If This Is Wednesday, It Must Be…

First, Rob has added to the discussion under “Defining My Terms.”

Second, Keg has contributed an interesting, and rather dark, insight to my previous post (“My Master Plan Revealed”).

Third, I have to apologize for this post in advance – not because it is offensive, but because I am giving free publicity to idiocy. I had planned to ignore it, but I’m going to risk granting attention to these individuals because it illustrates an important principle.

Here’s the back story: Recently, a bar in Pittsburgh promoted its midweek special by advertising the event as “Wetback Wednesday.” When several groups and individuals pointed out the undeniable racism of the term, the bar owner insisted that it was all just a joke.

Yes, it’s quite the chiste. I’m sure we all laughed far into the night.

I look forward to Jigaboo Thursdays and Gook Sundays. And I’m sure we can get much more derogatory, all in the interest of a chuckle.

Berkeley Breathed (creator of Bloom County and other comic strips) coined the term “offensensitivity” to connate getting riled up about nothing. That’s certainly a problem in this country, and too often we see people getting incensed about harmless jokes or cutting observations.

But it’s clear that if there are ever grounds for getting somewhat peeved, it’s when a term that exists solely to denigrate a group of people is blithely and proudly displayed in public (to advertise fun and good times, no less). At the very least, it has to actually be funny and/or insightful to be defensible. And really, lazy alliteration with no context beyond “drink here” doesn’t cut it.

So let’s assume, and the proposal seems reasonable to me, that people aren’t being hypersensitive in this case when they object.

As such, there are only three possible ways an individual can explain putting up such a sign:

  1. I am a racist and am being overt about it
  2. I am a racist but know it is socially unacceptable, so I’ll hide behind the lamest joke of all time
  3. I am not a racist and made an honest mistake while trying to be funny

I do not know what was going through the bar owner’s mind when he put the sign up. In the news story, he is identified only as Mark (I’m going to presume that his last name is not Gonzalez). But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he is number three (not a racist).

As such, here is a quick education. “Wetback” is a stunningly insulting word to Hispanics, comparable to the dreaded N-word for blacks (and I notice that this phrase does not have its own nightly drink special at the bar). The chief competition for word most likely to get you thrashed by a Latino is “spic,” which I also highly recommend that you avoid.

Using these words is not edgy or blackly comic or un-PC or a victory for the First Amendment. It’s just idiotic.

When people object to such slurs, they are not (as a mocking sign at the bar later insisted) being “easily offended.”

Rather, they are pointing out that if you’re the majority culture, you already run everything. You don’t get to tell minorities how they should refer to themselves. It’s even dicer to tell them what they should find funny. To scream that this is unfair is, well, pretty damn ironic actually. But it’s still not witty.


3 Responses to “If This Is Wednesday, It Must Be…”

  1. 1 RUG
    March 14, 2008 at 4:37 am

    Did anyone ever hear of a “game” that a student Republican group at NYU tried to have last year (’07)? And before you read on, remember – these are suppose to be intelligent students in probably the most diverse city there is. The game was called “Catch the Illegal Immigrant” and its aim, as said by the College Republicans in the the New York Times article, was to “not to offend, but rather to draw awareness to the issues.” Hummm … lets run around campus and catch the student with the name tag “illegal immigrant” … of course. That would really improve discussion and dialogue on the subject. (Can you sense my sarcasm?!) Oh and to add further injury – the winner gets a prize! According to the NYT article, a member of this group said “… that the event might have been “politically incorrect,” but that it was not racist.” Did these students also fall under explanation no. 3 above, that it was an honest mistake and they are not racist? I guess we can give them the benefit of the doubt as well right? I guess they were misguided students, but should we always excuse this rather than be offended? I agree – we have a right to be offended. A better option for them (and better use of their time, rather than running around campus) would have been to set up a panel discussion with folks who work with illegal immigrants and try to help them. (I would even suggest having some of these immigrants there too, but they would probably be afraid to single themselves out). Have these peoples speak of their experiences, the hardships they escaped and the new ones they go through now so their families can have better lives. This way other students and the community at large understand what these people are about, why they don’t mind taking the crappiest jobs out there because its better (in some sick ways) to what they had back home. That, my friends would greatly improve dialogue on the issue as well as relationships with this group of people that we tend to ignore and avoid – even though they are in front of our faces everywhere.

    Below is the link to the article … scary thing is this “game” was also conducted in Illinois and St. Louis … its sad and ignorant. I don’t think this could be excused as an honest mistake …


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