Observations on the Spanish media and racial controversy in the US: The Spanish media has been running a lot of stories recently on the Don Imus flap and on the German video of a drill instructor inciting recruits to imagine themselves killing blacks in the Bronx. I'm not sure why; neither is exactly important news along the lines of, say, Iraq or Iran.
My opinion is that a lot of people need to calm down a lot regarding what is racist and what is not. Language is racist if it a) calls Group X inferior to Group Y b) calls Group X immoral or evil compared to Group Y c) promotes violence or discrimination against Group X. Language is tasteless if it hurts the feelings of someone whose feelings do not deserve to be hurt.
"Nappy-headed hos" is tasteless but not racist. The Rutgers women's basketball team are young women aged 18-22 who are not public figures and never did anything to deserve such namecalling. Their feelings were justifiably hurt, and their demand for an apology was absolutely correct. However, if Don Imus called Whoopi Goldberg, a rather obnoxious public figure, a "nappy-headed ho," it wouldn't bother me in the least. And if he called Pamela Anderson, another rather obnoxious public figure, a "white trash redneck bottle-blonde ho," it wouldn't bother me either. Actually, the sexism (calling women hos, that is, alleging that they are sexually loose and therefore immoral) is worse than any racism in Imus's words.
The German army drill instructor, however, told the recruits, "Imagine you're in the Bronx and a pickup truck pulls in front of you. Three African-Americans get out and insult your mother. Before each shot I want to hear you yell 'motherfucker' real loud. Fire away."
That's racist because it portrays American blacks as violent criminals, and encourages killing them. As an American, I don't like it, and if I were a black American from the Bronx, I'd be especially pissed off.
Here's La Vanguardia's reaction:
At first glance, this is no more than a tough-guy scene in military training, as could happen in all armies...But in the global era, when caricatures of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper can cause violent protests thousands of kilometers away, as happened last year, nothing is innocuous. This weekend, in Germany, the video was almost unnoticed: some private soldiers saying the wrong thing. But its shock wave--by means of Internet--has reached New York.
So it's no big deal for a sergeant to fire up his recruits by encouraging them to kill black criminals in the Bronx, but it's terrible if Tele Madrid makes a documentary alleging that Spanish is discriminated against in Catalonia.
Cartoon on La Vanguardia's editorial page today: A gentleman says, "So you think that they only manipulate the news and lie about the Spanish language in Catalonia?" The Catalan media will not turn loose the Tele Madrid documentary. They have been stung badly.
Comment: Internet does make it a lot more difficult to get away with telling different things to different audiences, or with saying something outrageous without it getting out. You can't get up on stage in London and say you're ashamed to be from Texas anymore, at least if you don't want to face massive flak when you get back home. I remember seeing a Bob Dylan show in Kansas City in around 1987, and he commented from the stage in his confused manner that Leavenworth Prison was nearby and that "some people are in there for doing good things." Since there was about one newspaper reporter there, the critic from the KC Star, and he didn't mention it in his review, no one ever heard about it. You do that now and fifty people who were there will put it on their blogs and the shit'll hit the fan: "Stoned-Out Dylan Praises Criminal Jailbirds."