Just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder, we have the December 2013 Bigot Olympics.
Granted, there were other notable examples of racism, sexism and homophobia in the news over the year, not the least of which was the verdict in the killing of Trayvon Martin.
But December was truly the lightning round, with three stupendous examples of bigotry for our consideration:
- “Reporters” at Faux News debate Santa’s race, positing that, despite evidence to the contrary, Santa must be a white dude;
- A minor celebrity from an odd (and oddly successful) reality show about a family business, in which many of the adult males resemble ZZ Top (but without the humor, and quite possibly, talent), goes on the record with his racism and homophobia;
- A PR professional tweets a racist comment just prior to boarding a long flight to South Africa, setting off a Twitter-storm of reaction, immediate response from her employer and ultimately, termination of her employment.
Hard to pick a “winner” here. At first glance, it would seem the PR person and her clueless use of Twitter is the hands-down choice. Racist, check. Cultural ignorance, check. Professional suicide, check. Now perhaps the effects on her career are short term, as Peter Shankman argues on Facebook but still…
But I have to give Justine Sacco the Bronze Medal. Yes, from all the evidence, she is racist, but the thing thing about racism or any prejudice? Bigots don’t know they *are* racist or homophobic or sexist or xenophobic. If they understood it, they wouldn’t say and do the stupid, awful, damaging things they do. Apart from sociopaths, most folks, if we know it is wrong, we don’t do it.
That’s what makes the whole damn thing so sad and dangerous, and how people can say with a straight face, “But some of my best friends are _______,” and not understand how pathetic and wrong they are.
Sad that we (collectively) have to point it out to her, but I am holding out hope for Justine now that her own racism has been outed in such a BIG way. Third Place.
Next up, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty. Racist and homophobic though he may be, and irritated as I am that he has a platform to spread his views, I also have to admit to not being terribly surprised that he has these opinions. Perhaps that is my prejudice showing, but so be it. Phil edges Justine in my rankings because I just don’t see him apologizing or retracting. Ever. In fact, he seems to be wearing his bigotry with pride.
It was funny when it was Archie Bunker, a fictional character whose purpose was to shine the light on prejudice. Not so much 30 years later. The good news is that sooner or later Phil and his family, and their influence, will fade like the echo of a duck call, so the long term damage of his hateful speech is minimal. He just won’t be relevant. For many of us, he is already irrelevant, and his only purpose is a good excuse to engage in the conversation about equality. [Side Note: For those that disagree with my assessment of Phil, please understand that I am simply exercising my right to free speech. Consequences included.]
That’s why the “top” place has to go to Fox News and its coverage of the holiday season — the “War on Christmas“(since 2004!) and NEW! this year, the debate on Santa’s race. As a (sadly) leading “news” network, it has a long-term influence that it continues to abuse with faux stories like these. Here are two clips from The Daily Show, the original Daily Show piece on Megyn Kelly’s “Santa is White” piece and the following week’s “explanation” by Kelly:
Pretty funny. Except not.
While there are many of us who disagree, Fox News is considered a legitimate news organization. Its militant bible thumping and rampant racism legitimize a cultural norm that accepts racism and elitism, and contribute to an environment in which people think it’s okay to gay bash and jurors can acquit a white dude for murdering a black teen without provocation.
So, forget about December 2013. Fox News probably belongs in the Bigot’s Hall of Shame.
Live equality. Show the people around you, and especially your kids, that equality isn’t just a belief, it’s a fundamental part of your soul.
Speak up. Keep talking about prejudice. It’s not an easy conversation, whether you are talking with a friend or loved one, or simply doing some soul searching. If you don’t face your own biases, you can’t overcome them. Remember the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller:
In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.
Peace and love to everyone.
And to all a good night.