Dangerous Double Standards on Stereotypes
The reaction predictably was loud and swift from black leaders to Ghettopoly. This is the silly, inane board game that purports to parody Monopoly, and features blacks as gun toting carjacking, crack sniffing pimps, whores, and gangsters. After marches, protests, and the threat of a lawsuit by Hasbro, the maker of Monopoly, the national retail chain, Urban Outfitters withdrew the game from its stores and eBay yanked it from its website.
The roar against the vicious and vile stereotypes in the game is justified. But what if David Chang, a Chinese-American, and the game's creator, had been black. Would black leaders have roared as loudly, or at all? The answer is no.
And here are some examples of that dangerous double standard. The same moment black leaders lambasted Ghettopoly, popular rapper Nelly hit the market with an energy drink called Pimp Juice. This is the same Nelly that the NAACP nominated for an Image Award as this year's top male artist. Worse, some black leaders even claimed that Pimp Juice might spur other young blacks to engage in business. Meanwhile, rapper 50 Cent's album, P.I.M.P., packed with black woman bashing lyrics hovers at the top of the charts. There's no outcry from black leaders. And Columbia Pictures is poised to release the animated film Lil' Pimp.
It chronicles the exploits of a freckle faced white child pimp in an unnamed poor black neighborhood. Acclaimed black entertainers Bernie Mac, Lil' Kim, and Ludacris are among those who do the voice over in the film. Again, there's no outcry from black leaders.
But the classic textbook example of the racial double standard is the big flap over Rush Limbaugh. Black leaders leaped over each other demanding Limbaugh's head for his brain-numb, racially loaded knock that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated and coddled by the media because he was black. But a few months earlier when Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker took much heat from sports writers, talk show hosts, and some ballplayers for his ridiculous, half-cocked quip that black and Latino players play better in the heat than whites, the Reverends Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume were stone silent. Most blacks simply dismissed Baker's remark with a wink, nod, and bemusement. "Hey, that was Dusty just being Dusty."
Presumably that means since Baker has a rep for being outspoken then why get upset, let alone blast him, for a racial jibe.
Jackson and Sharpton regularly spruce up their credentials as black America's racial gatekeepers by demanding the scalp of any public figure (white of course) that blurts out a racially insensitive crack. But that racial double standard is fraught with much danger. The standard assumption is that foot-in-the mouth racial gaffes, or pseudo-science quips by whites about the alleged physical prowess of blacks, especially athletes, reinforce the ancient, but thoroughly discredited racial stereotypes, and they must be swiftly reviled.
In some ways, though, the same quip made by a Baker, or other high-profile blacks, if anything do more to validate racial stereotypes then if it came out of the mouth of a prominent white. When blacks don't protest bigoted remarks by other blacks, racially insulting music by rappers, or popular black entertainers that lend their name to degrading films, they reinforce public belief that there may actually be something to the racial stereotypes. Chang is proof of that. By his own admission, he got his horribly skewed view of black life from watching scantily clad black women and bare-chested gold chain draped black men gyrating wildly on rap videos.
That lack of black protest also fuels the suspicion that blacks, and especially black leaders, are more than willing to play the race card, and call a white a bigot when it serves their interest, but will circle the wagons and defend any black who comes under fire for bigotry or misconduct. Some wayward black public officials and celebrities that are guilty of malfeasance use the racial double standard to their advantage. They scream racism when they are caught doing wrong. They can get away with it because many whites regard blacks as so far outside the political and social pale that they see blacks solely through the prism of a racial monolith. They think that all blacks think, act and sway to the same racial beat. They freely use the bad behavior of the chosen black leader as the standard for dysfunctional, and immoral African-American behavior.
Chang and Limbaugh are the latest to find out the hard way that there's no pass from blacks for whites or non-blacks that trade in racial stereotypes. The pity is that black leaders won't jerk that pass from other blacks that do the same. There's a postscript. Chang says that sales of Ghettopoly have jumped as a result of the controversy.
Controversy pays, and so do stereotypes.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.