The Local Crank

Musings & Sardonic Commentary on Politics, Religion, Culture & Native American Issues. Bringing you the finest in radioactive screeds since 2002! "The Local Crank" newspaper column is distributed by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.

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Location: Cleburne, Texas, United States

Just a simple Cherokee trial lawyer, Barkman has been forcing his opinions on others in print since, for reasons that passeth understanding, he was an unsuccessful candidate for state representative in 2002. His philosophy: "If people had wanted me to be nice, they should've voted for me."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Absolutely Repulsive

I am constantly amazed, though I probably shouldn't be, at how casually racist attitudes and stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans are publicly displayed, with apparently no social stigma at all. In fact, I had a personal experience with this attitude recently, though it doesn't compare to this loathesome video game "Gun" where one of your missions is to "scalp" Apache. The family and I went out to eat at a Joe's Crab Shack in Fort Worth. Like most soul-less chain restaurants, this one was covered with kitsch decorations. One of them was a sign featuring a Native American (with a feathered headdress because, you know, ALL Indians wear feathered headdresses) and the caption "Me Like Buffalo." Gosh, how clever! I probably wouldn't have even noticed the thing, except my five-year-old pointed it out to me, which really made me feel good. I bit my tongue and didn't say anything, but I couldn't help but think how offended EVERYONE would be if the sign had shown an African American dressed like a Zulu warrior with the caption, "Me Like Watermelon." That wouldn't have lasted five minutes. So why is it that whatever corporate moron mass-purchased these signs thought this was okay? And if you scroll down to the comments on the Gamespot article I linked to, you notice that the vast majority of them are of the "stop whining!" and "don't be so PC" variety common to snotty white boys who are outraged that anyone would ever dare to be offended.
Now, it's true that I have never been, and probably never will be, discriminated against based on my heritage. And I don't want speech codes, I don't want a law passed banning "Chief Wahoo" or the Washington, DC professional football team named for a racist slur. As I have often said, there is no "Freedom from being offended" clause in the Constitution. In fact, the First Amendment virtually GUARANTEES that you are going to be offended, and on a regular basis. But is it too much to hope that these idiots will give some thought to what they are doing before they plaster crap like that sign up where I have to explain it to my kids?



Blogger JLB said...

Indeed - freedom of speech guarantees that we all have to learn to agree to disagree... but I too wish to see more rapid "cultural evolution" with regards to the portrayal and respect of Native Americans (and other peoples)... there has to be a workable line between completely derogatory and PC extremism... or is that being too idealistic?

2/02/2006 10:54 AM  
Blogger The Local Crank said...

We're probably both being idealistic in an age where being deliberately crude and offensive is almost a badge of honor. Incidentally, I noticed you are from Penna. My daddy was born and raised in Fulton County and his family has been there since before the Civil War at least.

2/02/2006 12:17 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

The older I get, the less convinced I become that we should protect every single form of demeaning vulgarity under the banner of "free speech." The fact is, free speech as it was conceived by the framers of the Constitution was nothing more than the right to openly dissent with the government. Then, over the years, the Supreme Court decided to expand that to include every possible form of expression, no matter how offensive or what the intent, with the result that we can no longer even question things like that offensive sign. I reject the logic that unfettered freedom of expression somehow produces a greater good, as John Stuart Mill argued. In fact I think it tends, among other things, to pollute our culture and to demean the true meaning of free speech.

To give you an example that bothers ME, I can't go into a single grocery store or gas station without seeing--often at the checkout--a multitude of magazine covers with mostly naked women in very provocative and obscene poses, wearing copious amounts of makeup and barely even looking human. Now don't get me wrong, I'm no religious prude. I think the female body is a beautiful thing and I have no objection to the right of those magazines to be published, but I can't help but wonder what little girls like my daughter will think when they see these magazines, usually about at their face level at these checkouts. We like to pretend in our modern liberal culture that things like that have no effect, but I absolutely disagree. I think it gives young women (and men for that matter) so many different bad messages about themselves and the human body that it does a great deal of continuing harm to our society as a whole. If it were up to me, those magazines would be (by law if necessary) restricted to the adult sections of magazine racks, high above the reach of children. Is that such a gross restriction of "free speech"? I bet the ACLU and most civil libertarians would think so. They would argue that if you don't like the magazines, don't buy them, without any respect to where they're placed or what subtle effects they might be having on our children. No reasonable discussion on the subject is even possible in our society without someone shrieking about one "right" or the other, much less any reasonable compromise.

2/02/2006 12:44 PM  
Blogger The Local Crank said...

Feminists have made a similar argument about pornography over the years, that the First Amendment was designed to protect political speech only. As I said, I tend to be a Free Speech absolutist, and I guess if I'm going to take the position, I have to accept the negative consequences that go along with it, including cultural pollution like racism being protected.

2/02/2006 4:08 PM  
Anonymous brodyv said...

I'll side with the local crank on being an absolutist, but I'll add a bit of outrage over the Potomac Drainiage Basin Indigenous Persons. To me it's not an issue for government censorship, but rather for the NFL to realize that it's time to make a change. Would we still be ok with the Dallas Krauts, NY Micks, or LA Dagos? Probably not. So why is an Indian racial slur ok?

My feeling about Indian sports team names is usually connected with the level of generality. Utah Utes, Florida Seminoles, Chicago Blackhawks... These names refer to a specific Native American group that has a real history and tradition in the area. "Indians", "Braves", "Redskins"... Those names are so generic the will always lead to stereotypical portrayal.

2/03/2006 12:27 PM  

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