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Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Paint The White House Black" (c) George Clinton; Some White Dude In Colorado

I don't know if anyone saw this story today (it was linked up on Drudge), but at some fancy fund raiser in Colorado honoring CU's president Hank Brown*, a Greeley businessman--who was introducing Brown and sitting with Governor Bill Ritter--was reading "joke telegrams," and mentioned one was from the White House. He then said:

"They're going to have to change the name of that building if Obama's elected."

The reactions were pretty predictable:

-"I gasped," said Gov. Bill Ritter.
-"I think it was uncalled for and atrocious," said U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, who was also in attendance.
-"All that I can say about that is that it was unfortunate and most inappropriate," said Albert Yates, a former president of Colorado State University, who is black. "Even though Bill Farr is a friend, there's just no way to defend what he said.

So my question is...was that comment really that offensive? I mean, it clearly was offensive from a comedy standpoint. It's not funny.

But is it really "atrocious?" I mean, Obama is black, right? And it's called The White House. Is it really that stunning to point out that nothing but white men have run said house?

I don't know...it just seems like some pretty alarmist P.C. reactions to me. Is it just because it's from some white rancher that said it (that's rhetorical; I know that is exactly why)?

Say what you think in the comments. Maybe I'm way off here...let me know.

*Is the name "Hank" pretty hilarious for a University president? Especially a University who tries to act awfully pretentious? I mean, isn't Hank a shift manager at a foundry somewhere? At least NU's president goes by Harvey, I'm sure in honor of noted superhero attorney Harvey Birdman.

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As a Man who is Black, I was not particularly offended by the comments. He should have included Hilary and asked if they would paint it pink. Then the whole crowd would have erupted.
It is probably inappropriate. No more, no less. Hardly worth the reaction it got.

And an awful joke.
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I agree, it's inappropriate yet fairly minor on the whole.

For illustrative purposes, here's what your average academic in Boulder probably thinks (and I probably agree with):

< academia >The guy thought he was telling a joke about paint colors but the joke he really told effectively singled out Obama for his race while implying that Obama, as a black man, would be a scary departure from our glorious tradition.

It's sort of like the Fuzzy Zoeller comments about Tiger Woods. Not only does it create a distinction between an implied and understood "us" and an "other", it suggests that other is something to be feared insomuch as it will disrupt traditions and remove power from those who've held it (i.e. "us", i.e. white people).

Rather than celebrating Obama's historic ascent, jokes like this imply that his election would not be a step up for minorities but a step back for white people. It's a less direct way of saying that such a victory would be a win for the uncivilized over the civilized than saying Tiger Woods wants to serve fried chicken, but it relies on the same stereotypes and fears.< /academia >

English grad school! Catch the fever!
Yikes. Just remembered why I hate academia, and am not wondering why I voluntarily entered back into it.

That said, if you look at it from that angle, then yes, I can see it being offensive.

And if you are honest with yourself, it probably did have that "spirit" behind the "joke."

So I recant. It certainly was inappropriate, and not just from a comedy aspect.
And the award for best usage of the word "insomuch" goes to *drumroll*...a. peterson! Congratulations a. peterson here's your lifetime supply of turtle wax!
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