Lately it seems like weâ€™ve been inundated with news stories about racial prejudice from celebrities. Iâ€™m not going to talk about Michael Richards or Mel Gibson; those stories have been covered to death. Iâ€™m more interested in the tales of Michael Irvin and Rosie Oâ€™Donnell, which have received considerably less press.
Michael Irvin, if anyone has not heard, attributed Tony Romoâ€™s recent quarterbacking success to having a little â€œbrother in him.â€ Irvin claims that the comment was made in jest, and it certainly was not delivered with the level of hate shown in Richardsâ€™ diatribe. Regardless, it was a racist comment, and some people were (fairly) offended. A comment that celebrates one raceâ€™s superiority is just as racist as one that berates anotherâ€™s inferiority. And the funny thing about humor is that it often it reveals oneâ€™s underlying feelings. Even though Irvin may not hate white people, his joke does reveal his personal prejudiceâ€”he thinks African-Americans are better athletes.
Does Irvinâ€™s comment offend me? Not really, if only because I donâ€™t take anything Michael Irvin says seriously. Heâ€™s had far too many legal run-ins for me to dignify his comments with respect. From someone else, such a statement might bother me a lot more. What is alarming is how Irvin seems to be receiving a â€œget-out-of-jail-free-cardâ€ compared to what happened to Steve Lyons after his joke about Lou Pinella (quite possibly a less-offensive joke to boot). Lyons was fired; Irvin is keeping his job. Does either of them deserve to be fired? Probably not. But I believe in equal application of the law, and while there is no formal legal statute, whatâ€™s fair is fair. So why is what Irvin said more acceptable, or at least less punishable?
Now letâ€™s consider Rosie Oâ€™Donnell and Kelly Ripa. Again, for anyone not familiar with the story, at one point during Clay Aikenâ€™s guest host stint on â€œLive With Regis and Kellyâ€, the singer put his hand over Ripaâ€™s mouth. Ripa pushed the hand away, saying, â€œI donâ€™t know where that handâ€™s been, honey,â€ a statement for which Oâ€™Donnell ripped Ripa, calling her a homophobe.
On what grounds does Oâ€™Donnell get away with this? Despite what many may think, Aiken is not out of the closet. If you accept him at his word (hence, as straight), then what Ripa said could not in any way be construed as homophobic. Even if Clay is gay, there are a trillion reasons why Ripa might not someone elseâ€™s hand over her mouthâ€”according to Kelly, Clay was shaking hands with everyone in the audience, potentially gathering germs during cold and flu season.
It is Oâ€™Donnell who is prejudging here. She first assumes, rightly or wrongly, that Aiken is gay and secondly assumes that Ripaâ€™s response could only result from homophobia. Assumptions built on top of other assumptions! Tell me, who is the truly biased one in this story? People see what they want to see, they find what they want to find. Why would anyone want to find bigotry other than for a reason to justify being offended?