Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Prejudice

Racial prejudice is a touchy subject, but that's never stopped me in the past from discussing something, so why should it now?

I speak specifically of Isaiah Washington, the black actor whose contract for Grey's Anatomy was not renewed. Several months ago Washington used a slur to describe a gay castmate, T.R.Knight; presumably, he called him a faggot. He apparently repeated this slur at an awards show. Subsequently Washington apologized to Knight and even, in a somewhat bizarre twist, entered rehab to cure himself of this. (Of what? His homophobia? His prejudice against gays? Or just his inability to stop putting his foot in his mouth?)

Alas, it was to no avail, and at the end of the season Washington was canned. Miffed, Washington blamed his dismissal on racial discrimination - I'm guessing that the producers who fired him are not black - and here's where I don't quite get it. Racial prejudice? Has he forgotten what he called his castmate? Has he paused to consider that if another actor had called him a racial slur, the n-word, the actor would have likely been immediately fired? Does he think that prejudice against gays is less reprehensible than prejudice against someone based on their skin color?

Don't get me wrong. I know that racial prejudice is alive and well in America. You'd have to be blind and deaf and, frankly, dumb to think it didn't exist. But I just don't see it here, and it seems to me that when racial prejudice is claimed when it doesn't exist, it just hurts the cause rather than helps it.

I realize that, since I'm not black, I might have no business deciding when racial discrimination exists and when it does not. Maybe I'm missing something here, and if so, I'd be glad to have someone point it out to me.

24 Comments:

Anonymous Karen in KC said...

Some believe that being gay is a choice and a sin. That may be why Washington may not think he is at fault.

And I believe that because he is black, he was allowed to stay on longer than he should have been seeing as he is not taking the severity of his comments seriously.

I think if the rolls were reversed, TR Knight would have been fired immediately and would not have cried discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But that is just my opinion...

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just fyi he didn't call tr a faggot
tr wasn't even the the room! he called himself a faggot in the other sense of the word (sissy), the whole story was blown way out of proportion see the CNN interview

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The CNN interview was just bizarre. It did make it seem like the story had been told inaccurately, but Washington came off looking even sillier, IMO.

For what it's worth, though, the creator and executive producer of Grey's Anatomy is an African American woman (though the network was probably calling the shots on this).

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The entire rehab incident was indeed preposterous but its commonplace with the Hollywood elite and today's media. It seems the 'thought police' try to force people into some sort of rehab to alter how they think and what they say. Secondly, society tends to forgive anything as long as the person "goes to rehab" (Mel Gibson comes to mind).

It is unfortunate situation but I don't think he has a leg to stand on when it comes to crying discrimination. It just kind of waters down racial discrimination especially when the likes of people like Al Sharpton (talk about the pot calling the kettle)get involved. For what its worth though, I think Washington is remorseful and has tried to make amends by meeting with gay rights leaders, appearing on Ellen etc. I don't really see him as the hateful homophobic type but more so as someone who just said something stupid, obviously not thinking.

I think everyone is guilty of saying something they may not have meant at one time or another. I know that I have said things in the past that probably should not have been said. Hopefully though, I will not say anything too bad that I have to get carted off to rehab for.

Julie

4:50 PM  
Blogger Ninotchka said...

Anonymous 2:21, he said "I'm not your little faggot like TR".

Blown out of proportion? No matter what his job was, he should've been fired for that. No one who can't control both his tongue and his temper deserves a decent job (and, just to keep things medical, I also believe that applies to some surgeons I've known, who also did not deserve to keep their jobs because they couldn't control their tempers).

IMO, this isn't fundamentally about gay rights: it's about civility.

7:46 PM  
Anonymous crunchy mom said...

Anonymous 2:21, there is no other sense of the word. That's like saying someone used the N-word in the other sense of the word. The F-word is one of the most offensive gay slurs there is. Look up the history of the word if you don't believe me.

ND, to answer your question, I absolutely believe Washington doesn't equate the two situations. As Karen noted, a great many people in this country think that sexual preference is a choice and thus subject to criticism. But come on, even if HE thinks he said nothing wrong, how stupid would he be not to know that OTHER PEOPLE think what he said was wrong. I have lots of sentiments that are unfit for public consumption. I don't think they're wrong but I still know enough to keep them to myself.

9:15 PM  
Blogger 20somethingmommy said...

While it is entirely possible that Washington did NOT in fact, call T.R. the "f-word" directly to his face,his flippant and completely disrespectful way of using it at the awards show was ridiculous on its own.

If this had happened where I work, the use of such slurs would have caused what the dept. of labor terms a hostile work environment, and the offender would have immediately been disciplined, if not fired. Washington is lucky that he was able to finish the season.

And something else that really bothered me, was HOW this became a race issue, and I fault the lovely creator of the show when she expressed anger earlier in the year over firing Washington, because Shonda was upset that the population thought you could replace "one black man with another." That's ridiculous, and she turned it into a racial issue right there, when she should have addressed the situation for what it was, which IMHO was sexual harrassment.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read several accounts that Washington has a history of "anger managemnet issues" and that he grabbed Dempsey by the throat as their altercation escalated. Isn't workplace violence as serious an issue as uttering a verbal slur? Isn't that reason enough to fire someone? And yet, (if it did indeed happen) it appears to be a non-issue. I find Washington's racial discrimination charge to be preposterous...as do most people I know. He put himself in this situation and refuses to take ownership.

9:59 PM  
Blogger terri w/2 said...

On an aside - but speaking of slurs. .I'm always amazed when I hear the word "retard" or "that's so retarded" being uttered by people, especially medical professionals! I have no problem with using "mental retardation" to describe someone's cognitive disability, but when "retard" is used jokingly or to describe something that is weird, outrageous or stupid, it stuns me every time. I've seen it recently on a MD blog, and was shocked. Imagine how a new mother of a preemie with a large brain bleed would feel - or parents of an infant just dx with Downs to hear medical professionals laughing and saying "that's so retarded" on an OB unit!

6:39 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

Speaking, of inappropriate comments...
"I know that racial prejudice is alive and well in America. You'd have to be blind and deaf and, frankly, dumb to think it didn't exist."
Some of us preemie parents do have deaf-blind children. Do you think you could've phrased it differently without the negative connotation towards those disabilities, ND?

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emily:

Being deaf and blind is not disparaging. I am sorry that your child/children were pre-mature, but he wasn't directing the comment to you personally, as I am sure your children are NOT dumb.

C.

6:39 PM  
Blogger neonataldoc said...

Interesting thoughts, as usual. Emily, I certainly meant no disparagement of blind and deaf people. Terry with 2, you are absolutely correct.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Nathaniel's mom said...

Racial slurs are thrown out everyday in modern day jargon, I guess it just amazes me that some of those slurs were not even slurs to begin with. EX. My little sister grew up using the word "gay" for everything that was weird, strange or uncool. My grandmother on the hand grew up with the word "gay" meaning your were happy. (as I am sure most people know already) The word "faggot" technically means a bundle of sticks or a cigarette, thus if you have ever read say J.R.R. Tolkien you would have seen him use that word in that context. Nowadays "faggot" is word that people use to call someone of a different sexual orientation (though I have seen and heard a lot of (straight) young men use this term to call each other when they teasing one another) The odd thing about a lot of racial slurs is that is okay for the group of people they are usually directed at to use them when speaking to each other. For example; I have seen many homosexual men call each "gay" or "faggots" but no one else can. Another example is the word "nigger" in the dictionary is considered offensive slang usually directed at a person of color but another definition is "a person of any race or origin regarded as contemptible, inferior, ignorant, etc." Living in the city I hear black people call each other "nigger" all the time, but if any other person of a different race were to call them that, that is ground for being sued. Just like in some cases you will see women call you each other "Bitch" (dic: a female dog) or worse, and most of the time no one has a problem until a man calls a woman that name.
Personally I think the whole situation is silly. I don't understand why people can not just respect each other.
doh, I forgot I am talking about the human race. We I fear will always be condescending in some ways. :) oh well
And I am not trying to offend anyone, this is just an observation. Nor am I saying ANYONE is in the right when they call another person a racial slur or a foul name. I personally think everyone should be judged and tried the same when they have been proven to use a racial slur, regardless of race, sex, or social situation. But I do think we are getting ridiculous when we have to watch EVERY single word or phrase that comes out of our mouths in fear that we might offend someone. Not everyone is out to offend someone. Some people do actually use words with their original dictionary meaning in mind. A word is what you make of it, this should be something we teach our children.
Sorry so long
BTW glad you are back ND.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Marty Williams said...

This card is played far too often, there is as much prejudice against white people as there is any other race but people are so scared to admit it, as long as this is an issue advantage will be taken, I was at an airport and had booked through Teletext Flights, a passenger I believe was middle eastern was causing a commotion because he had missed his flight and wanted to get on the next one, the attendent told him that there were no seats available, I walked through handed in my ticket as he watched, "oh I see a white man can get a flight but I cannot because of my color, this is prejudice" he declared, I grinned and turned and said " yo are so right, it is awful that they let people on the plane purely based on the color of their tickets, next time try to get here on time and maybe they will not be so prejudice against people who miss flights and demand another straight away", he went quiet and turned back around to a grinning attendent "which flight can you get me on", he continued, why do they try to play that card every opportunity they get it just gives people a lower opinion of them as a person.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Fractalmom said...

weird world we live in. everyone seems so inclined to take offense. I call it the new religion of 'victimology'.

I don't subscribe to it. Years ago, the response to the slur would have been....

"asshole", and that would have been it.

shrugs.

8:37 AM  
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10:57 PM  
Blogger Siditty said...

karen in KC made a very typical, angering, remark that could be construed as racist:

And I believe that because he is black, he was allowed to stay on longer than he should have been seeing as he is not taking the severity of his comments seriously.

Blacks in this country, contrary to popular belief don't get free rides, and it is infuriating, that you would make such a typical racist comment. Do I think Washington was right to cry discrimination? No, but I also realize he didn't get to keep his job because he is black. It is so typical of certain white people to assume that blacks because of the past get a "pass". Lot's of white people have said racist things in the entertainment business and were able to keep and maintain their popularity, and people were defending these people left and right.

------

there is as much prejudice against white people as there is any other race but people are so scared to admit it,

When has prejudice directed at white people ever caused them to deal with systematic, legally imposed racism, in which people are treated like chattel, and then beyond that, treated as sub par citizens unfit to eat in restaurants, walk in parks, and drink from water fountains of the "ideal citizens"? When has the ramifications of this continued racism to affect white people?

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1:34 AM  
Anonymous Coin Magic Tricks said...

There's nothing wrong with being fagot. Everyone has the right to follow what's really inside of him or how does he feel. All they need is only to respect their right as a human being.

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Anonymous John Valenty said...

I agree with you. It is hypocritical to call someone a homophobic slur when they are homosexual, and then turn around and play the race card when you feel the repurcussions.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, regardless of your skin color, you DO have business deciding if racial discrimination exists. That is because EVERY race is discriminated against by one race or another. Just because one is in the majority, does not mean he or she is immune from racial discrimination. In fact, so many who champion for distinctive benefits for one group of another, are further oppressing its members. This is because, only when we stop viewing a person through the prism of race can we all be equal.

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