Aaron R. Davis
Well, let’s start off the year with a reminder that for all of our yearly talk of endings and new beginnings, nothing really changes.
There’s a racist — excuse me, a man with a right to free speech – named Danny Hafley in Kentucky who has a life-sized Obama doll wearing a suit and holding a watermelon. He’s proudly hung his tacky display by the side of the road, outside of his house, and vehemently insists that this isn’t racism at all; it’s just a joke.
This is the kind of shit I’m sick of engaging with in this country. Some asshole doesn’t mature past the fifth grade, and then angrily defends himself while throwing around terms he clearly doesn’t understand like “joke” or “freedom of speech.” His big excuses are “The way I look at it, it’s freedom of speech” and “If I had a dollar for everyone who stopped and took a picture of it I’d be a millionaire.”
I just want to dissect this stupid bullshit here, and then I’ll go back to ignoring it.
First off, it’s a joke. Okay, sure, if this is the kind of thing you think is funny, which, yeah, makes you kind of a horrible person. But calling it a joke doesn’t erase the fact that it’s racist. Your “joke” is a racist caricature of an African-American man. It doesn’t exist without the racism. If the President was white, would the “joke” of giving him a watermelon slice still work? Of course not. It’s racially motivated because you think racial caricatures are funny because you’re a racist. So your first excuse, that it’s not racism because it’s a joke, is a total failure, because the joke only “works” because of racism.
Second try: it’s “freedom of speech.” Yes, you’re right. It is. You have the freedom to say whatever stupidities you want in this country.
This is something that I wish the Tea Party idiots would get through their heads: we don’t live in a dictatorship. I know it’s always popular for people who extremely oppose the sitting President’s policies to claim tyranny and whatever else, but the fact that you can go out in public or get online and call the President a tyrant and not suddenly disappear means your President is not a tyrant. Most of the people who go right to comparing Presidents to Hitler or Stalin don’t have the strength of character to survive in that kind of political environment. You know how you can tell? Because they think screaming about the President being a dictator is reasonable political discourse.
Seriously, if the biggest tyranny at the hands of a leader you will suffer in your life is a marginal tax increase on top earners — not you, but top earners — then you don’t get to compare your head of state to a guy who exterminated millions of people he found racially undesirable.
So, yes, because we do not live in a dictatorship, we have freedom of speech in this country. Your right to speak cannot be infringed upon. But it’s not a magic shield. What you do not have in the country is the guarantee that whatever you say has to be heard. You can say what you want, but no one is obligated to listen. And when someone doesn’t like what you say, you don’t get protected from being disagreed with. I mean, I have the right to rudely call you an ignorant asshole to your face. That’s also freedom of speech. You can use your free speech to be an arrogant, clueless racist all you want. And I can use my freedom of speech to call you an arrogant, clueless racist, because that’s also freedom of speech. Can I force you to listen to me? Of course not. But I can say it all I want.
Exercise your free expression all you want. Just don’t act like having that freedom is a shield from disagreement, especially if your expression is tasteless and ignorant.
And the third defense: lots of people think it’s funny.
Oh, just shut up, sir. Just because you did something stupid, and other stupid people thought it was funny, that doesn’t make it any less stupid. Anatole France said “If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.” I hate this kind of argument, because it’s something tiresomely dumb people think is enormously clever: well, other people like it, so it must be a good idea. There must be something alright about it in some way.
But you know what? It’s not. It’s racism. It’s just racism. And just because a bunch of other racists think racism is funny doesn’t mean it somehow transcends racism. It just means there are a lot of racists. Big shock, I know.
So, yeah, sure, okay. It’s a joke, but it’s a racist one. It’s freedom of speech, but what you’re saying is racist. Other people think it’s funny, but they’re the kind of people who think racism is inherently funny. Your arguments are rhetorically sound, I guess, but it’s still in defense of racism, because what you did was an expression of childish, immature, completely ignorant racism. It’s weak, it’s lame and it’s disgusting.
And if that’s what you’re proud of, congratulations: you’re not an amateur comedian, you’re a racist. Enjoy your freedom of stupidity.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.