Commentary: Who really is racist when Young isn't criticized?
Sen. George Allen, (R-Va.) was caught on tape referring to a campaign worker for his Democratic opponent, James Webb, as a "macaca." The campaign worker, S.R. Sidarth, is East Indian and it was quickly noted that the word "macaca" is considered a...
Sen. George Allen, (R-Va.) was caught on tape referring to a campaign worker for his Democratic opponent, James Webb, as a "macaca." The campaign worker, S.R. Sidarth, is East Indian and it was quickly noted that the word "macaca" is considered a racial slur in some European countries. Macaques are monkeys and, thus, the derivative "macaca" is considered racially insensitive.
Allen said he didn't mean to be offensive and was just joshing with the young man, but The Washington Post twice treated the incident as front-page news and one of their columnists, Eugene Robinson, unburdened himself in 770 words hinting, if not at Allen's supposed racial insensitivity, then his stupidity.
The Daily Show produced a skit from the remark and the liberal Internet blogs have been making jokes at Allen's expense. It will be interesting to watch the reaction of all of these to far more serious and undeniably racist remarks by an icon of the civil rights establishment, Andrew Young.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Sentinel, described on its Web page as, "an African-American owned newspaper that puts emphasis on what concerns the African-American community and its readers," Young was asked if he has concerns about Wal-Mart closing down mom-and-pop stores. Young, who headed an outside support group called Working Families for Wal-Mart to help the discount chain improve its public image, responded, "Well, I think they should; they ran the mom-and-pop stores out of my neighborhood. But you see, these are the people (small stores) who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now its Arabs; very few black people own these stores."
Young, who hit the trifecta of racial insensitivity -- offending three groups at once -- announced Aug. 18 that he is resigning from his position because "I think I was on the verge of becoming part of the controversy and I didn't want to become a distraction from the main issues." Young claimed the report in the newspaper was "misread and misinterpreted." Unlike "macaca," these words don't have to be looked up to find the definition. What's to misread and misinterpret?
Call it a Mel Gibson moment. Nobody ever means these things after they say them and are exposed. It was the booze talking, or the guy was not in his right mind, or he was just making a joke, or he had no idea what the words meant, or that anyone would take offense. And then we usually get the all-encompassing and morally meaningless, "I apologize to anyone who might have been offended."
Some years ago, ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell referred to a speedy running back that had just broken through the opponent's defensive line for a major gain. Excited by the performance of his athletic prowess, Cosell said, "Look at the monkey run." The player was African American and some people tried to turn it into a bigoted statement, though an HBO special showed Cosell using the same phrase to refer to a white athlete.
Speaking of Young's remarks, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said, "If anyone should know that these are words of bigotry, anti-Semitism and prejudice, it's him. I know he apologized, but I would say this ... during his years as a leader of the national civil rights movement, if anyone would utter remarks like this about African Americans his voice would be the first to rise in indignation."
If the mockers, bloggers and columnists who jumped on George Allen don't jump with at least equal fervor on Andrew Young, their political bias is showing. Maybe Allen (and Gibson) can send Young a sympathy card and wait to see if equal opportunity ridicule for Young shows up on Comedy Central.
Cal Thomas' e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .