Friday, January 15, 2010

All the news that’s appropriately phrased

In an Atlantic piece on racist remarks, sparked by a current fuss about what Senate majority leader Harry Reid said about Barack Obama (i.e. that Obama was “light-skinned” and “had no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one”), Michael Kinsley recalls that:
In 1976, on an airplane, the singer Pat Boone asked Earl Butz, President Gerald Ford’s Secretary of Agriculture, why there were so few black Republicans. Butz replied that “the only things the coloreds are looking for in life is a tight pussy, loose shoes, and a warm place to shit.” (Or, as the New York Times put it in Butz’s obituary in 2008, “satisfying sex, loose shoes, and a warm bathroom.”)
It was an incredibly offensive remark and rightly ended Butz’s career. But what on earth was the point of rewriting it so it lost all its pungency? A kinder, gentler racism is still racism – and you are either a newspaper of record or you’re not.

It’s as if the New Zealand Herald were to say in Hone Harawira’s obituary that he had once opined that Pakehas had Oepidal tendencies.

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