This pisses me off. Parents, take the children out of the room.
One of the unexpected pleasures of writing a blog these last two years has been the opportunity to get to know a few of my fellow bloggers. The first one I became acquainted with was Rick Rottman, a fellow Hagerstowner, who writes the excellent Bent Corner. He is also a regular poster in the forum over at the website of a roll of toilet tissue that masquerades as a newspaper, called the Herald-Mail (I believe I’ve mentioned it before).
Rick emailed me this morning to inform me that he had been suspended from the forum for 48 hours for “racially offensive comments.” The offensive word he used: “Negroes.”
The topic of the thread was the “When Ordering Please Speak English” sign put up by the owner of Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia that has been the subject of controversy off and on since it became national news a few years ago. Another poster, hagopinion, wrote, “My personal opinion is that business owner should be able to refuse service to anyone for any reason. I would have no issue what so ever if a mexican restaurant would request to order in Spanish.”
Rick responded with, “How about a sign that reads ‘No Negroes’?”
Except that isn’t what you will read if you happen to view the thread yourself. “Negroes” has been censored, so that the sentence reads: “How about a sign that reads ‘No N******’?” Reading that sentence, what would your natural conclusion be about the censored word? I know I wouldn’t assume that Rick had said “Negroes,” since “Negroes” is not generally considered a racially offensive term and is never censored. Making matters worse, the moderator added the following notation to the bottom of Rick’s post, and all subsequent posts in the thread which quoted it: “Reason for edit: Edited racially offensive term.”
Give me a fucking break. Here’s the worst part: within minutes of Rick’s post — before the moderator changed “Negroes” to “N******”, someone had responded accusing Rick of racism. Later that afternoon, another post called Rick on “baiting and flaming” the forum. After, apparently, several more people complained, the moderator barred Rick from posting for two days, making it clear to anyone who reads the thread after the fact that he was being punished for making racist comments.
Bullshit. As infuriating as it is to see someone who isn’t a racist get accused of racism, it’s even worse when someone is actually making a statement against racism, but the people he is speaking to are too fucking stupid to realize it. There was nothing racist about Rick’s question. The point being made, which ought to be as obvious to any intelligent person as it was to me at first glance, was that a sign asking for orders in English (because, as the sign also says, “This is America”) is obviously targeted at Mexican customers, and is discriminatory, and should no more be tolerated than signs barring blacks from public places would be today. If we no longer accept prejudice against African Americans, why should we accept it against Mexicans?
You don’t have to agree. Personally, I think the sign at Geno’s is rude and clearly intended to exclude a certain group of people, but if the guy wants to require his customers to order in English, that’s his right. But the point Rick was making is obvious, and noble, and in the service of racial and cultural acceptance — directly contrary to racism. Patton, the forum member who called Rick on his nonexistent racism and encouraged others to complain to the moderator, apparently lacks the rudimentary intelligence to recognize this.
What about a sign that reads “No Negroes”? Fuck, what about a sign that reads “No Niggers”? What about a sign that reads “No Irish”? Or “No Gooks”? Or “No Bitches”? Using bigotted language to strike a blow against bigotry does not make you a bigot.
But Rick didn’t even use bigotted language. He said “Negroes,” which is no longer considered a polite way to refer to African Americans, but is hardly the vulgar epithet which Patton takes it for. And the word being slightly unacceptable only helps to make Rick’s point. He could have used a much harsher word. I would have. He didn’t, maybe because employing a racial slur even to make a point is beneath Rick Rottman; maybe because the words themselves offend him so much, even when used toward positive ends, that he’d rather not hear or say them, ever. The few times I’ve dropped in on the forums, I’ve seen Rick arguing against discrimination of all kinds — racism, sexism, homophobia. He’s not a racist. He, like me, like most decent people, is disgusted by racism. Now he’s been publicly punished, for speaking out against racism.
God help us all if this is the place we’ve come to. The moderator of the Herald-Mail forums, Patton, and everyone else involved in this should be ashamed of themselves. This is childish horseshit and they owe Rick Rottman a public apology.
UPDATE - 2:24 PM: A little less than an hour ago, the moderator who banned Rick from the forums rescinded the punishment and posted the following:
After careful consideration of all the factors involved, and rereading the initial post and the subsequent replies. I have reconsidered my original judgement.
Bentcorner used the term "Negro" and not the other "N-word", for the record.
After researching the term "Negro", it does not appear to have the same connotation that the other "N-word" has. While his post may or may not have had anything to do with the nature of the thread is not being considered. It did not take the post off-topic (anymore than what anyone else has ever done).
Bentcorner has my sincerest apologies for my hasty decision and is hereby reinstated.
Had someone else made the same statement, I doubt there would have been such an outcry for banishment.
That last sentence confirms what I figured all along, that Patton trumped up this whole thing because he has an ax to grind. Grown-ups are supposed to be above this kind of infantile garbage. The moderator did the right thing by cancelling the ban and apologizing to Rick. Now it's Patton's turn.