October 30, 2016

The Prejudices Come Out At Halloween

On Halloween adults can pretend to be someone other than who they are: a splendid cover for deniability of one's true self though, if but for one night, it is on display.

"I wrote an article for Time.com on the idiocy of being offended by Halloween costumes, which we all know will inevitably happen," Jim Norton posted on his social media page. 

On a thread sharing Norton's post, Tricia Montes replied, "Let's think about this: Jim Norton says that people should be permitted to wear ill-advised costumes (and in most cases, nobody is stopping them) and learn from the embarrassment of doing so, but he says that right after chastising people precisely for calling out and embarrassing those people. How are they supposed to be embarrassed and learn from it if nobody points out that wearing blackface is some racist, hateful shit? He gives some examples--some real, some made up in his fevered imagination, of people taking things too far, but I can't even pay attention to that when he's already contradicting himself and basically said that people shouldn't even point out that someone is being an asshole, which we should all do."

Norton didn't recognize the idiocy in the impossibility of his own recommendation!

"However, there is a line," I replied on that thread containing Michael McGuire's contention that "nothing is sacred." And, importantly, I added, an individual's choice of "comedy," "satire," or choice of costume speaks to that person's personal values and beliefs. These are performative ways to voice those closely held ideas and prejudices.

Let's be clear, it is inaccurate to believe or claim such acts arise in a vacuum.

Fact is, not everyone agrees that nothing is scared in comedy and costumes. Hara Kiri magazine, e.g., was banned for mocking the death of former French President Charles de Gaulle. France didn't think it was funny. In 1970, Hara Kiri remade itself to become Charlie Hebdo.

We are all too happy to hand carte blanche free speech privileges to folk as long as we are not the butt of their "jokes." But what if that costume was of a deceased loved one of your own: you mother, wife, husband, or your child. Would you join in the fun of mocking them and making light of your huge loss?

Would it be fair that people expect survivors of the deceased to not "be too sensitive" about this, as Norton said?

McGuire stated that the Irish laugh at funerals. That may be true, but there are some things the surviving family would not find funny. Besides, Imma go out on a pretty sturdy limb and bet that the Irish tradition of laughing at funerals is not the same thing as mocking the deceased.

Besides, laughing at funerals is not peculiar to the Irish. I have attended many funerals and have heard laughter at many. But that laughter would have fallen flat if, e.g., the "comedian" mocked the deceased for giving in to their battle with cancer.

Some things are sacred. Period.

What Norton advocates is non-verbal incivility. Its verbal cousin floods televised political discourse today, much to the dismay of multitudes of American citizens, nay, the world.

The sacred exists and there is a line that should not be crossed. What is sacred varies from person to person, culture to culture, and group to group. What American society needs is greater awareness and investment in the kind of sensitivity that makes the world a safe space for everyone, not just the mocking few.

The questions asked by Michael:
How do we draw the line in comedy? What are the things we can't joke about? And who decides?

Michelle Johnson's response was apropos: "Easy. Draw your own line. Just don't bitch when somebody gets in your face about being offended [by what you said or did]. That's my only point--folks can't have it both ways. Do [sic] what they want and then scream political correctness when they get called on it. It's like the N-word. Be the white person who says the N-word. [N]obody's keeping you from doing that. Just deal with the consequences, whether it's a job loss or an ass beating."

Deal with the consequences of your actions, absolutely! If we weren't taught this by our parents at an early age there is still time to learn.

Yet, it is sad that short of economic or physical discipline we, as a society, can't figure out what is offensive and/or demeaning and choose to avoid those things.

Two strange things happened yesterday:

A psychic was the guest on a local radio show. The host asked, "what is the source of all the problems in the world today." She immediately replied, "there are too many people in the world. War is one way reduce populations." The psychic then went on to something else with nary a follow-up question by the host to that bizarre statement. I couldn't help wanting to know who she thought should be eliminated. Certainly not her or her in-group.

Right before that, I was at an event and some were talking about Halloween costumes. I was the only black person there. A young white man said the words "black face" and, I swear, my mind performed some sort of protective intervention, because I never heard his words following that phrase.

That's how traumatic such experiences can be and in most instances are for the brunts of "jokes." The whites engaged in that discussion happily skipped along the conversation for there was no problem at all for them that "black face" even arose at the expense (regardless of purpose or intent) of someone else in the room.

Lawdt, what comes out at Halloween!

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