Why I Don’t Think Melissa Harris-Perry Should Have Apologized

January 2, 2014  |  

I’m just going to cut left of center to this foul-smelling and rotten minced donkey and elephant meat pie and say that those on the so-called left need to stop apologizing to every single right-wing troll with a straw man argument and a platform to spew it from.

And yes, I’m talking about Melissa Harris-Perry’s apology to Mitt Romney and his family. If you have not been following the story, here’s a recap: According to various published reports, Professor Melissa Harris-Perry, star of her own self-titled show on MSNBC, supposedly made an off-colored joke during an episode of her show this past Sunday. According to published reports, Harris-Perry and a panel of comedians and actors were poking fun at what they deemed to be “photos of the year,” including a picture of former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his extended family, and in particular, his adopted black grandson, Kieran Romney. Actress Pia Glenn, one of the panelists for the episode, quipped that “one of these things is not like the other,” and Harris-Perry would join in on the fun with this ironic prediction: “My goal is that in 2040, the biggest thing of the year will be the marriage between Kieran Romney and North West. Can you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws?” To which comedian Dean Obeidallah, one of the other panelists for the episode, added that the photo “really sums up the diversity of the Republican Party, the RNC. At the convention they find the one black person.”

Some folks, mostly right-wing folks, thought the segment to be distasteful and disrespectful to transracial adoptions, particularly former vice-presidential Republican nominee and total political has-been Sarah Palin, who wrote on her Facebook page:

Leftist media hounds are not expressing an opinion with this attack; they are expressing a prejudice that would never be accepted if it came from anyone else but the lib media.You really need a conscience, yellow journalists. May your 2014 New Year’s Resolution be to find one.”

This coming from a woman, who just a week ago defended Phil Robertson, star of the hillbilly nonsense Duck Dynasty, after he made some very insensitive comments about homosexuals and black folks in a GQ interview. Palin, along with other right-wing blowhards and a large pack of Robertson’s conservative white fan base, cried fowl when Robertson was put on indefinite suspension from the series. Never mind if the comments were offensive and expressive of a prejudice, Palin, among many others on the right, supported him, even when he doubled-down on those comments and refused to apologized. They even led the charge against A&E and other sponsors, who would ultimately rescind their suspension of Robertson. Once they realized they could be losing their cash cow, then it became a matter of exercising and protecting a right to free speech. It is a right that Palin, among many others, now seek to deny to Harris-Perry, a journalist whom you would think would qualify for free speech protection under the most flaky interpretations of the first amendment.

While many on the left applauded Harris-Perry for being a class-act, I found myself a bit perturbed at how easily those on the so-called left allow themselves to be straw manned into an argument contrary to what was actually said. Only a person completely oblivious, or just flat out dismissive (and possibly a closeted racist) to race relations on the right would think that the panel was making fun of white/black adoptions or even Kieran the grandson. I’m sure if it was a photo of the many other white folks with non-white adopted kids, Harris-Perry and her panel would have been fawning over it. Instead, what the panel was obviously making fun of was Romney; a guy, who once was caught on cellphone camera footage talking about the “entitled” 47 percent of Americans likely to vote for President Obama; a guy who was booed at the NAACP convention and afterwards spoke of the incident as just a matter of him hardlining against an audience of those who only vote for President Obama because of “free stuff; a guy, whose own foreign policy advisers allegedly told a reporter that that one of the aims of Romney’s European tour, which he took during the presidential election, was to help strengthen Anglo-Saxon heritage between the United Kingdom and the United States. Romney disavowed that comment, but the Telegraph never retracted (or said they have received a request to retract) it. To me, the joke is about a guy, who a staggering 83 percent of minority voters voted against in the last presidential election.

It also a joke about the right wing of the political spectrum in general, particularly about its inability to appeal to blacks, and the majority of people of color, since the days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Even Republican political strategist and Fox New corespondent Ed Rollins acknowledges that the Republican Party has a color problem, particularly being “too white” to appeal to the country’s changing demographics. In fact, I found Perry’s panel and their jokes to be a lot less distasteful, cringeworthy and certainly less inflammatory than lots of all the exclusionary talk and dog whistles against folks of color and the poor, which often pass as policy on the right, like the Southern Strategy and voter ID laws; the failed attempt to appeal the Affordable Healthcare Act; the support of Stand Your Ground laws; the reduction of food stamps and unemployment benefits, and many other things. And to ignore those big elephant-size elements of the punchline is almost like pointing out reverse racism (which is a myth) when there is actual racism present. Actually, it’s kind of the same thing, isn’t it?

I know that those on the left pride themselves on taking the moral highroad, and I certainly understand the rationale behind all forms of respectable politics, but not when it gets in the way of the truth. That truth is that white folks, particularly those on the right, are in no position to set the boundaries of what is racially funny or inappropriate in this country. The continued capitulation of left wingers in the sake of some false allegiance to the idea that political correctness means civility or even justice and fairness, only seeks to validate what are largely irrational and ironically racist arguments. Furthermore, if the right wing can’t stand on its own principles, particularly as they adhere to constitutional rights for all people to have a freedom of speech, then it’s those folks who need to be apologizing.

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