There’s a story about an editor in Lake Crystal who republished a racist joke in his newspaper. The story is making the rounds — you’ll find it on WCCO and FOX9. Both reprint the joke, which we shan’t do, as it is one of those especially nasty ones that people like to tell when they’re feeling mean, and figure the fact that it’s a joke excuses them. Suffice it to say it trades on stereotyping African-Americans, including taking a potshot at the president. Tom Lyden of FOX9 seems to have driven around Lake Crystal trying to find a black person to respond, but in vain, as the city is 98 percent white. They also note that the joke was lifted intact from the Internet, making the editor a plagiarist, although “[p]lagiarism at this point seems to be the least of the editor’s worries right now.”
FOX9’s site has its own problem. It has a Facebook application at the bottom of the story that tracks responses to the story via the popular social networking site. At this moment, the first response is a call to deport all blacks and Jews, although the commenter doesn’t use the word “blacks,” preferring a racial epithet; the second commenter seems to like that epithet so much, it’s their only response. The third commenter extends the racist joke to include even more stereotypes. Of course, FOX is not responsible for how people on Facebook respond to their story, but it’s a bit of a shock to realize how many people are willing to be blatantly racist — merrily racist, even — on a site that links them with their actual name.
Aren’t they at all concerned about future employers Googling them? Current employers? Co-workers? Their parents and children? It wasn’t that long ago that two students from Duluth mocked a fellow student on the Facebook page, belittling her for being African-American, which led to protests and disciplinary action. But people still don’t seem to realize the Web is not a private conversation. There is, in fact, a site that tracks people on Facebook who use the N-word (and includes the comments, which are often reprehensible so you may want to be cautious about clicking on the link).
The site’s posts around the weekend of 9/11 showed the epithet is often also applied, in a modified form, to Arabs and Muslims, who are the subjects of much hostile and contemptuous discussion. One suspects there has always been a strata of racial and ethnic hostility embedded in U.S. soil, but it’s been unearthed lately. Perhaps it’s that social media have just made it easier to locate messages that would have been shared privately earlier, or perhaps the events of the past few years, including the election of an African-American president, have prickled already existing racial and ethnic tensions, causing outbursts. Perhaps it’s that this sort of hostility is tacitly approved of by certain leaders, or at least not loudly denounced, and so there’s a sort of permission that is assumed, if not stated outright.
Rep. Keith Ellison himself made this case on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” as reported by Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent. His exact quote: “I think there is anxiety and frustration in the country. There are some politicians who believe it’s to their political advantage to identify scapegoats and try to turn Americans on Americans for their own political advantage by pandering to our worst instincts and fears.”
In a related story, Birkey also reports that People for the American Way sent letters to Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty, among five other conservative leaders, asking them to distance themselves from Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association. The group was one of the sponsors of the Values Voter Summit, which featured Bachmann and Pawlenty on the bill. People for the American Way included a bullet-pointed list of statements Fischer has made in regards to Muslims, and it’s a piece of work. Fischer also has said that gay sex is a form of “domestic terrorism”; amazingly, he doesn’t seem to have been engaging in hyperbole — the Daily Dish has the complete quote, and it’s extraordinary.
Of course, it’s not all a world of Facebook comments and inflammatory political rhetoric, thank goodness. We’ll turn to Birkey again, as he also has a story about something called Minnesotans Standing Together: A Multi-faith Prayer Service for Respect. This interfaith service is specifically intended to counter anti-Muslim rhetoric, although Birkey notes that the inclusion of former Gov. Al Quie has ruffled some feathers, as Quie left the Evangelical Lutheran Church and encouraged others to do the same when it began admitting gay and lesbian pastors.
As it happens, the Twin Cities ELCA received three lesbian pastors this past weekend, as reported by Lindsey Seavert of WCCO. The subject is still contentious; Seavert quotes another pastor, who says, “It is complete departure from the Bible. It is a public departure from the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. The ELCA is departing from the rest of the Christian community, officially, that is what is happening.”
As far as we can tell, Bachmann did not distance herself from Fischer this past weekend; she instead looked forward to November, predicting big Republican wins in the forthcoming elections and praising the Tea Party.
Bachmann was on a straw poll at the Values Voter Summit — as a possible candidate for president. According to Pat Kessler of WCCO, Bachmann claims she had asked not to be part of that poll but was unable to get her name removed at the time of her speech. Who was not on the poll? Tim Pawlenty, who claims his name was removed at his request, as he was in Asia for a conference and could not be at the Summit. Kessler references an unnamed source who says Pawlenty was concerned about not doing well in yet another straw poll. Bachmann’s opponent for her congressional seat, Tarryl Clark, is taking advantage of all this, pointing to it as evidence that Bachmann has eyes on the White House. “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck,” Clark claims, “Michele Bachmann is considering running for President.”
Pawlenty is back in Minnesota after his weeklong trade trip, and as the Associated Press reports, he’s back to campaigning, helping raise money for GOP gubernatorial nominee Scott Walker. In the meanwhile, in Minnesota, Ramsey County only has 16 emergency shelter beds for homeless youth, who are estimated to number about 600; “For poor,” the Star Tribune reports, “health care at extremes”; WCCO reports that 10 percent of Minnesotans lack health care insurance altogether; and the housing crisis in Minnesota reached some sort of symbolic nadir when Minnesota Sen. Mee Moua revealed that her parents’ house, where she rented, was foreclosed.
In arts: The Star Tribune’s Rohan Preston profiled “the power trio” that collaborated to bring “The Master Butcher’s Singing Club” to the stage at the Guthrie. Specifically, these are director Francesca Zambello, playwright Marsha Norman and novelist Louise Erdrich, upon whose book the play is based. The book addresses, in part, the massacre at Wounded Knee, in which 150 Lakota men, women and children were killed by the 7th Cavalry Regiment in 1890. Erdrich has this to say about writing fiction based on history: “Our history books are expurgated and cleaned up,” she tells Preston, arguing that a job of authors of fiction is “to talk about the true history of our country … a history of dispossession, slavery and denial of women’s rights.”
In sports: It’s been a good year for the Twins, as Karla Hult of KARE11 reports. 3.2 million fans have attended Twins games, which is the most in decades. Hult interviews one fan who says, “I’m a hooter and hollerer. So I want to come down here and make some noise and support the team.”