waters. But if Spike Lee isn’t pillories for using the term “jiggaboos,” Imus shouldn’t be crucified for quoting him. How hard is this?

  5. Like a good citizen, I am trying to understand my enemy (which I think, but am not sure, is Jack’s enemy too – can never be sure, when trying to keep up with a lawyer’s thinking – sorry Jack, couldn’t resist the dig, which may as well be a dig at myself, too), instead of hauling off in blind hatred and dehumanizing my enemy in the same way they obviously have dehumanized me in their minds.

    How about this thesis, perhaps? There is a state or degree of arbitrariness in a person’s mind, such that the person exercising it self-immunizes from being worthy of being labeled inconsistent, or hypocritical, or even self-blinding (you know, beset with that horrible confirmation bias thing). It’s a state of mind just this (sane) side of insanity removed from “random thought,” where values which might be considered in conflict, or in collision, do not conform to rules of rationality – but, which do provoke judgment according to inscrutable commingling of emotions, perceived objectives, and paranoia about certain utterances by persons who are believed not to share the same state of mind, let alone not share the same objectives or valuation of means applied toward those objectives.

    Hey, that works for me; I can stop wasting time analyzing the poor bastards, and just start killing them off. They’re not paying enough attention to me, anyway, so if I am clever enough, I should be able to get away with it.

  6. Good post, Jack.

    It’s not exactly the same, but I found it funny that Hollywood was boycotting the Beverly Hills Hotel because it is owned by the Sultan of Brunei, a man who has some, shall we say, unpopular views of gay sex/marriage.
    You see they refuse to give any of their money to a man with such a troubling world view…a man who was made absolutely silly rich by selling gasoline to idiot Americans who guzzle gas like there is no tomorrow, esp. celebrities in their Hummers and Escalades.
    Duh!!!!!
    Here is a good example of that double standard, by people who are too stupid to know any better.
    Stupidity and a lack of information is part of this problem as well.

  7. Context is everything. Without that you can have no more understanding of the world than a very small child wondering, “but why can’t I do that too?”

    1. Following Wednesday’s Pacers-Wizards game in Indianapolis, during the time when NBA rules permit media members to be present, the music blaring in the Indiana locker room was filled with vile language: racist, homophobic and misogynist. Afterward, I complained on Twitter that if Commissioner Adam Silver truly wants an inclusive league, he ought to address this (common) practice.”

    I think this person is going to have to get a lot more specific in his complaints. What music was playing, and how, specifically was it racist, homophobic, etc.? Was anyone listening to the lyrics? What did the writer of the lyrics have to say, and had anyone asked him about the interpretation of the lyrics? Without knowing such details, it’s hard to get outraged. Sometimes artists get blowback for their lyrics (see Lil Wayne and the Emmitt Till controversy), but rarely do the listeners of music get much flak for it. Otherwise people would have to stop listening to The Rolling Stones, Guns and Roses, and Bob Dylan, which…could get interesting. If everyone is getting a pass for listening to music which might be considered controversial, there is no double standard.

    2. The Barkley fat controversy.
    Barkley is/was fat himself, a fact which has acknowledged and joked about himself. Perhaps as a member of the group of which he is criticizing, he feels he has “in-group privileges”? He does Weight Watchers himself, so how harsh could his assessment be?

    But at this point in time in America, no one seriously believes that racial epithets and body size epithets have the same, um, weight. Immutability v. mutability, historical oppression, heaps of moral judgment, etc. Perhaps it might be that way someday, but not anytime in the very near future. Barkley

    3. In 2007, talk show provocateur Don Imus got into a facetious discussion with a broadcast team member about how the women’s basket ball team from Rutgers was “rough looking” and had some “nappy-looking ho’s.” He also referenced Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” and the film’s “Jigaboos vs. Wannabes.” Imus apologized profusely, pronouncing the exchange inappropriate, thoughtless and stupid. Under pressure from various civil rights groups, WFAN, which produced his show, fired Imus, who has never regained his previous prominence.

    The Wannabees v. Jigaboos bit is actually from Spike Lee’s film School Daze, a critical, satirical look at issues of colorism and intra-racism at an all-black Southern school. The key word being satire. Once again we must at look at context. Imus protesting that, “Spike Lee did it too!”, is every bit as foolish as someone who earnestly advocates eating babies pointing at Jonathan Swift, and wondering why no one criticized *that* guy. Imus was truly describing them as Jigaboos and nappy-headed hoes. He might have thought the descriptions humorous, but there was no satire involved.

    I guess there will always be a rush towards false equivalency when people are feeling aggrieved and defensive. But these aren’t particularly good examples of a double standard. Reading between the lines, there seems to be a feeling that black people can get away with saying whatever they want, and white (men) are constrained from saying similar things? But the biggest purchasers and listeners of the (allegedly) racist, homophobic, misogynistic rap music are white males. White guys say stuff about fat people all the time, and get similar amounts of blowback as Barkley (see all the Chris Christie is fat jokes).

    So the only real difference is racist speech. Black people can definitely say things about black people that a white person could not say (in public, or being recorded). That is in-group privileges, of the type that have existed with every ethnicity group since forever. Italians say things about Italians, Greeks, Greeks, etc. Why expect African-Americans to behave differently in this respect than everyone else?

    • Baloney, in a word. Your arguments aren’t contextual, but rationalizations amounting to ” what I care about matters when I care about it; what other people care about don’t.” Context, in THIS context, are just rationalizations for double standards.

      1. Mike Wise was talking about pretty typical rap and hip-hop, in which the lyrics glorify racial epithets, misogyny and and violence, as well as violence to whites. He made that pretty clear. “Who was listening to it”? Who was listening to Sterling? The point is that none of the Clippers were objecting to it, and the same kinds of sentiments the same individuals were threatening to boycott over were imbedded in their entertainment of choice. “Rarely do they get blowblack for it” isn’t an argument. So what? So they get away with it, and Wise is pointing out the hypocrisy.

      2.So it’s OK for blacks to denigrate other blacks racially (AND whites, of course), and if you were fat, denigrating fat people is OK? Was he a woman too? To the victim of bigotry, the harm and the hurt is identical—again, your argument is “it’s always been this way, so it’s right.” No, in fact, it’s crap. Fat-bashing is rampant and allowed, and racial jibes of any kind at all is fatal. Your argument: Well, that’s the way it is! I know. That’s why I wrote the piece.

      3. Imus was joking too, you know. Most of the sources, including the one I linked to, didn’t reference where the “Jigaboo” comment came from; Imus had a legitimate beef. Shock jocks improvise, and go too far. personally, I think they are all vile—Stern, Imus, Opey and Anthony—but to let them free-associate making fun of and denigrating everyone under the sun in the vilest way possible and then pounce because they pich the wrong victim: idiotic. So you see nothing wrong with a sports commentator denigrating every fat woman in entire city, but joking about the size of a women’s basketball team and using Spike Lee to do it is grounds for a career death sentence for a shock jock, but calling a woman by name a “twat” on Cable TV is just fine. What kind of context is that? You haven’t reconciled the standards, you just paraded them.

      But I admire your willingness to make an impossible argument, with vigor. I’m serious.

      • 1. Mike Wise was talking about pretty typical rap and hip-hop, in which the lyrics glorify racial epithets, misogyny and and violence, as well as violence to whites.

        This is part of the problem, and I see that if Wise made a similar argument to yours, where the criticism of his statements is coming from. You are painting the rap genre with a very wide brush. It is no more “typical” in rap to be racist, homophobic, or misogynist than it is for rock, or punk, or country to be racist, homophobic, or misogynistic. Individual artists are that way, for every genre, but unless Wise has something more specific, about some specific artist that the players were listening to in that specific locker room, with some specific lyrics, then yes, he is just indulging in some unjustified stereotyping. He can’t just be all, “well you know that hippoty-hop is all bad and whatnot”, and expect people to accept his assertions. He has to actually prove what he is saying.

        2. 2.So it’s OK for blacks to denigrate other blacks racially (AND whites, of course), and if you were fat, denigrating fat people is OK? Was he a woman too? To the victim of bigotry, the harm and the hurt is identical—again, your argument is “it’s always been this way, so it’s right.” No, in fact, it’s crap. Fat-bashing is rampant and allowed, and racial jibes of any kind at all is fatal. Your argument: Well, that’s the way it is! I know. That’s why I wrote the piece.

        Fatness is interesting. All Barkley said, essentially, is that they have a lot of fat women in San Antonio. If he had said they had a lot of blonde women in San Antonio, and watch out for the peroxide run-off, would there have been any uproar? Or brown eyed women? What if it were true, there was a greater proportion of overweight women in San Antonio? But even stating that people are fat is “fat-bashing”? Observing that people belonged to a class is bashing? I think the situation actually shows that even categorizing people as fat exposes how deeply fat (white women) are stigmatized in the society. Otherwise why would people care?

        2a. Ingroup v. outgroup.
        I’m not sure how you would, or would even ever want to get rid of this human dynamic. The same dynamic that allows you to make fun of your friend, but someone else who you don’t know could never do the same? That’s the same impulse. The way you can pat your wife on the behind, and call her “honey”, but you would bristle if her boss were to do the same?The same way you can talk and joke with your siblings about your mom, but woe to the stranger who might say the same thing? Membership in a group, especially a low-caste group, has it’s downsides, but it does come with some privileges, and that is one of them. So yes, fat people can joke about fatness, black people can joke about blackness, Greeks can joke about Greeks, etc, with a rebuttable presumption of goodwill being assumed(but see the recent Saturday Night Live brouha over slavery and dating). People who are not part of that group do not start out with that presumption, but it can be earned. That is universal. There is no double standard here.

        3. Imus was joking too, you know. Most of the sources, including the one I linked to, didn’t reference where the “Jigaboo” comment came from; Imus had a legitimate beef.

        See above. Imus assumed a familiarity that was neither welcomed nor earned. Nor was it satirical. I grant that he thought it was funny to call black women “nappy-headed hoes”, but it did not seem to be used affectionately or ironically, just a straight up insult.

        So you see nothing wrong with a sports commentator denigrating every fat woman in entire city, but joking about the size of a women’s basketball team and using Spike Lee to do it is grounds for a career death sentence for a shock jock, but calling a woman by name a “twat” on Cable TV is just fine.

        Imus can call black women “nappy-headed hoes”. Barkley can call women fat (should that be an insult? Still confuses me). Maher can call Palin a twat.

        If sufficient people are insulted, then businesses react. But just like some things are deeply insulting, and some things are only lightly so, there are different levels, given contexts, history, familiarity (twat?) and so forth. Most people instinctively understand this.

        • Baloney squared, deery!

          1. Wise was talking about the particular rap lyrics he heard in the dressing room. Attacks on painting all rap music as offensive in this regard is a straw man and a distraction from the issue at hand, which is hypocrisy and double standards.. The music was offensive on exactly the same grounds as Sterling’s statements, except that it was public, and enjoyed by the same grandstanding hypocrites that threatened not to play because of milder sentiments an owner expressed in the bedroom to his half-black girlfriend.

          2. Defending Barkley’s fat-bashing is ridiculous, and your attempt is hopeless Clintonian word parsing. A better argument can be made that there was nothing racist whatsoever in Sterling’s comments, which were plausibly aimed at asking his black girlfriend not to cuckold him publicly by appearing with men who, because of their race, would be perceived as lovers or sex partners. (In fact, I think that probably IS what he was saying.) Barkley was clearly suggesting that fat women are inherently worthy of mockery. You really want to argue that he was making a demographic observation?

          3. Imus was playing to his audience, just as Maher plays to his. They got it, and knew that he and hus juvenile crew were doing what the always do—he called various politicians “fat, lying weasels” too. He doesn’t need to “earn familiarity” whoever passed that rule.

          4. “If sufficient people are insulted, then businesses react.” Yes we know this, which brings us back to the beginning. Businesses have no principles, and if we want to keep ours, we need to force them to adopt some, and punish the ones that don’t not reward the A&E’s and Mozillas. They are the weakest link ion our free speech at this point.

          2. “Individual artists are that way, for every genre..” Oh really? Country? Classic rock? Folk? 40’s ballads? Opera? Broadway?

          3.

          • 1. Wise was talking about the particular rap lyrics he heard in the dressing room…
            That’s what I’m talking about. If he thought a particular artist was offensive, then provide the name of the artist and the song that was playing at the time. Otherwise, we have no context whatsoever to go on other than Wise’s say so that it was offensive. No one can interpret it except for him, unlike Sterling’s comments, which everyone could parse at their leisure. If you want to talk about double standards you have to drill down the specifics. How are the specific lyrics comparable to what Sterling has said? No one knows. Thus, the lack of outrage.

            2.Defending Barkley’s fat-bashing is ridiculous, and your attempt is hopeless Clintonian word parsing.

            Barkley is fat. He often makes fun of himself for being fat. He was known as the “round mound of the rebound” in college. He occasionally makes fun of other people for being fat. I don’t know if that is a double standard or not. It doesn’t seem to be that way to me. Insulting? perhaps, depending on your relationship with the word ‘fat’. But I don’t see the hypocrisy.

            3. Imus was playing to his audience, just as Maher plays to his.

            Agreed. I think Imus ran aground because there was absolutely nothing partisan or controversial about the Connecticut women’s basketball team. They had done nothing more than be college kids and win a sport trophy. They hadn’t offended anyone with their opinions, or thoughts on policy, or artistic expressions, etc. Imus essentially kicked a bunch of puppies. Palin, on the other hand, jumped feet first, with full knowledge, into a highly charged rancorous partisan contest. It doesn’t mean that she deserved to be called some archaic gendered insult, but the sense was that she is fully capable of defending herself on equal grounds with Maher. Plus, I’m not sure that many people would get that ‘twat’ was supposed to be a deep insult. It isn’t in the common parlance, unlike both ‘nappy’ and ‘ho’, which the public can immediately grasp.

            4. 2. “Individual artists are that way, for every genre..” Oh really? Country? Classic rock? Folk? 40′s ballads? Opera? Broadway?

            You can’t think of any misogynistic or racist operas? I saw an opera a few years ago called Jenefa, which seemed to be a full-throated misogyny fest. Plenty of Broadway shows get dinged for stereotypical portrayals of minorities, like South Pacific, Showboat, and Porgy and Bess. Classic rock has the Rolling Stones (Brown Sugar and Under my Thumb always get special mentions) Lynyrd Skynyrd was considered by many to be racist, country music has Johnny Rebel. I’m not deeply familiar with 40s ballads, or what genre that would be (big band?, torch songs?) but I’m sure some misogynistic and/or racist lyrics for some of it exist out there.

            • Wow! You are good at this.
              Doubling down I mean.
              There is a double standard and it is obvious. Jack has demolished your points repeatedly.

            • 1. “How are the specific lyrics comparable to what Sterling has said? No one knows.” I think the fact that rap music includes constant references and parlance hostile to women and whites, obscenity and racist epithets is well-established. I’ve read the lyrics. I’ve listened to such works. Wise doesn’t have to be specific to make that point…it has been made thousands of times since rap became popular. Among other things, such lyrics are so vile that the Post won’t publish them. Here…this is a chorus from one of Dr. Dre’s masterpieces. Get the picture? Was this really necessary?

              Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks
              Lick on these nuts and suck the dick
              Get the fuck out after you’re done
              And I hope in my ride to make a quick run.
              ..

              2. I don’t know if that is a double standard or not. It doesn’t seem to be that way to me. Insulting? perhaps, depending on your relationship with the word ‘fat’. But I don’t see the hypocrisy.

              Wow. The hypocrisy is singling out individuals for abuse and denigration based on physical characteristics. Fat and skin color: the only different is that the liberal establishment gives itself a pass on anti-fat bigotry, because they think they make the rules. It’s called bigotry. The objective is to undermine and handicap individuals by institutionalizing the idea that they are inferior and not worthy of respect. Ask any obese person to explain it to you.

              3. The offensein Imus’s case and Maher’s was reducing human beings to unflattering characteristics, and the offense is the same no matter who is the target. It is easy and natural to rise to the defense of victims who literally did nothing to make themselves Imus’s target other than existing, which is why what he did was so despicable, and it was pretty clear he realized it. Nonetheless, an apology should have been enough. Michelle Obama can take care of herself—do you think Maher would have survived if he referred to her as a “twat”? The slur on Palin, which is a slur on all women and the exact equivalent of calling any black individual a “nigger” was tolerated exactly because the Left thinks Palin “deserves it.” Who are you kidding? “Slut” is well short of “twat” and “cunt” on the slur scale—the former is characterization of specific conduct, the other two are simply anti-women. Sandra Fluke can certainly take care of herself, and made herself a public figure—why was Rush Limbaugh condemned across the board while Maher was given a pass? Double standard, that’s all.

              4. “I’m not sure that many people would get that ‘twat’ was supposed to be a deep insult. It isn’t in the common parlance, unlike both ‘nappy’ and ‘ho’, which the public can immediately grasp.” How about “cunt”—is that clear enough? Maher called Palin (and Bachmann) that, too. And “twat” is hardly “archaic”—this is desperate spinning and struggling. It’s in “Blazing Saddles,” for heaven’s sake—and bleeped out when the movie isn’t on cable. Moreover, it IS a misogynist slur. What difference does it make if a lot of people don’t understand it? It’s still a per se offensive slur. Is there any woman who doesn’t think being called a twat is a horrific insult?


              5. Dinged for political incorrectness judged by the standards of a completely different era is neither racist nor misogynist. The word you want is “stupid.” Oscar Hammerstein was one of the most human rights obsessed individuals of his time: South Pacific champions interracial marriage! The fact that ignorant critics call it racist is more of the double standard and cultural censorship.

              • I think the fact that rap music includes constant references and parlance hostile to women and whites, obscenity and racist epithets is well-established.

                How is that not painting the whole genre with a wide brush then? If you are just going to dismiss the entire genre, then Wise deserves every bit of the criticism that he got.
                Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks
                Lick on these nuts and suck the dick
                Get the fuck out after you’re done
                And I hope in my ride to make a quick run…

                This, in a nutshell, is the problem with trying to substitute artistic expression in for simple, direct, real life statements of the type that Sterling made. While undoubtedly profane, it isn’t directly misogynistic.The lyrics that you quoted, from Dr. Dre’s Hoes and Tricks song, from his classic Chronic album, aren’t about women at all. This was an old school “diss” album, aimed at Dre’s former band mate Eazy-E and his former manager Jerry Heller (the ho and trick, respectively). The album is considered a classic, named #138 on Rolling Stones magazine top 500 albums of all time, also named as one of Time Magazine’s top 100 Albums of All Time. This is also the reason why specifics and familiarity with the genre make all the difference. You can make a pop-culture critique about gendered insults (e.g. you throw like a girl) being problematic, but honestly, I think you would have a hard time getting the general public to care about more academic criticisms such as those. Still not seeing the double standard.

                Besides, I doubt that that was playing in the locker room anyway. The album came out in 1992. Dr. Dre is a multibillionaire now. Most of those players were probably infants or toddlers when this was released. That’s their parents’ music, if anything. But you can’t just handwave a whole genre into being “bad”, you actually have to do the work of investigating the lyrics, what they mean, what the artist intended, etc., just like with any other artistic work. I don’t think you can substitute in artistic expression for actual plainspoken words, as you are attempting to do. It doesn’t work.

                2. The hypocrisy is singling out individuals for abuse and denigration based on physical characteristics. Fat and skin color: the only different is that the liberal establishment gives itself a pass on anti-fat bigotry, because they think they make the rules. It’s called bigotry.

                I don’t know. One of the more obvious differences is that skin color is considered an immutable characteristic, while weight is considered mutable, and within a person’s ability to change. But I don’t think that really is the problem, because I doubt if Barkley had made fun of, say, people from San Antonio with big ears or feet, there would have been any outcry. But fatness in America, especially in white women, is considered such a shameful characteristic, that any mention of it is considered insulting in and of itself.

                Overweight men and overweight women are not in the same caste and Barkley makes that clear with his Victoria Secret follow up.

                Intersectionality would say that no, they are not directly in the same caste, but the characteristic that he is making fun of is. He made a commercial with Alec Baldwin that compared the size of his own underwear to a sailboat’s sail. There was no outcry from fat- acceptance groups then. He’s fat, and he knows he’s fat. At the very least, Barkley isn’t being hypocritical.

                Nonetheless, an apology should have been enough. Michelle Obama can take care of herself—do you think Maher would have survived if he referred to her as a “twat”? The slur on Palin, which is a slur on all women and the exact equivalent of calling any black individual a “nigger” was tolerated exactly because the Left thinks Palin “deserves it.” Who are you kidding? “Slut” is well short of “twat” and “cunt” on the slur scale—the former is characterization of specific conduct, the other two are simply anti-women. Sandra Fluke can certainly take care of herself, and made herself a public figure—why was Rush Limbaugh condemned across the board while Maher was given a pass? Double standard, that’s all.

                Blazing Saddles is a forty year-old movie. I doubt most kids these days would know what “twat” was supposed to mean, let alone that it was insulting. So first you would have to explain what a twat is, then why they should get insulted by it. It can happen (see macaca), but it is a process. “Slut” though, everyone knows. Rush chose a more incendiary, inflammatory word, and it was one taken up by his supporters. But he is still on the air, still doing the same kinds of things, so isn’t as comparable to the Imus situation. Michelle Obama gets made fun of for her supposedly big butt all the time, both a racialized and body image critique. No one has lost their job over it, nor has their been some huge fire storm. Certain things capture the media’s attention as being beyond all the bounds of polite society, but apparently the bar is much higher for a public figure.

                Dinged for political incorrectness judged by the standards of a completely different era is neither racist nor misogynist. The word you want is “stupid.”

                see above for your critique on rap lyrics.

                • First of all, you win my “Rocky” award, maybe for all time. Bravo.

                  1. Straw man again: Wise didn’t criticize rap music in general–he said that the music that was playing “the music blaring in the Indiana locker room was filled with vile language: racist, homophobic and misogynist.” I presume he wasn’t making this up. Meanwhile to even begin to argue that “Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks; Lick on these nuts and suck the dick” isn’t “directly misogynistic” strains credulity and borders on comedy. “Elephant? What elephant?”

                  2. “One of the more obvious differences is that skin color is considered an immutable characteristic, while weight is considered mutable, and within a person’s ability to change.” Ugh. 1) Why would either have to change? 2) That’s what anti-gay bigots say to justify their prejudice—it’s voluntary, and can be changed. First, it can’t be; second, who are they to demand it be changed?

                  3. The Unethical tree falling in the Forest rationalization: a slur is a slur whether someone’s ignorance allows someone to ignore it or not. What a terrible excuse. And twat is neither obscure nor archaic, and its use has not changed in 40 years. It has only become less acceptable. Now “jiggaboo” is archaic…

                  • Straw man again: Wise didn’t criticize rap music in general–he said that the music that was playing “the music blaring in the Indiana locker room was filled with vile language: racist, homophobic and misogynist.” I presume he wasn’t making this up.

                    That’s the problem. We have to presume. Unlike the Sterling tapes, where we don’t have to presume. He’s making a claim without any factual support, which should be easy enough to supply. So do it. Otherwise it does seem like a sweeping condemnation of the genre.
                    “Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks; Lick on these nuts and suck the dick” isn’t “directly misogynistic” strains credulity and borders on comedy.
                    Dre is calling Eazy-E and Heller sellouts. He’s also telling them to perform fellatio on him. The lyrics have been understood to be aimed at those individuals since the song debuted.

                    1) Why would either have to change? 2) That’s what anti-gay bigots say to justify their prejudice—it’s voluntary, and can be changed. First, it can’t be; second, who are they to demand it be changed?

                    Agreed, like any body insult, they shouldn’t have to change, though I don’t think Barkley was demanding anyone change. I was just musing on why making fun of fat people is more tolerated than making fun of Asians, for example. But ultimately, like I concluded upthread, I don’t think it has anything to do with mutability v. immutability. Fatness (for white women) has such a aura of stigma and shame around it that to even mention it is considered insulting, let alone to joke about it. Barkley stepped into the forbidden zone. It’s apparently the ultimate insult for white women.

                    The Unethical tree falling in the Forest rationalization: a slur is a slur whether someone’s ignorance allows someone to ignore it or not. What a terrible excuse. And twat is neither obscure nor archaic, and its use has not changed in 40 years. It has only become less acceptable. Now “jiggaboo” is archaic…

                    Twat is not used very often. I don’t I’ve ever heard it spoken outside of an old movie. Jiggaboo is actually common slang for the kids these days (shakes head).I think far more of the under 35 crowd have heard of the term jiggaboo rather than twat. But I think Imus got in trouble more for the “nappy-headed hos” part of his commentary more than anything else, not the direct Spike Lee reference, which was more of the final nail in the coffin.

                    A slur is a slur, agreed. But the reaction to a slur will be a lot different depending on how common and visceral the slur is, correct? We are talking about why people reacted one way versus another way. News cycles are short, and they have to be able to capture people’s attention quickly. For them, video is better than audio, and audio is much better than written statements. Unambiguous statements are better than thoughtful ones. Sex is waaay better than no sex. Why was Sterling dinged for this tape, when he is alleged to have said worse in two lawsuits against him? Well, the news people have an audio tape that they can play over and over again, but coupled with his past history made it a potent mix that they could not resist. Throw in a much younger biracial mistress, and you have yourself a news story.

                    You are trying to demand that the news cycle pay attention equally to every insult, videotaped, audiotaped, alleged statement, and give it all equal weight, regardless of context, history, or ability to capture interest. From people who are trying to make a profit, above all. The impulse is sweet, but pretty naïve, at best.

            • Bravo, to you both, on a spirited debate that left little unturned. “In group” privilege is perilous to begin with, but giving it to Barkley is clearly a rationalization. Overweight men and overweight women are not in the same caste and Barkley makes that clear with his Victoria Secret follow up. Most of deery’s arguments ultimately come off as rationalization, but this one is the clearest.

  8. It just seems that too many think their special interest group automatically ranks miles higher than any other group. Not just the opposing group, but any group, even if it overlaps. Someone who may be in multiple minority groups is getting slammed by someone they thought wasn’t a bigot. People have forgotten that most people are in some minority that has been oppressed, whether race, gender, class, origin, orientation, or favorite team.
    Perhaps a call for more verbal civility might help too. I may not like someone, personally or in politics, but rants and slurs only snowball into flame wars. Some sites and arenas have moderators to put the brakes on it on the net, but there are NO moderators anymore in the larger world who put out the fires before the topic is lost. This isn’t censorship, though that is the first cry, but an expectation that the topic and related issues are more important than being rude. Criticism and disagreements carry little moral weight if the speaker can’t resist insultibng other groups in their rebuttals.

  9. One simple point I would like to make to Deery. When you say Dr. Dre is referring to easy-e and his manager does not excuse the lyric as not derogatory to women. That’s like when Kobe called the referee a gay slur and then if hypothetically he said no i’m not being derogatory towards gay people, I was only referring to the referee. You still used the generalized derogatory statement for your personal attack (in essence you made fun of both groups). Also, this is a massed produced album. Millions upon millions of listeners. Some know that there is a “double meaning” behind the lyrics and some don’t. Let’s say 80% know he is referring to easy-e (I doubt it’s even that high) that is still many many people that are listening to it just taking the literal meaning of the lyrics (which is at the very least partially what Dre had in mind no matter how you slice it). Also, even if you know that he was referring to easy-e, you don’t think that listening to the lyrics over and over again you are not mentally picturing women at some point or do you think the listener always makes that mental jump that it’s easy-e he is referring to. I think it was a way for Dre to make make fun of two groups of people all in one shot and the listeners that enjoy it as well. Now Kobe’s case he wasn’t trying to be derogatory towards gay people he just wasn’t thinking in the heat of the moment but because of the thought process of writing lyrics and making it into an album there is no way you can say Dre wasn’t thinking or it was the heat of the moment. He had time to reflect and not choose to simultaneously denigrate a group of people just to get easy-e but that wouldn’t have been as profitable for him would it. I’ll let you conclude why calling them “hoes and tricks” was more profitable (album seller) then calling them cowards, backstabbers and other words that can bring down easy-e without bringing in a “popular” group to make fun of. It’s catering to the audience that enjoy that kind of inflammatory language and including the ones that were listening to it int that locker room. In conclusion, you say you need to check the context. I say you are using context as an excuse to ignore core issues.

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