Thursday, November 1, 2007

In The Doghouse

As we are all aware by now, Duane Chapman (aka "Dog the Bounty Hunter") has ended up in a spot of trouble over a racist rant he let loose during a phone call to his son Tucker, over Tucker's dating a black woman. And in a move that would make Oedipus turn green with envy, Tucker provided a tape of the profanity-laced diatribe to the National Enquirer.

Evidently, Chapman pere has been reading from the Michael Richards Damage Control Handbook, as he threw himself on the mercy of Rev. Al Sharpton, who advised him to "march with us" [during an upcoming Sharpton-led rally in Washington, D.C.]
To its credit, A&E has suspended production on the upcoming season of Chapman's show, pending an investigation of the events.

Take a moment to let that sink in, and then wrap your brain around the following: even as Duane Chapman is at risk of exactly the fate that caused him such apparent vexation during his ill-considered phone call - that of losing everything that he worked for over the use of a racial slur - other entertainers are hailed, feted and well-recompensed for doing exactly the same thing. Rappers such as Kanye West, 50 Cent, Ludacris and Snoop Dogg (but not Eminem), and comedians to include Katt Williams
and Dave Chappelle have all used the "n-word" to great (financial) effect.

And as discussed elsewhere, comedian and actor Jamie Foxx has actually spoken up in defense of the use of the epithet, commenting "[
t]hat's my sh_t. I need it... I need the word to describe certain things, because at a certain level of excitement, I need to tell you how the sh_t was, and there ain't no other word that helps me say that better than that word." (Note to self: get Jamie Foxx a dictionary/thesaurus for Christmas.)

His statements to the contrary notwithstanding, Chapman's comments were most certainly motivated by some sort of racial animus; most observers would suggest that his use of the "n-word" (unlike that of black rappers and comedians) is motivated by a race-based hatred. I would submit however, that his type of petit racism is perhaps the most benign. Further up the entertainment food chain - into the power suites of Time Warner and Viacom among others - the same suits who may yet throw Chapman under the bus (as they did Don Imus) are making fortunes on the continued denigration of minorities and women, all the while denying any malevolent racial intent. And without the foundational racism provided by the M.A.C., this Potemkin superstructure of white exploitation and faux black empowerment would collapse of the weight of its own anachronism.

Or so we would hope. To be sure, whites and blacks seem to have made peace with a bizarre double standard. African Americans see their own use of the "n-word" as both a term of endearment while in "in-group" conversation and a emblem of black solidarity when brandished on white-owned media outlets. For their part, whites smile dimly and nod along, pretending to be shocked when one of their own gets their tongue caught in a racial epithet mousetrap. As long as this dissonance-inducing state of affairs is tolerated, we will fixate on mere offense and ignore to our peril the substantial deleterious caused by the equal parts liberal and racist media.

1 comment:

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