Tagged: racism

Russell Simmon’s Harriet Tubman fiasco is proof that some things are still sacred

via @BritniDWrites

via @BritniDWrites

Tonight, Russell Simmon’s made a terrible decision. He decided to promote a video (produced by his video company All Def Digital) made by Jason Horton a white guy (his tagline: “The World’s Only White Male Comedian” because that’s clever). The concept of the video? Take a hero of American history, Harriet Tubman, who was literally responsible for leading hundreds of slaves to freedom and risking her life to do so, and attempt to make a funny viral video from that premise. The execution? A joke about the rape that thousands of African slaves endured at the hands of their white masters, fat shaming, and an appalling lack of sensitivity to both a woman who deserves more than to be a punchline in a viral marketing campaign and towards a people whose descendants ARE NOT Jason Horton.

[UPDATE] The full video has been re-uploaded by someone on youtube so here it is

The actual video was immediately taken down after intense backlash but here is the preview video (which is bad enough). I’m assuming it too will eventually be taken down but I’ll try to find a new version of it when it does go down.

Fellas, you had to know this was in poor taste? Like, everyone in the room during filming had to have been thinking that maybe this crossed some line. Right? I mean I know it can sometimes be hard to find out where the edge is between edgy comedy and plain old offensiveness but this is well beyond the gray area.

There are funny ways to depict history, and even funny ways to deal with sensitive topics but this… this is shameful. What a disgrace.

How was “Asian Girlz” possibly made?

Another week, another outrageous act of racism (or two). This week, we were treated to the unveiling of a ridiculous song that is audibly awful as well as racially offensive. “Asian Girlz” by something called Day Above Ground (a band that looks as if Creed were headlined by Mark McGrath and then re-imagined as a boy band… Jesus Christ, I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.) is by any rubric a truly racist song. What’s really criminal about it though is just how mind numbingly dumb it is. But here is the thing: dumb racist things are all over the place. On Twitter, on Facebook, on Youtube, and everywhere you look you can find videos and comments that are really insensitive, that isn’t surprising (people are awful). What is surprising is how a professionally produced video for a band was able to go so wrong. How many eyes have laid eyes on this abomination and thought, “Yeah, this is fine.”?

I famously wrote about another racist song as the inaugural post for Jamesonstarship.com but “Accidental Racist” by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J pales in comparison.  That song was, at least, accidentally racist. “Asian Girlz” revels in it.

Also spelling “girls” with a “z” is dumb.

The song is nothing more than a list of asian stereotypes thrown together in a string of lines devoid of logic or larger meaning. The video is a master class in sexual objectification. You can’t help but feel pity for the young woman whose sole contribution was dancing provocatively and faking an orgasm in a bathtub (She has since expressed regret for her role in the video).

I’m sure the band thought that this was just a fun and lighthearted attempt at being “funny”. The song certainly tries to be funny, but it doesn’t even achieve that. What’s left is just stereotypes aimlessly thrown about and nothing redeeming. There are also curious lines such as:

17 or 23, it doesn’t matter to me.

Okay…

Or: Come and sit on my lap or we’ll send you back

Awesome sentiment fellas.

But again, if this were simply a self made youtube video it could just as simply be dismissed as a poor decision by a band of idiots. Instead, many people saw this before it was released and either didn’t realize it could be construed as racist or didn’t want to speak up. This seems to happen a lot more than it should.

ktvu_asiana01

Something is systematically wrong here.

Clearly, there is disconnect between how things are conceptualized and how things play out, even by people whose job it is to avoid these very kinds of situations. I, of course, can’t be sure, but my instinct tells me that Day Above Ground wouldn’t consider themselves as racist. They are quick to point out that one of their members from Indonesia. While that isn’t a compelling defense of what is unmistakably a racist song and video, it does suggest they have no intention of being overtly racist. Instead, they are just ignorant. So they are just like most of us. We need to look at this because it will help us better ourselves.

This is why diversity is important. This is why things like Affirmative Action and workplace non-discrimination laws are monumentally important. It’s not that people are not well meaning, most people are. But their perspective is so narrow – mostly white, mostly male, mostly heteronormative – that they begin to forget that other perspectives exist. When only one perspective is being shared, and in a lot of industries that means the perspective of the “Boy’s Club” but also the perspective of white culture, it’s hard to identify places where problems are for people you can’t empathize with.  And from that white perspective, “Asian Girlz” seems silly and harmless. After all, can’t we poke fun at stereotypes? Like on the blog “Things White People Like”? Unfortunately no. From the perspective of minorities, it can be demeaning and derogatory.

The sad fact is, it probably took Day Above Ground all of 30 minutes to come up with the stereotypes they used throughout the song. Those stereotypes reduce an entire continent of people to a simplistic group of “proto-asians” who, you know, eat white rice and throw ninja stars and are good at math! That level of insensitivity should be unacceptable. It would also be obvious if the band, its producers, managers and film crew, took some time to shift their perspectives.

One of the biggest differences between white Americans and American minorities is privilege. That eye rolling, groan inducing term that makes internet commenters cry “reverse racism” and become defensive to the point of catatonia. Despite its threatening nature, it applies here. White people have the privilege of being beyond hurtful stereotypes. We are able to laugh at our own expense in a way that other groups cannot without feeling the slight tinge of doubt that comes with asymmetrical abuse. As usual, Louis CK explains this best and hilariously:

This article wasn’t intended to turn into a “give me a break, white people” thing (although I love writing those and lately it seems like all I do is roll my eyes and say “give me a break, white people” when I go on Facebook), but it’s a problem and one that this case – and recent others – illuminate. It seems that the answer to “How was ‘Asian Girlz’ possibly made?” is “By not adopting a perspective that seems unimaginable to most people in places of privelege: that stereotypes can hurt.”

George Zimmerman is a victim of gun culture, too

George-Zimmerman

As we continue to struggle to comprehend how a man can shoot an unarmed teenager and not be legally accountable, it’s worth noting the larger players in all of this. George Zimmerman seemed well intentioned, if overly zealous. The problem is, he was sold a fantasy propagated by gun rights activists and the National Rifle Association that sent him, unwittingly, on a collision course with an incident. Unlucky break for George that he picked the absolute worst scenario in which to murder someone. I do believe that he probably didn’t plan on nor want to kill an unarmed teenager on the way back from the store holding nothing but skittles and iced tea. I also believe George Zimmerman wanted something to happen on one of his patrols, if only in that romantic and idealized way all of us fantasize about “what ifs”. In his case though, the “what if” became reality: heartbreaking and tragic.

From this lens, George Zimmerman isn’t a monster – or even overtly racist. Instead, he was manipulated and exploited by a movement that did not care about him further than as a cow to be milked of his money in exchange for guns and the facade of safety and control over imagined (or over-reported) threats. The National Rifle Association doesn’t kill people, but they give killers the tool they need to effectively do the job. If that were the only thing they did they would simply go down as despicable moneygrabbers, but they just can’t seem to leave their true intentions laid bare like that. Buying their product isn’t enough, we have to love them too.

To achieve that goal, they have to control the narrative. In a world where gun violence is increasingly directed at the gun owners themselves, or his or her family members (and disproportionately female), it must be hard to justify wanting more guns on the streets rather than less. To ensure profits, the narrative has to be unhinged from reality in such a way as to somehow convince a large section of society that they need guns in the home to ward off threats from outside the home. It isn’t hard. Especially when you play upon ingrained and deeply held beliefs about “other” groups.

220px-TrayvonMartinHooded

Source: Wikipedia

Trayvon Martin had the misfortune of being born an “other”. George Zimmerman, while not Caucasian, still grew up in a society in which black men are portrayed on TV, movies and in the media as disproportionately violent, aggressive and troublesome. It’s an image that the NRA has cultivated, with great success, into a selling point. Protect your homes. People not like you are out there. Watching Trayvon slowly walk down a quiet, residential neighborhood must have seemed like something out of “The Wire”. He certainly looked like they said he would: He had a hoodie. He appeared in no hurry. He was black.

As a white male I don’t know what it’s like to be suspicious. Before writing this I walked across the street from my apartment to pick up some cat litter from a convenience store a block away. I took my time. I checked my phone. Stopped to answer a text. Kept moving. If I noticed a man following me in his car I would have been freaked out. Then again, I’ve never been treated with suspicion . I am given the benefit of the doubt. Young black males in our country aren’t given that luxury. In 2013, LaVar Burton (the reading rainbow guy) explains how differently he has to act around police officers than a white person. That should be viewed as unacceptable. That is unacceptable.

In all of this, it’s important to note that Trayvon didn’t “owe” George Zimmerman anything. I’ve heard it asked “why didn’t Travyon just stop and explain to Zimmerman that he was walking home?”, but I can’t believe that this question is what it has come to. A boy shouldn’t have to justify himself to a strange man just for being black while walking down the street. That should be viewed as unacceptable. That is unacceptable.

But again, I don’t believe that George Zimmerman was a racist, intentionally looking for a black boy to kill. I think he was taught by cowards – who hide behind innuendo and plausible deniability – to look for young, black men when patrolling his neighborhood. They don’t say “young, black men”, that would be racist. They call them “thugs”, “urban”, or “gangsta”. They mean young, black men.

The “Stand Your Ground” law, much discussed in this case, is not a form of institutionalized racism on the scale of Jim Crow laws (as some had claimed), instead it is a loophole that allows racism to seep into vigilantism that the George Zimmerman case perfectly illustrated. Essentially, the law says that if a person feels “threatened” then they have the right to kill the aggressor and aren’t required to “retreat”. I’m not being facetious when I say that the “Wild West” that this law is clearly based on wasn’t even as dumb as that. Presumably, even Wyatt Earp would have seen how that has the potential for about a prairie sized amount of interpretation and wiggle room. Again, the NRA and gun rights advocacy groups who were instrumental in passing the idiotic, racist and impractical “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida (and other states) have safeguarded themselves from criticism, but make no mistake, they have blood on their hands. “Stand Your Ground” is nebulous and contrary to the entire reason we have laws. It’s why George Zimmerman can be acquitted of a murder he definitely committed. It has such a “gee shucks” naivete as to be nearly impossible to prosecute against. How do you prove what a “threat” is? Can a racist, who views minorities as inherently threatening, shoot anyone he pleases as long as he thinks they look sufficiently “urban”? But even more absurdly, it gives asymmetrical power to the holder of the gun (the NRA must be thrilled). Because guns kill quickly, and fists often don’t, the “threat” is the man swinging punches.

That is why George Zimmerman is free at its most distilled. The defense was able to successfully argue that because Trayvon was using his fists as weapons and George Zimmerman was clearly losing the fight (the one he instigated) that Trayvon deserved to be shot. Presumably, if Trayvon had a gun and felt threatened by George Zimmerman when he approached him he would have been in his right to kill him. But only one person had a gun that night. Fists take time. Bullets are quick. Trayvon isn’t here any more to defend himself and George walks free. That should be viewed as unacceptable. It is unacceptable.

So, in a weird way, George Zimmerman was wrapped up in something larger than he realized. He had been promised a fantasy that reality didn’t deliver. He had to learn through murdering an innocent boy that the idea that guns are defensive measures against intruders or aggressors is a false one. Unlike the simplistic world view that gun culture perpetuates, we live in a world of gray. Often the aggressors are our friends, or our family. Sometimes they are us. Our children, too. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as watching for the black guy in the hoodie. That lack of predictability may be scarier, it means a loss of control – and guns have always been marketed as tools of control in a scary world – but realizing that means less of this. It can’t bring Trayvon Martin back but it can, hopefully, prevent the next time. That should be viewed as possible. It is possible.

Paula Deen doesn’t think she’s racist, and that matters

lev24

Butter Queen Paula Deen has found herself entangled in a damaging lawsuit involving a former employee of hers, who alleges that the TV personality and “down home cooking” chef and her brother Bubba (seriously) peppered workplace conversations with racist remarks and jokes. This week, the disposition she gave at her trial was released and among the numerous gems that lay bare her inherent racism are these:

Deen testified that she probably used the racial slur when talking to her husband about “when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head.”

“I didn’t feel real favorable towards him,” she said, referring to the robber.

Jackson lawyer: “Have you used it since then?”

Deen: “I’m sure I have, but it’s been a very long time.”

Then later she recounted having used, or been around her brother when he used, racial slurs in the context of jokes, saying:

When Jackson’s attorney asked Deen if she had ever used the N-word, Deen reportedly answered, “yes, of course,” and listed specific times she had done so. Regarding racist jokes, Deen allegedly said, “It’s just what they are — they’re jokes…most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. … I can’t determine what offends another person.”

The world reacted with an outrage that lacked the self awareness to realize that these two examples are instances where we have either been guilty of racism ourselves or have been guilty by association as they were said to us and we laughed politely or ignored it.

What Paula Deen has admitted to saying doesn’t make her special or even particularly racist. It just makes her dumb or brave enough to say it to a less than sympathetic audience who was ready to tar and butter her from the second they smelled this week’s outrage machine beginning to churn.

Paula-Deen

What gets lost when we publicly out and shame a celebrity for their racial indiscretion is the deeper, more troubling fact that their views aren’t uncommon. If we really hope to make a positive change towards a less racist society this is the most inefficient way to do it. We can’t simply change people’s minds one by one when they mess up (and they inevitably will since racism tends to pervade a person’s thoughts and speech no matter how hard they try to control it in mixed company). That is, for one, ineffective at curbing racism generally, but even worse it allows the rest of us a cop out as we can point to them and declare “racist” without ever having to turn that microscope back towards ourselves.

I wonder how well any of us would do during a three hour interrogation about our racist jokes, or racist family members, or our racist attitudes. I’m guessing Paula Deen would fall somewhere around the average racist mark. Half of us would be worse. That should scare us.

What’s also important about this Paula Deen story is how unapologetic she seems about the whole thing. She truly feels like she has done nothing wrong. Let’s take a look at how, by pulling apart the examples I quoted at the top of this article.

When Paula was working at a bank in the 1980s, she was robbed at gun point. Obviously, this was a terrifying experience for her and she testified to using the N-word when later describing the assailant to her husband. When asked for a justification for the racial slur she said the most telling line she could have: “I didn’t feel very favorable towards him

That is the deep racism I am talking about. It’s the idea that we should be tolerant and “nice” towards minorities as an act of good will, but the second they cross certain lines or violate a white woman’s sense of safety, she feels justified in using a racial slur in regards to him. If she had just said he was an “uppity black”, people would have lost their minds. But this is no different. Minorities cannot be truly equal when the terms of their equality are tied to acting a certain way, being a certain way, and speaking a certain way. That’s still racism.

The second example I cited was her use of jokes. Paula seems to think that all jokes are in someway or another, jokes targeting a particular group of people. She listed “Jews, rednecks, and blacks” as some of the groups jokes are about. If you get past marveling at her ability to say that out loud with no sense of reservations, you would realize that for a large portion of the country, this is probably dead on true. Jokes are about targeting “others”. You make fun of them, and your friends laugh at how different they are. This is probably one of the most ancient forms of joke telling in existence because of how easy it is. A outside group’s behaviors or beliefs seem weird to us and it’s up to the would be comedian to harvest that sense of weirdness. What Paula doesn’t understand is the damage these jokes cause when we are trying to create a just and equal world. It draws lines between people instead of circling all of humanity. Jokes are kernels of truth surrounded by a meaty shell of the absurd, but if that kernel of truth comes from a place of xenophobia or hate or even merely condescension, the joke itself becomes a vehicle of racism.

None of this should surprise us. This should all sound familiar. And that’s the point, Paula Deen is a victim of her culturally ingrained racism when you remove self awareness and the conscious effort to be less biased. As her sponsors jump ship to swim towards another one that has yet to take on water, maybe Paula Deen will start to wake up or maybe she won’t. When Michael Vick went to jail for dog fighting he was probably my least favorite person on the planet, but I now believe that he somehow had not even known dog fighting was wrong. He grew up so ignorant of the larger abhorrence to dog fights by people who view dogs as cherished members of our society (if only other animals got the same placement) that even questioning what he was doing was beyond him. Since then he has seemed legitimately horrified at his previous behavior and contrite when speaking about it. It reinforces the fact that education and diverse perspectives can have real, meaningful impact in a person’s thinking where Nike voiding their sponsorship cannot.

I just hope Paula Deen takes this opportunity to learn why she is wrong and not just how she got caught up in another celebrity take down scandal.

When evidence isn’t enough: Inside the #FreeJahar movement

We believe that within the chaos caused by the Boston Marathon explosion, two young men were wrongfully accused of something they did not do, and one of them has lost his life before even getting the opportunity of a proper trial.

So begins the Change.org petition created by Anita Temisheva in support of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the alleged “Suspect #2” in the Boston Marathon bombings and the rolling chaos that spilled into the streets of residential Boston later that week. As of writing this her petition has over 13,000 signatures. Most of those who put a reason do not cite clemency or mercy but instead a steadfast belief that the Tsarnaev brothers were set up.

On Twitter, the movement has manifested itself under the hashtag “#FreeJahar” and it’s gotten so much traction that at times that hashtag can be found trending world wide. I won’t cite individual tweets because I don’t believe reading them out of context would be useful to understanding their arguments. In many cases, the #FreeJahar supporters have their hands full with countless people sending vitriolic messages to them in response to their opinions and so meaningful dialogue has shut down. Instead, I will try to paraphrase their arguments.

First though, I think it’s important to distinguish these people from an entirely separate group of people who have been clumped together with them. The #FreeJahar movement does not appear to be linked to terrorist sympathizers, fanatics, or those active in the Jihadist movement (source). Instead, the movement consists of, as Spencer Ackerman puts it in his article for Wired magazine, “a mix of conspiracy theories, sympathy for Tsarnaev and skepticism of the official narrative surrounding the 19-year-old’s arrest.” In other words, most simply can’t believe that the person the FBI has identified would be capable of doing the things he’s accused of. Predictably, his parents are among those who think he has been wrongfully charged. His Mom has said “I am really, really, really telling you this is a set-up.” His father agrees. But that circle of disbelief has expanded past his circle of family and friends that knew him into a wider net, the internet. It’s a phenomenon we didn’t see during 9/11 and it demands an explanation.

The case against the Tsarnaev brothers looks pretty solid. At around 2:45 p.m. on April 15th video from surveillance cameras shows what appears to be one of the Tsarnaev brothers slipping off his backpack and leaving it on the ground. Several minutes later the bomb explodes and the man believed to be Tsarnaev can be seen casually walking away while panic engulfs the crowd. The following Friday a man is carjacked in Cambridge. The two men ask the man if he heard about the Boston explosion and then one of them says “I did that.” Later, in the firefight and manhunt that ensued, explosives similar to those used in the bombings are recovered by the police. Finally, when Dzhokhar woke up at the hospital he admitted his involvement in the bombing, citing religious motivations. Along with the very public nature of these actions, there is truckloads of physical evidence placing the two brothers at the scene of the crimes on Friday, and at least circumstantially, at the marathon itself. None of this matters of course to the supporters of the #FreeJahar campaign. Any piece of evidence used in support of their guilt is either dismissed as false or turned around and used as further support. Some go so far as to say that the brothers oftentimes harebrained schemes are proof positive that they were innocent until framed.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

What interests me is not that there are people who believe the brothers were framed but why this particular instance of conspiracy thinking is so attractive (and judging by the prevalence of supporters it’s pretty attractive).  First I want to talk about how information is disseminated in today’s world.

Twitter and Facebook, not online new sources, have replaced newspapers. It’s not only that we live in a time where information changes so fast that print media can’t keep up (I would argue it doesn’t have to but I’ll save it for another

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

article), but also the very ingestion of information has changed. In previous eras, information was made available in large chunks (such as in books, newspapers, or pamphlets) that were meant to be read in full before they could be fully understood. It’s how we are still taught to write essays in school: A thesis statement, supporting paragraphs, and finally a conclusion. Those days are gone. We live in the age of 140 characters. If the information can’t be conveyed within the confines of those 140 characters, it’s not going to be widely read. Facebook is even worse. Ideas are reduced to a picture and a caption. The merits of a particular argument can’t be weighed because they aren’t even acknowledged. And like a bacteria, the antidote of real reporting and fact checking can’t keep up because the misinformation evolves so fast. It’s in this hazy, fact checking starved world that things like #FreeJahar thrive. Suddenly a picture really is worth a thousand words. Show the picture and the audience is left to their own devices to fill in the words, often times with their own preconceptions or expectations.

That’s the second catalyst for a conspiracy: we already had an idea of who would do this before it happened. The perpetrators of this crime were very different than what we expected them to be. Sure, they were Muslim but they were also white; they were assimilated Americans, both culturally and legally; they were young; they seemed normal. It’s a lot different than the guys we saw on 9/11, or the shoebomber, or 24, or Homeland, and they don’t look Iranian. Our expectations were thwarted and it makes us skeptical. We watch with the same uneasiness that an audience watches a magician walk into one box and emerge from another. That’s not right, our brains scream, that’s not how things are supposed to be. This, I think, is really the heart of the conspiracy. We are in disbelief that someone like US could do something like THAT. Dzhokhar could be one of our sons. Or one of our children’s classmates. To borrow a phrase from President Obama, “If I had a son, he would look like Dzhokhar.” and that’s heart breaking. I don’t blame people for feeling betrayed.

Dszjokar Tsarnaev pic

Dszjokar Tsarnaev  (Photo credit: stream47)

The brothers resemble mass murders much more closely than they do Islamic terrorists (and in America we define those two things very differently). If these boys hadn’t been Muslim then we probably wouldn’t have labeled them terrorists at all. After all, the Aurora shooter wasn’t viewed as a terrorists. Neither was Jared Loughner who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other people in Arizona. The motive for the Aurora shooting remains vague but Jared Loughner was certainly motivated by political reasons. Senator Lindsay Graham never called for his Rights as an American Citizen be stripped from him in the wake of his massacre the way he suggested Dzhokhar’s be. So now we have a conflict. On the one hand we have typical American young men, going to parties, going to school, quoting Jay Z on twitter. On the other, they have been labeled terrorists by their government and placed in the category of radical Islamic extremists. I can forgive people for feeling a bit of disbelief at those disparate categories colliding like they did on April 15th.

What isn’t excusable to me is to ignore the lessons that this heinous act can teach us. Some people payed a high price for this lesson, I would say too high a price, but sticking our heads in the sand will not make up for it. As we get further into the 21st century and technology enables us to be increasingly interconnected with the rest of the world we are learning again and again that there aren’t any easy solutions. The problems we once thought were black and white are many shades of gray (I’ll refrain from making a 50 Shades of Grey joke, we’ve come too far). The Boston Marathon bombing is another example of the messiness of trying to attribute specific characteristics to predicting an act of violence. It can be frustrating to admit that we are largely clueless when it comes to anticipating attacks but keeping a realistic perspective is imperative. If we are looking only for one thing it’s far too easy for people who don’t fit that mold to slip through the cracks. In a way we are all #FreeJahar devotees. As we cast a weary eye towards the bearded man with a turban sitting three rows ahead of us, we missed the Tsarvaev brothers sitting next to us. If we even noticed them at all, we may have even said to ourselves: “No, not them. They look just like me.”

Will.i.am and Chris Brown stole something, don’t overreact

So if you haven’t been following this weeks Chris Brown scandal, the story is this. Will.i.am blatantly stole music from a lesser known band (Arty & Mat Zo), got Chris Brown to rap on it for some reason, got almost instantaneously caught, and now the internet has decided it is the Defenders of the Copyright (especially for songs that they illegally downloaded). For those more skeptical readers I’ll post the two songs here and you can decide for yourself.

Song by Arty & Mat Zo called “Rebound”

Will.i.am feat. Chris Brown song called “Let’s Go” (and honestly, would you expect a song by Will.i.am to be named anything more original than that?)

Actually, on second listening, they not only clearly stole most of the original song, but somehow Will.i.am’s affinity for overproduced garbage has made the song worse.

Will.i.am has been silent on the scandal (probably choosing to talk to his lawyers instead of his fans), but of course Chris Brown leapt to the song’s defense:

chris brown tweets

A true artist.

On the other side of things, the artists whose work was shamelessly stolen have been pretty cool about the whole thing, focusing on the positive aspect that since this scandal broke their work has been getting more attention then it ever would have gotten had that guy from the Black Eyed Peas not decided their work was his.

mat zo facebook

But his closing sentence really speaks to what I find so disconcerting about the internet. Whenever an embarrassment like this comes out, the hivemind of the internet goes into hyperdrive producing an ugly feedback loop of increasingly nasty vitriol. It’s like the second we see a public figure being brought low, we feel it is now acceptable to throw all manner of insult and slurs in their direction without fear of consequence. There is a name for that, its called bullying. What’s even more shameful is that most people wait until the target of their scorn is defenseless (such as when they copyright infringe on a song) and the bully knows that his voice will just be a drop in the bucket of the churning sea of rage and aggression. Will.i.am stole a song, terrible artists do that all the time, relax. Chris Brown is in many ways an awful human being, but don’t worry, he already knows everyone hates him. He doesn’t need you throwing more hatred his way, you are not the Who down in Whoville whose voice finally makes an audible sound where before there was silence.

Scarier still, the violence and slurs that come out in times like these are a telling example that we are living in a world that has still not rid itself of implicit -isms, which boil to the surface at the slightest provocation. As another example, Anita Sarkeesian, creator of the Feminist Frequency website and video series, saw this first hand when a Kickstarter project she had started had the nerve to have attracted interest, which misogynistic nerds everywhere took as a personal affront. The dogs of war were unleashed and a torrent of disgusting and violent threats were hurled at Sarkeesian (again, whose only crime was to have created a kickstarter about something she was interested in).

But that appears to be the way it goes now, bullies are attracted to the twin siren songs of anonymity and groupthink, and the internet deals with those in abundance. That isn’t to say things are hopeless. Optimism comes naturally to me, and as I rule, I tend to think things are getting better. The sad upside to this familiar tale is that it no longer is surprising. Like the Europeans surviving the Plague emerging stronger for it, we too live in a world where nasty things on the internet don’t even attract attention. And maybe that’s part of the problem. That’s why it’s important for the people involved, especially the ones the internet thinks they are defending, to keep a cool head and not encourage the behavior. Mat Zo had it exactly right when he said “[the piracy] doesn’t excuse the horrific abuse you’re sending the way of Will I Am and Chris Brown, and it especially doesn’t excuse being racist.” No it doesn’t, and we could all take note of that. For the next time.

Brad Paisley and LL Cool J accidently wrote a racist song

“Ebony and Ivory” this song is not. Brad Paisley and LL Cool J got together and decided to bury racial tension once and for all. The result:

Edit: The video of the song was taken down (how unexpected?) so instead I’ll post this video of Brad trying to explain what the song meant on Ellen and struggling (how unexpected?)

It appears that all it takes to end racial friction (particularly between confederate flag shirt wearers and “do-rag” wearers) is to conclude that General Sherman destroying towns during the Civil War more than makes up for holding a race of people in bondage for hundreds of years with the willingness to fight and die to keep that system in place (and leading to the war that caused said general to destroy towns).

What isn’t explored is any sense of self reflection on the part of Brad Paisley on whether it is appropriate to wear a symbol of so much pain and divisiveness. Its message is simply “Look, I’m sorry you are offended by my shirt and what it represents but I don’t mean it like that.” and what it’s really saying is “get over it.” Neither message feels particularly enlightened, and despite LL Cool J’s lyrical acceptance of his “apology”, it doesn’t seem to be enough to justify continuing to feel okay with the confederate flag.

The idea that if a wrongdoer or a justifier of that wrongdoing (“justifier” not being a word) can find any example or instance of an inverse wrong suddenly makes it even is common but foolish. During the Trayvon Martin media frenzy, George Zimmerman defenders were quick to cite examples where African Americans killed white people as if that some how absolved George Zimmerman of wrongdoing (it doesn’t).

Where’s Tim McGraw and Nelly when you need them?