Racism Is Not Entertainment

*This article is published on CNN.*

Roseanne Barr went too far. And after a ferocious wave of Twitter censure against Barr for a racist tweet — and writer Wanda Sykes’ announcement that she was quitting the show — ABC finally stepped up to do the obvious right thing: cancel its money-making sitcom.

Perhaps Barr could use the rest of the day to attend Starbucks’ racial bias training. The actress and comedian, who has a Twitter following of 667,000 — and until today, a highly rated TV program — appeared to have sensed that this time she went too far when she had tweeted Tuesday morning of Valerie Jarrett: “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”

The blowback caused her to apologize for the tweet about Jarrett — a businesswoman, civic leader and former senior Obama administration official. She also offered a faux apology to Chelsea Clinton, whom she had also abused in a tweet Tuesday, along with George Soros. (Here is that apology: @ChelseaClinton @OpenSociety Sorry to have tweeted incorrect info about you! I Please forgive me! By the way, George Soros is a nazi who turned in his fellow Jews 2 be murdered in German concentration camps & stole their wealth-were you aware of that? But, we all make mistakes, right Chelsea?)

We can’t know what to make of this one famous woman: Her vile and racist tweet storm does not tell us anything we didn’t already know about her. The best we can do here is address what her tweets, and how we respond to them, tell us about ourselves.

What do the hundreds of thousands of followers of her account — on which she spouts Islamophobia and other racism, as well as conspiracy theories, abuse and lies — tell us about our fellow Americans? Our countrymen and women.

The actress’ rant, after all, comes on the heels of several recent high-profile, racially charged incidents, from the arrest of two black men at Starbucks in Philadelphia to Donald Trump’s recent comments offending Native Americans ( “our ancestors trounced an empire, tamed a continent, and triumphed over the worst evils in history. … We are not going to apologize for America.”) and his slams of NFL players over their principled protest during the National Anthem. This is just to name a few.

It is clear that America’s racial wounds and painful history are being prodded on a regular basis — by our leaders, our entertainment icons, our public voices — and in the process it seems we are all becoming desensitized. Unacceptable and blatantly racist language continues to enter the mainstream of our culture and conscience.

This is not OK and we must not accept it. ABC’s actions are a step in the right direction.

It’s easy for some to blame everything on Trump and his presidency: His words and actions allow a kind of pro-“whites only” environment to find pride of place and even flourish today. It’s harder to acknowledge that before Trump, many Americans had an almost innocent, blinkered view of who we are. We believed we were morally intact — high-minded and right-thinking –and as such were proud to be called Americans.

Were we completely deluded? Had we not weeded out over the past 50 years ANY of the deep-rooted issues and complicated history with race? It seems, sometimes — today, for example — that we have come to a point almost overnight where spewing this kind of language is acceptable. Is everything moving backward or is this who America always was?

Whatever the answer — and to say the least, it is complex — we need to at least get back to pretending this kind of racism is not OK. To go back to at least pretending –– for the sake of all of us — that we will not tolerate this kind of language in our society, that we recognize laws against discrimination, along with our laws guaranteeing free speech, but that a society that tolerates racism is not what we choose to be. Pretending, until some real moral leadership comes along.

We need to recognize and call out what is not acceptable. Racism is not entertainment. It is bigotry, plain and simple. Our moral compass and future rest on how we react now, even in the age of Trump.

*This article is published on CNN.*

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