Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hey, that's a stereotype

I have a new column in today's paper about what is offensive vs. what is funny. The column is in part an excuse to tell the story of my recent heroism in defending the Jewish people, and my shameful silence regarding the Amish.

P.S. ... Also at my day job, my thoughts on Minnesota becoming a red state and the exciting possibility of watching Barack Obama visit Nome.

7 comments:

Saxdrop said...

nice column. And I should know, cause us Asians tend to be pretty smart.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall recent trenchant remarks about the amish on this very blog...

hmmmmm...

haahnster said...

The exact line was "Maybe we can rally the Amish in Pennsylvania to put this thing to bed once and for all."

Not sure how that's "trenchant," but I'm not the world's most sensitive guy. I'm also not sure it's a stereotype, unless the comment is misconstrued as stereotyping all Pennsylvanians as Amish. I think it's relatively clear that was not the intention. Rather, it just indicates that some Amish folks live in PA. It certainly is not a stereotype of the Amish in any way.

Hopefully this comment is not too trenchant for anyone's taste.

Rob said...

Some cursory googling indicates that the Amish do vote. Mostly Republican. But perhaps this year we will see some Amish Obamacans! I for one believe Obama should plan a horse-and-buggy campaign swing through Lancaster County, Pa., immediately...

Anonymous said...

I believe the implication was that the Pennsylvania Amish are just as racist and uneducated as all of Ohio.

I'd go dig up the full quote for myself but I'd prefer not to wade further into the slope of this Amish hate site.

Saxdrop said...

So Grover Norquist was recently quoted as saying Barack Obama is "John Kerry with a tan." (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/06/barack-obama-jo.html) And of course the posting of this quote over at TNR unleashed the fury of epithet-hurling and endless accusations of latent racism (http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_stump/archive/2008/06/27/quot-john-kerry-with-a-tan-quot.aspx).

But it seems pretty innocent to me. The emphasis is on Obama being similar to Kerry (which true or not, is utterly harmless) coupled with a value-neutral mention of his skin color. To help clarify the issue, consider these alternative comparisons:

1. Obama is a black John Kerry
2. John Kerry is a white Obama.
3. John Kerry is a pale version of Obama.

The last one was triggered by a TNR commenter to mentioned, to the scowls of his fellow commenters, that someone can tag McCain as "pasty" or "old" without any kind of reproach.

Rob said...

I agree that all three of your alternatives are inoffensive. So why does "John Kerry with a tan" feel a little worse? I mean, I'm not exactly bouncing off the walls over it, but it does seem a little outre.

I have a possible explanation! It's because it indirectly slams Obama for being mixed-race. "The black John Kerry" is perfectly fine, and "Kerry is a pale version of Obama" is okay, too -- these phrases refer only to skin color, i.e. race. "Kerry with a tan" refers to skin tone, possibly implying that Obama isn't quite black, isn't quite white. Since Obama is in fact biracial, this hits the ear as out-of-bounds in a way that simply calling Obama "black" wouldn't.

I don't even care whether Norquist meant it this way; like I said, it's not really THAT bad to me, especially coming from the guy who compares the estate tax to the Holocaust. Just taking up the linguistic point...