A “teaching moment” on Roseanne Barr, the media and political hypocrisy
Roseanne Barr said something stupidly racist about Valerie Jarrett and Jarrett responded saying we should take it as a “teaching moment.” But what kind of “teaching moment” can we have in an America that is deeply divided, caught in the middle between extremist politics and extremist media? There are a lot of “teaching moments” but I am sure that each side will only teach what they want and not hear the other side at all
By Ray Hanania
Valerie Jarrett said we should take Roseanne Barr’s racist Twitter attacks against her as a “teaching moment.”
I agree. But let’s make it a substantive “teaching moment,” one that applies to everyone. I really doubt anyone in America is really interested in listening to the lessons a “teaching moment” like this might address.
Barr, who revived one of America’s favorite past TV shows this season, used a racist metaphor to attack Jarrett, one of President Obama’s closest confidants. Barr seemed to be responding to another Tweet that accused Jarrett of helping to cover-up alleged misdeeds of the Obama administration.
Barr Tweeted, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj,”
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Barr was immediately criticized and she quickly apologized saying she got carried away, later claiming it was use of the drug “ambien” that caused her lack of good judgment.
In today’s deeply divided world of polarized “gotcha” politics, apologies never seem to be enough for “the other side.” The Left hates the Right. The Right hates the Left. And the people in middle have no choice except to duck or gravitate towards one side.
I don’t believe Barr’s attack was intended to be racist, but Barr has been off the deep end on political issues for years and her intentions are hard to understand. During the past few months, Barr has been posting comments on Twitter attacking Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians, mainly as an extreme defense of Israel, which has been justifiably criticized for its violence against civilians in Gaza.
There’s a topic for a “teaching moment” no one wants to have!
Barr certainly crossed the line of decency in her Tweet. The ugly use of references to Apes and monkeys in criticizing Blacks has a brutal presence in America’s racist history.
But what is the “teaching moment” in the Roseanne Barr racist criticism of Valerie Jarrett? Is it that we toughen punishment on people we dislike, like Roseanne Barr, but go soft and forgiving on those we like? Is it that there is no forgiveness for those who use racism in their politically charged rhetoric?
Isn’t it better to have a racist come out of the closet with an incendiary comment and then apologize for it and be accountable, than to have Americans continue to hide their racism in deep crevices where it is exposed only in close and friendly circles, but never be addressed?
I don’t allow people’s biases and stupidity to stand in the way of finding reason and common sense. I prefer people who make racist remarks and then publicly acknowledge their mistakes with an apology.
What I can’t stand are people who harbor racist views but because they don’t express them, never have to apologize or be held accountable for them.
The punishment for Barr’s Tweet was truly overwhelming harsh. Maybe, it was excessive? It seems our society tolerates murderers and killers more, giving them second chances. But when it comes to the political divide, there doesn’t seem to be much forgiveness at all.
ABC TV, which only a few weeks ago renewed Roseanne’s hit revival for a 2nd season, abruptly cancelled the show. The smoke on Roseanne’s sizzling Tweet was still simmering. The decision came quickly, like ABC was waiting for an opportunity to slap her down.
Wanda Sykes, one of the “Roseanne” show’s writers and consultants, Tweeted she was quitting the show. Sykes has made a career using racism and her race as a foil for her comedic performances. I enjoyed the recurring role she played of racism watchdog in Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episodes.
Race and racism are OK in some entertainment circumstances, but not in others.
Sykes is African American. She can be self-deprecating towards her race, just as Jews can make jokes about Jews, Arabs can make jokes about Arabs, but we can’t make jokes about each other.
Sykes’ resignation was followed by several others, including “Shameless” actress Emma Kenney. I’m kind of glad Kenney quit the show. I was having a difficult time reconciling her two high profile TV characters, the granddaughter in “Roseanne” and the Gallagher daughter in “Shameless.”
Barr took a lashing from another co-star, actress Sara Gilbert, who was a part of the original Roseanne series which aired between 1988 and 1997.
Roseanne’s comments were surprising considering that only last week, she Tweeted that she was closing her Twitter account because Twitter, Facebook and other social media is filled with anti-Semitism. Barr is Jewish and she was very vocal in her criticism of anyone who questioned Israel’s excessive brutality killing more than 118 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.
Anti-Semitism. That’s another teaching moment topic. This morning, I watched CNN lambaste Barr, accusing her in a sub-headline that she made both “racist” and “anti-Semitic” comments.
I think CNN just threw in the “anti-Semitism” accusation because Barr is a big supporter of President Trump, whom CNN hates. They just want to pile it on harder. CNN anchors seem to be enjoying this a little too much.
In today’s world, CNN represents one end of the extremist, hate-driven media field while FOX Cable represents the other. That’s another “teaching moment” we could use but won’t have.
Yet, despite all of the hoopla, I’m still surprised by ABC’s severe reaction. Cancelling the popular show was brutal, not just to Roseanne Barr and the cast and crew, but to the public.
I really enjoyed the revived “Roseanne” TV show. It was funny. Brilliant. Hard hitting. Well-scripted. The topics were socially on point when it comes to America. I couldn’t get enough, even though I didn’t always agree with Roseanne Barr’s personal views. (I did like how the writers addressed the political divide in the show, though. It was done so well.)
Racism. When is it not a “teaching moment” in America?
Personally, I prefer people who make racist comments and then publicly apologize, over people who hold racist views but never acknowledge them. Not everyone who uses racism is a racist. Sometimes, they are just expressing their frustration in a bad way. Anger often looks like hate and harsh criticism often looks like racism in the context of divisive and contentious environments.
America is a very racist country. But racism has no political affiliation, no religion, no ethnicity. The truth is that while racism is defined mainly as hate from White people against Blacks, we often see reverse racism from Blacks against White people. The economics of White privilege over Black oppression is a fact and often makes Black racism against Whites inconsequential, or maybe, just un-addressable.
To me, though, racism is racism, regardless of who does it.
Of course, many of my Arab and Muslim friends are cheering the Roseanne backlash, happy to see her and her show go because Barr was outspoken in her support of President Trump. Of course, they forget in their heightened anti-Trump anti-Republican hysteria that much of the worst anti-Arab and anti-Muslim incidents and policies occurred with strong support from Democrats.
Trump did move the embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem, but the truth is that Democrats like U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer have been banging that drum for years. The Democrats are now bashing Trump, not to protect the issue of fairness or justice over Jerusalem, but because it’s all about politics. Hell, most Democrats don’t even refer to the West Bank as “occupied” any more. But don’t tell that to Trump’s Arab and Muslim critics.
The problem is this debate isn’t really about racism, or hatred. It’s all about politics. It’s all about punishing someone because of her political views, not because of the ugliness of her comments.
There are many examples of how society has tolerated ugliness from others.
When Joy Behar, a liberal hardcore Democrat, denounced Republican Vice President Mike Pence and his “Christian” beliefs as a form of “Mental Illness” on her popular ABC TV hit talk show, “The View.” But ABC TV executives didn’t fire her. ABC accepted Behar’s apology, who said, “I think Vice President Pence is right. I was raised to respect everyone’s religious faith, and I fell short of that. I sincerely apologize for what I said.”
Oh, and there was comedian Kathy Griffin who actually posed with a lopped off head of President Trump, she was “fired” from one of her gigs as co-Host of CNN’s New Year’s Eve broadcast. She’s still appearing across the country doing comedy shows and performances.
“Real Time” host Bill Maher embraced Griffin prompting Griffin to thank him. Maher responded that, in today’s political climate, everyone in the country goes “bat(expletive) nuts about everything.”
Well, Maher didn’t defend Barr or make excuses for her bat(expletive) Tweet.
I could say that I am glad that Roseanne Barr is out of the picture. She was critical of those who attacked Israel’s brutal policies against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip where more than 100 Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli snipers without even a whimper from Republicans or Democrats.
It’s probably not just one “teaching moment” in this incident. It’s many. The problem is that no one wants to sit in the class addressing the lessons of the moment. Everyone just wants to be the person doing the lecturing.
I’m going to miss watching “Roseanne.” But I know what won’t be missed will be the continued hatred and racism, the political viciousness and media bias that is the cause of the political asthma that is afflicting this country. Things are so ugly in America today, and not just because one guy became president, that no one can really breath, or think, freely.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and the author of several books including “Yalla! Fight Back.” His personal website is www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania. Email him at email@example.com.
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Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
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His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.
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