Mike Kueber's Blog

December 12, 2014

Racially insensitive?

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice,Media — Mike Kueber @ 10:53 am
Tags: , ,

This morning I woke up to an article in USA Today charging two Hollywood types with “racially insensitive emails about President Obama” that were hacked and then published by Buzzfeed.  According to the article, producer Pascal was planning to attend an Obama fundraiser, and she joked in an email exchange with fellow producer Rudin about asking Obama at the fundraiser whether he enjoyed a particular movie, and they exchanged suggestions for various black-themed movies – Django Unchained, 12 Years a Slave, The Butler, Ride Along, and Think Like a Man.

The joking (some articles called is mocking) seems benign to me. Although it has some similarity to Fuzzy Zoeller’s infamous comment in 1997 about the prospect of Tiger Woods designating fried chicken as the main course for next year’s Masters’ Champion’s Dinner, there is a big difference between (a) associating a person with low-brow fare (the Washington Post recently apologized for jokingly connecting Julian Castro with fajitas) and (b) suggesting that a black president might be inclined to be interested in black-themed movies.

And it seems totally inaccurate to characterize this joking as racist, as the NY Daily News did. The NY Times probably got in right in calling the emails, “Embarrassing, racially tinged.”

Of course, this story wouldn’t be complete until we have heard from the so-called race hustlers. (As defined by Urban Dictionary, race hustler is “a term coined to describe those individuals of a particular race who project themselves into the media spotlight as spokespersons whenever there is an alleged racial incident which involves their race. The use of the word implies that these individuals exploit a racial situation to serve their own interests.” The Times concluded its article with the following:

  • Also on Thursday, the Rev. Al Sharpton, in a statement, condemned the exchange between Ms. Pascal and Mr. Rudin as “offensive, insulting” and took further aim at Ms. Pascal, saying her comments reflected a “troubling” lack of diversity at her studio and others.

Sounds like Pascal and Rudin can buy their peace with Sharpton by spending some money on affirmative action for African-Americans. Kind of reminds me of medieval Catholics and indulgences.

Sharpton’s full statement reads as follows:

The statements in the leaked emails by Sony Pictures Co-Chairman Amy Pascal to producer Scott Rudin are offensive, insulting and should be denounced in the harshest terms.

 What is most troubling about these statements is that they reflect a continued lack of diversity in positions of power in major Hollywood studios. The statements clearly show how comfortable major studio powers are with racial language and marginalization. Her apology is not enough there must be moves by her studio and others to respect the African American community and reflect that respect in their hiring and business practices.

She should meet with Black leaders immediately to deal with the gravity of her statements as well as the inequality of how they do business. I have asked Rev. KW Tulloss of National Action Network’s Los Angeles Chapter to convene an emergency meeting to weigh further actions in this area.

These emails nominate Amy Pascal to be considered by some of us in the same light that we concluded and moved on the ownership of Donald Sterling of the L.A. Clippers.”

-Reverend Al Sharpton, President, National Action Network

 

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