First of all, sensitivity to the feelings of others is an important, but highly overrated as a value in our culture. We’ll get back to this point.
It truly makes zero sense to me, but Eric Olsen keeps telling me repeatedly, at length and with great insistence that I have some horrible lingering perceptions among numerous Blogcritics of being if not racist, at least “racially insensitive” over the Bad Eagle Massacre from all the way back in February ’04. I guess my Mea Culpa from the time wasn’t sufficient. Fine. I’ll take one more crack at explaining myself here at the end of the year, then I’m done with it.
This all stems from an innocuous post I did addressing the question the perfectly reasonable question that no one seemed to be asking- whether Janet Jackson and/or Justin Timberlake should be prosecuted for public lewdness. Here comes my main racial insensitivity hate crime: for the prosecution I quoted a paragraph of a post by a guy named David Yeagley, from his Bad Eagle website. (He’s a direct descendent of a Comanche warrior.)
I hadn’t paid much attention to the website before I picked up that fairly uncontroversial quote, but Yeagley obviously has some racial issues. I don’t care to take his inventory, but he notably has some resentment against black folks, based on his perception that they get all the coddling and sensitivity and the Injuns are getting the dregs. What are we, chopped liver? Plus, he seems to have talked himself into some kind of unfortunate positive physical aversion to black women.
Specifically, however, seemingly nearly all Blogcritics (left, right and center) were beside themselves in fits of rage over one specific item: Yeagley illustrated another post about Janet Jackson with a picture of a gorilla cupping her breast, as per Janet’s infamous Superbowl incident.
Now, he might pretend to have had a half-reasonable argument that this was an individual statement, as this gorilla was inserted to parody the specific disreputable and base animalistic activity at the Superbowl, specific acts committed by Janet Jackson.
But of course that would be rather disingenuous. Any American who sees that is going to take it as a slap at black folks in general, a denial of their basic humanity. Seeing ANY black woman compared to a primate will obviously be taken as a totally base racial insult. Surely an intelligent college educated man such as the Bad Eagle knows that. I could particularly well imagine a black woman being really un-thrilled with this nonsense. Make your point another way.
As would I if I had known. I’m sorry we had this nonsense drug in over me making a minor point. I sometimes purposely say or talk about things that I know will offend people’s sensitivities if I consider it necessary to make an important point. That can’t be helped. But I don’t go around hurting people’s feelings just for fun. It would take something more significant than Janet Jackson for me to purposely stick something this hateful in your face.
I apologize for invoking Yeagley in the first place. I should have vetted just a little more closely. I would not purposely have pushed his racial foolishness into public consciousness just to make a minor point.
This gorilla picture was hateful and unnecessary. Yeagley’s obviously bigoted against black folks. However badly you wish to take the symbolism though, it was ultimately a pretty minor point. Stan and Kyle hand out worse slams than that on the playground at South Park- much less Cartman.
My response at the time publicly and privately was basically what Stan or Kyle would say over remarks that they judged to be out of bounds: Dude, that’s not cool.
This was not nearly enough to satisfy some Blogcritics however, who formed an evil, out-of-their-heads Dionysian blog mob to denounce and curse Dr Yeagley. What a perfect opportunity to let off some blood lust and PROVE that you’re not a racist!
Soon, the Blogcritics were competing with each other to come up with the most malicious denunciation. There were grandiose fantasies of suffering and death for the evil Injun who put up a picture of a gorilla on his website. My other big hate crime was that somewhere in here I specifically invited Yeagley to come defend himself against these ridiculously vicious attacks, which he did in a perfectly civil manner, before being arbitrarily banned to satisfy the mob.
I did not invite Yeagley over just to screw with people. I could have done without some his nonsense myself, as I was starting to figure out. Nonetheless, our resident racial antagonist Mac Diva was hard at work libeling Yeagley with all her might. I generally think that even a jackass has a right to defend himself. It only seemed fair.
I will admit that it was a mistake to have drug Yeagley’s baggage onto our site. I will also simultaneously ask my fellow Blogcritics to admit that Mac Diva, whom we all tolerated for most of two years as one of us, was a far worse racist and hatemonger than the Bad Eagle.
Frankly, I was ashamed of my fellow Blogcritics. I have no special association with Yeagley, and have no need to answer for him. As a leading Blogcritic though, I’m publicly intimately associated with this site. Its reputation does reflect on me.
In fairness, these more extreme reactions of Blogcritics represented the work of only a few of us. It perhaps seemed like “everyone” when it’s a couple of dozen (among several hundred Blogcritics) against one, without much defense.
The reaction of the more vehement Blogcritics was 100 times worse than anything Yeagley did. He displayed a rather crappy disposition towards black folks, yes. But he wasn’t spinning elaborate wishes for physical suffering, dismemberment, and death on Janet – let alone black folks in general. The Blogcritics looked like an evil torch-bearing mob from some cheesy Western, there to hang ‘em a racist! Not a single mind among them turned on and working.
On top of which, I was committing some kind of offense against racial sensitivity and common decency simply by not participating in this hatefest. Indeed, just having quoted something innocuous by this guy constituted a grave and perhaps unforgiveable offense. If I were ever to hope to be considered acceptable in polite company, I was expected to lead the crowd in an Orwellian Two Minute Hate to prove that I really, really hate Yeagley and that I really, really like black folk. Seriously, this seemed to be the expectation as best I could tell.
This obviously wasn’t going to happen. If faking some ridiculous mob mentality is the price of acceptance, then reject me. I’m not having anything to do with promoting this kind of nonsense. It’s unfortunate that I invoked the name of the Evil Injun, but I’m not going to affect some ridiculously disproportionate outrage to make up for it. If this causes you to judge me ill, then you’re just wrong.
I did not and would not defend Yeagley’s more obnoxious views. Nonetheless, I might have been more adamant in criticizing him than I was. Partly, that was just defensiveness on my part. The more it looks like me vs the world, the more apt I am to dig in my heels in my own defense.
Still, where is your moral compass? Other than the Olsens, I don’t recall any of the Blogcritics acting as upset over Palestinian masssacres of little Jewish children in the Intifada as they did over one stupid little picture on a website.
In short, I wouldn’t participate in a public lynch mob like this because it’s not right. Yeagley committed a misdemeanor hate crime at worst,
Admittedly I do not always do this, but about now would be a good time to ask that classic question: What would Jesus do? Besides which, what did any of this accomplish? What constructive purpose was served by the voodoo rituals against the evil Injun? It might pleasurably stoke your feelings of moral superiority, but it sure wasn’t going to change his mind.
Indeed, these kind of ridiculously exaggerated reactions only reinforce bad attitudes. Hysterical overreactions like this will be (not entirely unreasonably) interpreted as evidence that you’re an irrational PC idiot having a hysterical emotional reaction not based in reason.
PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT POINT – PAY ATTENTION:
Besides not being just toward Yeagley, this type of display not only does not do black folks any good, but indeed actively hurts the advancement of the race. It plays right into the ongoing cultural infantilization of blacks.
Reaching for the smelling salts at every little hint of a sign of a bad attitude toward a black man is just ridiculous. If you’re going to be so completely thrown off track at every least indication of a hint of bad attitude, then you’re not going anywhere. Resentment and nursing hurt feelings can easily be a full time job.
If you’ve got the Klan burning a cross on your lawn, then you’ve got a bad problem that needs to be addressed. If something as little as a picture of a monkey on a website is enough to throw you out of balance, though, then you’re screwed.
Thus my opening statement that sensitivity is overrated. Indeed, it can be highly counterproductive.
People have a great deal of CHOICE in their emotions. You can CHOOSE to be deeply and righteously offended by every little hint of negativity, or you can judge it to be more appropriate and healthy to slough off the little stuff and have a life. As Roger Miller put it in his classic philosophical treatise, “You can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd, but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.”
Finally, I ask my fellow Blogcritics, when did exaggerated displays of hate become an actual positive moral virtue? Hate seems to me to be the central human sin (whether it’s based on race or something else), not racial stereotyping or insensitivity.Powered by Sidelines