Friday, December 20, 2013

Yes, Mr. Robertson, There Are Consequences for Hate Speech

Let's be clear about the facts. Phil Robertson, the bearded patriarch of Duck Dynasty fame did not simply declare homosexuality to be a sin or against the Bible's teachings. Robertson condemned homosexuality as a perversion, a step on the slippery slope to bestiality. Robertson expressed a hatred and condemnation for gay people in vile and filthy language that reflects the garbage that rumbles around in his head.

Two examples from his GQ interview:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man’s anus," Robertson told GQ. "That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine," he later added. “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

The A&E network has responded to Robertson's declarations by suspending him from his television show on that network, Duck Dynasty. Conservatives and some Christian groups are crying foul and insisting that Robertson's first amendment rights have been violated.

Freedom of speech and the first amendment have nothing to do with Robertson's suspension. The 1st amendment prohibits the government from restricting speech (note, even that prohibition isn't absolute, there are types of speech that can be regulated by the government). The first amendment protects us from laws being made that restrict freedom of the press, of religion, and of speech. However, it doesn't protect us from all the consequences of making ignorant and bigoted commentary. The government didn't do anything to Robertson; his employer did.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. --U.S. Constitution
The A&E network isn't the government nor an agency of the government, and like any employer, unless there is an employment contract to the contrary, can suspend or fire an employee at will. The big exception is that an employer can't fire someone for discriminatory reasons if it can be shown that the individual belongs to a protected class as defined by law and the rational for the dismissal is directly linked to the person's status as a member of a protected class.

Bigots aren't a protected class and A&E consider Robertson to be bad for business. There are consequences for expressing your views. He can continue to express them but I'm not losing a bit of sleep because A&E said, "Not on this network!"

Of course, there are those who declare suspending Robertson is another prong in the liberal anti-Christian movement. After all, the man was quoting the Bible and he has a right to do so.

Except, Robertson isn't quoting the Bible. There are only seven references in the Bible that appear to be about homosexuality and Robertson quoted none of them. Just making up crap and attributing it to the Bible doesn't make it about Christianity. Robertson did not quote the Bible, he interpreted the Bible according to his understanding and beliefs.

I have a Bible quote for Robertson, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Matthew 7:1 (KJV)

Here's a more conservative view of the Bible's statements on homosexuality; still only seven references and nothing even remotely echoing Robertson's alleged Bible quoting tirade.

We live in a country of at-will employment laws. Employers can fire employees for no reason, for cause, for anything that is not prohibited discrimination under the law. Robertson stuck his foot in it.

By the way, Robertson's anti-gay bigotry has caught so much attention that his comments on race have been ignored. Please note, that according to GQ, Robertson volunteered much of the controversial information in the interview. He wasn't asked about his views on homosexuality or race.
Phil On Growing Up in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana:
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
Maybe during his suspension, Robertson will have time to visit some of those happy black people with whom he worked, and sing a few songs. I'm certain they're also longing for the good old days, pre-entitlement and pre-welfare.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My Santa Claus Is a Dead Ringer for Barry White

My Santa
Okay folks, let's reconnect with reality. I've been reading some odd comments on Facebook regarding Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly's assertion that Santa Claus and Jesus are white and everybody knows it. 
For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we're just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.--Megyn Kelly
Kelly was responding to an article by Aisha Harris, a black writer, who proposes that in an America that is culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse, perhaps it is time that Santa's image as an old white guy gets a makeover. 

Most of you appear to think Megyn Kelly is a flake, but I've read these lengthy discussions in which people dismiss Kelly as a nitwit but engage in serious debate that Santa is white or that there's no reason to mess with Santa's traditional appearance (white, fat, bearded guy).  

Kelly is a twit, but her assertion of the whiteness of a fantasy figure does reflect white privilege at its overblown best, as do some of the comments that I've read on Facebook. As Santa is not real, he can be any color that we like, including purple with green polka dots and red stripes. So why should a little black child have to imagine that Santa Claus is white? I have more than one black Santa in my house. My favorite does a sassy dance to "Jingle Bell Rock." Declaring that Santa is white is just as nonsensical as declaring that the Easter Bunny is a white rabbit and everyone knows it. 

We can adapt folklore and legend to reflect our own cultural identity. One of the biggest misunderstandings that I frequently encounter when it comes to white people interacting with black people is a failure by so many whites to step into the shoes of being black in a culture which has consistently and traditionally devalued blackness. 

Imagine living in a country in which you see nothing that reflects your image. When I was a child, I remember very clearly the first time I saw a black doll in a store, a pretty black doll with brown skin and brown eyes and curly hair. I also remember having to reach adulthood before black dolls with kinky hair like mine became available. Our mother brought black dolls for me and my sister after we first spotted them in the store and I was in love with that bundle of plastic parts because she looked like me.

Oh Megyn look, I have a black angel!!

Megyn Kelly's assertion was thoughtless and arrogant. However, I would never waste my time trying to explain that to her because she wouldn't get it and I would only end up frustrating myself. I am sharing this with you dear readers because I believe that some of you, a lot of you, will listen to what I am saying and truly hear me. That's all that I ask. Step out of your comfort zone and try to understand why I've taken the time to write about a fantasy man who exists only in the imaginations of children. 

I also noticed that quite a few people seemed a bit confused as to the origins of Santa so I've provided a bit of clarity on that topic.

1. Santa Claus is not real (if you're under the age of 10, I'm sorry.)

2. Santa is a fantasy figure cobbled together out of Nordic, Scandinavian, Turkish, Greek, and Germanic (includes English and Old English) cultures. The Catholic church does not recognize Santa Claus as a saint. There was a 4th century Christian Bishop, St. Nicholas of Myra who contributed to the concept of Santa Claus, but he is not Santa Claus.

3. In addition to St. Nicholas, Santa Claus is a mixture of the Norse God Odin, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, and Christian beliefs in the Christ Child. The essential quality of the benevolent figure was as a gift-giver to children.

4. The image of Santa as the jolly guy in red with reindeer and a house at the North Pole emerged in the 19th century based on the poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas (aka The Night before Christmas) by Clement C. Moore. Cartoonist Thomas Nast solidified Moore's description of Santa in an illustration for Harper's Weekly in 1863. Note, this image of a large white man with a beard and a bunch of elves is an American concept fabricated from old legends by Clement in his poem and Nast in his drawings. 

5. I repeat, Santa is not real. The fantasy figure reflects American and European cultural norms, he is therefore depicted as white. The growth of media has made the image available worldwide but do not arrogantly presume that Santa Claus is eagerly awaited by children all around the world. Different cultures have different images of the gift giver. American traditions are not the traditions of the world. Santa does not fly around the world on Christmas Eve.

If you want more information on the origins of Santa Claus, follow this link to an informative history.