Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Double standards

Conservatives love to complain about double standards in the media, and sometimes it’s just whining and then every once and a while something comes along that makes you think they’ve got a point.

Sandra Bernhard, in a performance her one-woman show in Washington, D.C., last week said that Sarah Palin would be “gang-raped by my big black brothers” if she tried to campaign in New York city.

Hmmm. OK, let’s admit that Sandra Bernhard is an “edgy” comedienne and that she makes a living by provoking and that sometimes we need to be provoked and sometimes we even enjoy it. But still. That’s a contemptible remark. There’s no other word for it. Besides the almost pathological level of vituperation toward a mere political candidate, I think if I were a black man living in New York I might wish Bernhard had consulted me before making that claim on my behalf. A joke about black men gang-raping a white woman? You’ve got to be kidding me. Can Sandra Bernhard really get away with that?

When Don Imus made a vapid, offensive crack about “nappy-headed ho’s” he was run out of town on a rail. And the reaction to Bernhard’s remark? “The fact that the show has a few riffs like this does not — to my mind — make it a "disgusting show...," says Ari Roth of Theater J, the venue hosting Bernhard’s show. “We’re proud that she’s a new emblem and ambassador for our theater and our center... her large heart, her generous talent, and her big mouth are all a big part of who we are.”

As for Bernhard, she explained by saying, "I certainly wish Governor Palin no harm. I'd just like her to explain to me how she can hold such outrageous views - and then go back to Alaska."

Well, thanks for that. I’ll leave it to you to judge whether Sarah Palin’s views are more outrageous than Bernhard’s joke. Maybe you can catch Bernhard’s show in Chicago, where the Tribune gave her an extensive admiring profile on the eve of her appearance there. Apparently the consequences for Sandra Bernhard’s career are going to be, if anything, positive.

That’s too bad. It remains a truly appalling remark. Why are liberals, supposedly differentiated from conservatives by their greater compassion and decency, prone to such rants when faced with conservative females or blacks? Maybe because some liberals are shallow thinkers who cannot conceive of women or blacks starting from different assumptions or interpreting the world in a different way. They are outraged when blacks and women don't conform to their expectations of the correct political view. They assume that blacks and women must be liberals or else they're hypocrites and scoundrels. And if you’re a hypocrite or a scoundrel, you are beyond the pale.

I don’t mind Sandra Bernhard being edgy. I just want her held to the same standards as anybody else. Forget Sarah Palin-- if you’re a black man living in New York, Sandra Bernhard owes you an apology.

Sam Reaves

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