10/29/03 – The Modern Double Standard

Remember when “double standard” was a bad thing? If you applied a different yardstick for success or recognition among different members of a group, you were castigated at the very least and more likely vilified. We’ve come a long way. Because the “double standard” issue has been turned on its head.

It seems that in 2003 it is not only expected but it is imperative that double standards are applied to situations where an individual says something stupid or potentially hurtful or something that someone somewhere might take offense to. Here are the rules:

    If the speaker is a woman or a minority, then the remark cannot be taken to be hurtful or offensive because that would be judgmental toward the woman or the minority individual. Even to suggest some negative connotation to such a remark demonstrates the questioner’s stature as a troglodyte.

    If the woman or minority happens to say something that might offend another woman or another minority, then it is a toss-up because there are imputed rights to say offensive things with impunity and imputed rights to take offense at anything said or written and thereby to be entitled to an apology and punishment for the remark(s).

    If the speaker is a Caucasian male, then the statement is hurtful, spiteful, offensive, stupid and intentional by axiom. The only question left in doubt is the severity of the punishment to be meted out.

And so I will go where angels fear to tread. I think that women and minorities can say things – intentionally and/or accidentally – that are just as offensive and racist and demeaning as anything that a Caucasian male can say. Before anyone gets all exercised about that statement and prepares to send me off a scathing rebuttal or some kind of expositive writing to enlighten me, consider that if you disagree with me you have just admitted that there is something that a woman or a minority cannot do to the degree a Caucasian male can do it. That is not a horse that anyone – especially I – wants to let out of the barn.

Recently Warren Sapp called NFL Commissioner Tagliabue a “slave master” when the league stepped in and prevented any kind of “confrontation” between Sapp and LaVarr Arrington prior to the Bucs’/Redskins’ game. The remarks were characterized as emotional and something that came from deep within Sapp’s core being. Some people said that it was important to understand where Sapp was coming from in making that remark and that one needed to take it figuratively in some kind of context and not literally.

Oh really?? Turn that remark on its end and imagine that Paul Tagliabue in some conversational gambit referred to Warren Sapp as his 99th field slave. Even without a sniff of the use of the “n-word”, Paul Tagliabue would be roasted, scorned and vilified for being so insensitive and provocative. Don’t tell me he wouldn’t because Marge Schott said something very similar to this – only she did use the “n-word” – regarding Dave Parker and she was sent off to sensitivity training for that. Oh yeah, “sensitivity training” sounds so much nicer than “brain washing” or “thought police” doesn’t it?

Recently, Junior Seau said the best way to stop Chargers’ running back LaDanian Tomlinson was to fill him up with fried chicken and watermelon. But that remark is defined to be humorous and affectionate because Seau is one of Tomlinson’s buds. And of course, Junior Seau as a minority male cannot be deemed to be intentionally offensive to another minority individual. If I tried to make that case, I’d be told that I just don’t understand…

OK, so how is this so different from Fuzzy Zoeller saying that he hopes Tiger Woods does not ask for chicken and collard greens at the Masters’ Champions’ Dinner? If you recall, Zoeller was pilloried for that remark. Even if it were intended as a joke – which is what he claimed – black people took it as an offensive remark and therefore it had to be offensive. Because it was offensive by definition, it therefore had to have a basis in some kind of racial unrest within Zoeller. There was a whole lot of mind-reading going on there.

Excuse me, but if I am not allowed to be able to read Warren Sapp’s mind or Junior Seau’s mind to determine with certainty what their motivations are, then no one of any gender, race or ethnic background is going to be deemed able to read my mind about anything I might say or write. And that should go for everyone. That is what equality is all about.

Remember when Bob Ryan got a month’s suspension without pay from the Boston Globe and from ESPN because he said that he thought Joumanna Kidd ought to be smacked. Not a good thing to say, to be sure. And he paid for it.

Recently the wife of the Governor of Maryland – speaking at some event related to domestic abuse prevention no less – said that she would like to shoot Brittany Spears. Excuse me? In my perverted corner of the universe, shooting is even worse than slapping. Did Mrs. Governor get a month off without pay? Not exactly. A couple of days later, she was having everyone gush over her because she is preggers. Now if I were to suggest that her absolutely outrageous and uncalled for remark – might it even be called “assault”? – was due to her unbalanced hormonal state at the time, I’d be called a callous pig. All right; if that’s not the case, then why did she say something so stupid? Is that “just part of her nature” that I don’t understand? If so, then “stupid” must occupy a significant part of her inner being.

Here is the deal, folks. If equality is the objective, then the consequences for similar stupid transgressions should be similar. And they are not.

If the mere fact that someone somewhere expresses offense at some remark makes that remark something that is worthy of punishment for the speaker/writer, then the right to be offended must be open to everyone. And let me tell you that when Warren Sapp refers to “slave masters”, I am offended. Not a whole lot, but I am offended. And so he is guilty and needs to suffer public scorn similar to that suffered by John Rocker. I won’t hold my breath.

What I find very interesting is that Black people have not been public in their criticism of Sapp for his comments. Now I admit that I don’t understand the nuances of Black culture, but it would seem to me that people who can trace a family lineage to slaves – as can many Black people in the US today – would wonder how “slavery” applies a guy that makes $5M a year doing what he has chosen to do in his life in a circumstance that would allow him to leave that undertaking any damned time he chooses to do so. I wasn’t ever a slave and neither were any of my family members but from my study of US history in school, I don’t think any of those conditions applied to the slaves on the plantations.

Oh, I keep forgetting. I’m incapable of understanding…

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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