Really??!! We Treat our Minority Megastars Like This?

Posted: March 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

Retrospective / Celebrity Montage

Last month the actor Forest Whitaker was stopped in a Manhattan delicatessen by an employee. Whitaker is one of the pre-eminent actors of his generation, with a diverse and celebrated catalog ranging from “The Great Debaters” to “The Crying Game” to “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.” By now it is likely that he has adjusted to random strangers who can’t get his turn as Idi Amin out of their heads. But the man who approached the Oscar winner at the deli last month was in no mood for autographs. The employee stopped Whitaker, accused him of shoplifting and then promptly frisked him. The act of self-deputization was futile. Whitaker had stolen nothing. On the contrary, he’d been robbed.

What do you think?

 

The deli where Whitaker was harassed happens to be in my neighborhood. Columbia University is up the street. Broadway, the main drag, is dotted with nice restaurants and classy bars that cater to beautiful people. I like my neighborhood. And I’ve patronized the deli with some regularity, often several times in a single day. I’ve sent my son in my stead. My wife would often trade small talk with whoever was working checkout. Last year when my beautiful niece visited, she loved the deli so much that I felt myself a sideshow. But it’s understandable. It’s a good deli.

What do you think?

 

Since the Whitaker affair, I’ve read and listened to interviews with the owner of the establishment. He is apologetic to a fault and is sincerely mortified. He says that it was a “sincere mistake” made by a “decent man” who was “just doing his job.” I believe him. And yet for weeks now I have walked up Broadway, glancing through its windows with a mood somewhere between Marvin Gaye’s “Distant Lover” and Al Green’s “For the Good Times.”

What do you think?

 

In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. We believe this even when we are actually being racist. In 1957, neighbors in Levittown, Pa., uniting under the flag of segregation, wrote: “As moral, religious and law-abiding citizens, we feel that we are unprejudiced and undiscriminating in our wish to keep our community a closed community.”

What do you think?

 

What do you think?

One of the characters on the CBS show “Mike & Molly” joked about drunken Indians in Arizona, a state that is home to 21 federally recognized American Indian tribes. Although drinking and selling alcohol largely is banned on reservations, it can easily be found in border towns, brought in by bootleggers or sneaked past authorities.

What do you think?

 

No one disputes that public intoxication is a problem on and off the reservations, but tribal members say alcoholism often is linked to poverty, hopelessness and a history of trauma within American Indian families that is hard to overcome. American Indians and Alaska Natives die at a higher rate from alcoholism than other Americans, according to federal data, and authorities say alcohol fuels a majority of violent crimes on reservations.

What do you think?

 

“You can see somebody who is drunk and tripping over themselves and it’s easy to make fun of them,” said Erny Zah, a spokesman for the Navajo Nation, which extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. “But the disease itself isn’t funny, the coming home late at night, possibly beating on family members, the absence of family members, the fear it instills in a lot of children.”

What do you think?

 

The Native American Journalists Association called on CBS to apologize, saying it’s inexplicable for a highly entertaining show to resort to humor at the expense of Arizona tribes. The group urged screenwriters to think twice about what might offend minority groups and to work to overcome stereotypes.

What do you think?

 

What do you think?
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