THE BLOG

Racism and Sexism

05/25/2011 12:25 pm ET
  • Leslie Griffith Journalist in newspaper, radio and television for 25 years

Those who hate America-- and it is a very large contingent-- must be jubilant as they simply prolong the wars while letting Americans and their diatribes against one another -- destroy themselves.

Case in Point: Rosanne Barr. In her on stage tirade this week she used the phrase, "Obama, Osama." When I was in the South recently, I heard this same obscenity used by people I once considered to have pretty good heads on their shoulders. I'm a journalist and I believe in free speech. But when does language go so far it is tantamount to yelling fire in a crowded theatre? I cannot believe anyone who compares a strong, intelligent, articulate presidential candidate to the most renowned terrorist in the world is doing anything but looking for attention at the expense of a country already torn apart.

In the south, in a small Texas town, there stands an oak tree that covers the lawn in front of a plantation style courthouse. On that enormous tree is a plague that reads, "Old hanging tree." Instead of being ashamed of a painful history, it is celebrated. So here is my point.

As some people in this country desperately want to have a "first" in the White House, we cannot throw around incendiary comments that will lead to more racism and more sexism. I covered the Rodney King riots -- I also watched the Anita Hill testimony and covered the O.J. Simpson trial. Remember how black was turned against white and men against women?

As we reach for a historical first in the White House, let's not feed the prejudices of the past. In journalism many put the desire to be first before the responsibility to be accurate. If this is what being first will bring us -- inaccurate, pejorative statements -- then we need to remember this country is broken apart already, and the time for concern about who makes history should perhaps be continued for another episode at another time. Better still, what if the two "firsts" could be unselfish enough to join forces and show the world what kind of selflessness was needed when this once great country was founded.

With two wars in the Middle East, domestic programs in chaos, and our children's futures sold for military might -- igniting racism and sexism could surely push us right over the top into self destruction. There will be no need for terrorists to work to destroy us, we will destroy ourselves.

Final note: Roseanne Barr apologized -- not for the Obama rhyme, but for accusing Oprah Winfrey of not having Hillary on her show. Apparently Hillary was already scheduled.

My, my, my.