Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Tales From The Curb, 8.17.06
What's in a Slur?
By James Shearer
A few weeks ago, Mitt Romney opened his mouth and firmly stuck his foot in it while giving a speech in front of Iowa Republicans. The subject of the Big Dig came up, and our governor told the his audience, "the best thing for me to do politically is stay away from the Big Dig. Just get as far away from that tar baby as I possibly can.”
What is even more stunning is that he had no clue that the term "tar baby" was even an offensive remark to blacks. But what do we expect? Mitt was a pampered pup who went to private schools, never hung out with the fellas and thinks “projects” means “school projects.” He doesn't have a clue how the real world is; he's the type of guy that if he lost all his money, got thrown bare-assed into the street with a cup and was told to fend for himself, he wouldn't last ten minutes. There is a reason why I call him “Governor Irrelevant” – because he is.
What bothers me more than that remark was the reaction – or overreaction – to it. Sure, Mitt could have come up with a better choice of words, but he was talking about the Big Dig. There was no mention of black people at all. When it comes to race – our race, every race – we all seem a little too sensitive. When we here a word that offends us – even when it has nothing to do with us – we rush to judgment: “they're racist” or “anti-Semitic” or “male pigs.” And you know what we give them? Even more power than they really have.
Take Mel Gibson. Now, who among us hasn't gone a little too over-the-top after a few drinks? Is it right what he said? No. But the coverage this has gotten is even more over-the-top than he is, and all this is doing is giving him even more publicity until his next movie. And as far as folks saying they'll never see another Gibson movie: folks, the man is already swimming in green. He's not gonna care. The other thing you can be sure of is that if he ever makes another “Lethal Weapon” movie, for every ten of you who boycott it, another 25 will go see it.
Am I saying it's okay to be racist? No way. I Just try not to spend a lot of time thinking about it, or thinking about people who are. When we overreact to what people like Mitt Romney, Tony Snow and the Klan say, we give them more power than they’re worth. We have lots of other things to work on rather than giving these bozos the time of day.
If black leaders really want to get upset about something, they should ride a city bus and listen to black kids call each other "nigger" – like it's a badge of honor. Heck, even white kids do it to each other. We need to teach kids that that word is wrong. We need to tell them where words like that – and all the other ones – come from. We need to stop calling people anti-Semitic just because they don't agree with Jewish views and look at Mel Gibson for what he is: an overrated and washed-up actor.
If we want people to stop it with racial slurs, then we must educate them to what the words are. Someone needs to send Mitt a list of words that offends people. What would be even nicer is if he got a list of words he could use (like the Weak Dig). I'm sure he would be glad he did. Then again, maybe it wouldn't do any good. After all, he'd still be irrelevant anyway.
James Shearer, a Spare Change News columnist, is a co-founder, board member and former editor of the newspaper.