Thursday, January 27, 2011

Joan Rivers Calls First Lady "Blackie O.", but is Rivers a Racist?

Joan Rivers showing failed plastic surgery around her mouth and nose.
It is an obviously color-aroused statement (she specifically references the color "black")
and it obviously takes an antagonistic stand with respect to Black people in general.

The Root says Joan Rivers called the First Lady "Blackie O".  Is it "racism" when Joan Rivers goes on the Howard Stern radio show and calls Michelle Obama "Blackie O."?
"We used to have Jackie O," and "now we have Blackie O!" Joan Rivers proclaimed on the Howard Stern radio show today in her commentary about first lady Michelle Obama's style. Rivers said she was going to tell the joke onstage, but held back because she knew it could offend African Americans. But it didn't take much urging from Stern for her to share it on the radio.
While others argue endlessly about that question, I'm going ask a few very different questions:  For example, 'Was Joan Rivers' comment color-aroused?  Did she perceive the color of Michelle Obama's skin and then did that skin color-cue prompt Rivers to make a skin-color aroused insult?  It's obvious that Joan Rivers only made the "joke" and the joke could only have meaning because Michelle Obama's skin is brown.  The joke was color-aroused.

As far as the emotions that aroused and follow the"joke," we really don't know whether they include humor/mirth, anger, envy, and/or some combination of these and other feelings.  What makes one child want to hurt another?

If Rivers or Stern laughed or smiled, I think we can at least identify skin color-aroused mirth and mordant and lacerating humor there.  The humor is not in the eyes of the beholder, but rather in what Rivers experiences as she says things like this, and what all those who laugh and thinks it's funny are feeling, as well as those who feel what they perceive to be Rivers' e.g. anger, bitterness and envy.

As far as the ideation in Joan Rivers' mind, I don't think I need to understand that to realize that Rivers engaged in color-aroused antagonist speech, even at the obvious risk that all Black people who hear of her joke will feel hurt and angry at Rivers while she encourages the public to color-aroused speech, emotions, hate and color-aroused behavior.  I think this gives us some insight into Rivers' mind. How many people is she willing to alienate at one time by her color-aroused behavior? 

Ultimately, I simply don't need to know whether Joan Rivers is "racist" or whether her "joke" is racist.  Her "joke" is an obviously color-aroused statement (she specifically referenced the color "black") and it obviously takes an antagonistic stand with respect to Black people in general.  Joan Rivers committed an act of color-aroused antagonism.

So, is Joan River a "racist" because she has made one color-aroused comment while speaking over the radio to potentially hundreds and thousands of people.  Can you tell whether a book is "racist" by opening it randomly and reading one page?  Can this one statement demonstrate that Rivers believes that there are multiple races within the human species and she is, therefore, a "racist"? 

That approach assumes that a book is not "racist" until and unless a color-aroused antagonist statement is found within it.  It gives the book and the author the benefit of the doubt, even though most Black people do not and cannot give white people the benefit of the doubt.  Does the book have to be "racist" through and through to oppose it's distribution, e.g. to children in school districts, or do we have enough information when we simply demonstrate an instance of color-aroused antagonism within the text?  Should the "Blackie O" statement be republished in a school district simply because it is the only such statement that has been found to date?

Leaving aside the structured analysis of color-aroused ideation, emotion and behavior for a moment, it seems to me that comparing Michelle Obama to Jackie Onassis is a compliment, even if the compliment was intended as lacerating color-aroused insult.  The effect of the joke is to state the obvious.  We've come from being a nation in which Black people couldn't vote we have become a nation in which a Black person becomes President of the Unites states and his Black wife becomes First Lady.  It seems that Rivers may fear and resent that fact (or feel some other complex set of emotions), but she announces the power and reality of change even as she decries it.
Rivers' willingness and/or determination to insult as many Black people as possible at once, while also seeking to arouse color-aroused mirth and anger in her audience, demonstrates that Rivers is prone to public acts of color-aroused antagonist behavior.  That is enough for me to know.  Any person who is prone to public color-aroused antagonist speech ought not hold a position in our government and, to the degree that their speech occurs in public, it is appropriate to take such lawful steps as necessary to assure that the public color-aroused antagonist speech does not occur again.  It is appropriate to demonstrate to her and to others that  making public color-aroused antagonist statements may cause her to lose whatever employment puts her in the public eye.

So now you know:   I don't care if Joan Rivers is a "racist"; it is enough for me to know that she has proved herself to be prone to public color-aroused antagonism and she has proved that she seeks to arouse color-aroused mirth and perhaps anger and resentment among both the Blacks and the whites in her audience.  That makes her dangerous whether she is a "racist" or not.

1 comment:

Alena said...

To use such a phrase means she most definitely is racist. I'm very disappointed to hear that she would degrade the first lady of our country in this way. It speaks volumes of how disrespectful she is of others. I am a caucasian and I would never belittle anyone racially, especially someone like Michelle Obama, who pays a huge price to be the first lady of our country. What a shame!!!