I like inappropriate humor. I like that it can push the edges of political correctness. I appreciate that humor can point out the ridiculousness of certain beliefs or reveal how we take some things too seriously while other more truly serious things are ignored. But, there is a fine line between racy humor and saying something that is just plain racist.
This week, I encountered such a statement and it shook me through and through. I was shocked, appalled, and every other word that denotes disgust. Let me put this into context. I had a friendly conversation going on Facebook about Sarah Palin. I don’t like her, and I make no bones about it. But, that is neither here nor there, and this is really not about politics.
I go back and forth between starting these conversations and continuing them. I’m well aware that political comments can be dangerous on Facebook and that, if it’s out there, it’s out there. But, I never write anything I don’t truly believe in. I rarely intend to start an in-depth conversation. I’m usually just venting or offering an idea. And, contrary to what some may think, I hate conflict. I like rational discussion. But then, I admit that I like to be provocative because I think it’s sometimes needed to challenge misguided, dangerous beliefs and propaganda that spread and infect, and I take responsibility for that. But, sometimes someone says something so blatantly offensive that there is no excuse for.
Some friends of mine were replying humorously to a comment I made about Sarah Palin who I think is a terrible representative of hard-working, intelligent women everywhere—Republican or Democrat. Okay, fine. This is not an uncommon opinion among people—Republican or Democrat. I often make cynical statements but most of my friends know how to take it and know I am not an overall cynical person. They usually respond in jest. Everyone who replied was in agreement with me until a cousin of mine jumped into the conversation.
This is a cousin with whom I’ve spoken very few words in many years. We’ve never been close and I don’t see that side of the family much. Not that unusual really. But, actually, it is strange. We connect with family members on Facebook who we may not have talked to much in the past and are hoping to maybe reconnect. You are connected to them for weeks, months, etc., and no words pass until someone says something political and the other disagrees and needs to retaliate. Isn’t something wrong with that? Who cares about what our kids are doing or HOW we are doing. Let’s be honest. We all just signed up and friended each other for the sole purpose of showing our nice pictures off. This seems to be the main reason for distant relatives and old high school friends to connect anyway. I mean, if we aren’t talking, what are we doing? I digress…
So, we have a cousin I never speak to, a somewhat provocative political statement, and a social media networking platform. Yeah, I’m safe here, right? At some point–and I can’t recall what prefaced it other than comments about not liking Palin and a Kenyan friend mentioning her home country–my cousin of the tea-bagging, conspiracy theorist extremist persuasion decided to make this comment, “Speaking of Kenya…there is a little hut over there some people would be better off in:)” This a glaringly ignorant, racist statement and no amount of smiley faces makes it okay. I suspect it was directed toward our President, but it was offensive to all Kenyans.
I called the cousin out on this and apologized for her to my Kenyan friend and firmly said I do not tolerate racist comments ever. Retort: “Classic liberal defense. RACISM!” And, “I have black friends so that couldn’t be racist.” We have some serious flaws in logic here. I mean, surely even Richard Nixon and Henry Ford had at least one friend named Shlomo Berkowitz, right? Having friends of other races does not make you magically immune to saying stupid things. You may not have a white sheet that converts into a funny hat, but you just said something undeniably racist and ethnocentric and you need to own up to it and apologize. The liberal defense excuse is just a tired political buzz phrase to shirk off responsibility for saying such vile things.
I’m weary of these useless buzz phrases being thrown around on both sides that carry no meaning and are merely used for defense or offense without having any applicable truth. Look, I may be liberal standing next to this person, but what she said is racist plain and simple regardless of my political views. This isn’t political. It’s moral, and we need to be able to call things what they are without lame excuses entering the conversation. You just said something ignorant and painful and a person included in the group you disrespected is in this thread.
Thankfully, my Kenyan friend is classy, magnanimous, smart, and, sadly, far more used to such ignorant, hurtful statements than she should be. She doesn’t pay attention to people who say such wicked things. I would be wise to follow her lead. But, boiling blood and a writer’s mind make for a quick Facebook retort, and I believe it was necessary to point out how egregious such a statement is. I feel like I have this superpower ability to change people with words. I know this is wishful and not-too-humble thinking, but it comes from a good heart that believes people don’t deserve such nasty words to cross their ears and eyes. The conversation went on a bit longer until I just shut it down out of embarrassment for everyone involved by completely deleting my Facebook page altogether. I’ve had enough…again.
Before I hit delete, to further aggravate a hopeless situation, this same person went on to tell me there is nothing she can learn from other cultures and that university education is basically bad because college professors aren’t challenged to think in the university forum. So, you just told me you are against learning and you expect me to believe you have an educated, intelligent opinion? Exactly.
You know, I know of this great piece of property in Kenya with a nice little house…plenty of room for narrow minds. Location, location, location.