Last week, we got to see a storm of controversy surrounding the comments made by NBC radio show host Donald Imus - referred to by some as IMESS. The storm of attention revolved around racially charged comments made on Imus' morning show. See the incident here. He called a team of African American Rutgers basketball players "Nappy Headed Hos". I found what he said to be thoughtless and rude and just plain odd. Why would any one say something like that and think it was ok? As calls for Imus' resignation or firing became more furious, I knew that this was something that wasn't going to simply die down. These organizations and businesses were out for blood and they wouldn't take no for an answer. NBC News dropped Imus' show at the end of the week. However, through out the whirlwind of attention that this story received, I was struck by how drastically different the outcome was with this present story and the controversy around what Isaiah Washington did in recent months. In case you forgot, Isaiah referred to a fellow actor as a "faggot" in a heated argument on the set of his show Grey's Anatomy. There were calls for his resignation. There were calls for Isaiah to quit the show. He acted in a hateful and vicious manner just as Imus' did. ABC had a choice on whether or not to fire him. Instead of losing the actor from the show (and hurt their ratings) they kept him on and had him go to rehab. Rehab? This is ludicrous. It's proof that in America you can call someone a faggot and not worry about any repercussions. Why the double standard? Why is it ok to sweep homophobia under the rug and ignore that it exists? This really troubled me. As a gay man, I'm not asking for MORE rights or MORE privileges. I'm asking for EQUAL rights and EQUAL privileges. I'm expecting the same level of understanding, protection and dignity that any other American (or Human) deserves. While reading the New York Times online, I came across an editorial piece by Harvey Fierstein. Harvey is a well known character actor who lives and works in New York. The article is Harvey's take on the Imus' controversy and the twisted way in which one issue is treated compared to the next. His views, in my opinion, are spot on. He nails it. Take a moment to read what he had to say and tell me if you don't agree.
"Our Prejudices, Ourselves" AMERICA is watching Don Imus's self-immolation in a state of shock and awe. And I'm watching America with wry amusement.
Since I'm a second-class citizen -- a gay man -- my seats for the ballgame of American discourse are way back in the bleachers. I don't have to wait long for a shock jock or stand-up comedian to slip up with hateful epithets aimed at me and mine. Hate speak against homosexuals is as commonplace as spam. It's daily traffic for those who profess themselves to be regular Joes, men of God, public servants who live off my tax dollars, as well as any number of celebrities.
In fact, I get a good chuckle whenever someone refers to "the media" as an agent of "the gay agenda." There are entire channels, like Spike TV, that couldn't fill an hour of programming if required to remove their sexist and homophobic content. We've got a president and a large part of Congress willing to change the Constitution so they can deprive of us our rights because they feel we are not "normal."
So I'm used to catching foul balls up here in the cheap seats. What I am really enjoying is watching the rest of you act as if you had no idea that prejudice was alive and well in your hearts and minds.
For the past two decades political correctness has been derided as a surrender to thin-skinned, humorless, uptight oversensitive sissies. Well, you anti-politically correct people have won the battle, and we're all now feasting on the spoils of your victory. During the last few months alone we've had a few comedians spout racism, a basketball coach put forth anti-Semitism and several high-profile spoutings of anti-gay epithets.
What surprises me, I guess, is how choosy the anti-P.C. crowd is about which hate speech it will not tolerate. Sure, there were voices of protest when the TV actor Isaiah Washington called a gay colleague a "faggot." But corporate America didn't pull its advertising from "Grey's Anatomy," as it did with Mr. Imus, did it? And when Ann Coulter likewise tagged a presidential candidate last month, she paid no real price.
In fact, when Bill Maher discussed Ms. Coulter's remarks on his HBO show, he repeated the slur no fewer than four times himself; each mention, I must note, solicited a laugh from his audience. No one called for any sort of apology from him. (Well, actually, I did, so the following week he only used it once.)
Face it, if a Pentagon general, his salary paid with my tax dollars, can label homosexual acts as "immoral" without a call for his dismissal, who are the moral high and mighty kidding?
Our nation, historically bursting with generosity toward strangers, remains remarkably unkind toward its own. Just under our gleaming patina of inclusiveness, we harbor corroding guts. America, I tell you that it doesn't matter how many times you brush your teeth. If your insides are rotting your breath will stink. So, how do you people choose which hate to embrace, which to forgive with a wink and a week in rehab, and which to protest? Where's my copy of that rule book?
Let me cite a non-volatile example of how prejudice can cohabit unchecked with good intentions. I am a huge fan of David Letterman's. I watch the opening of his show a couple of times a week and have done so for decades. Without fail, in his opening monologue or skit Mr. Letterman makes a joke about someone being fat. I kid you not. Will that destroy our nation? Should he be fired or lose his sponsors? Obviously not.
But I think that there is something deeper going on at the Letterman studio than coincidence. And, as I've said, I cite this example simply to illustrate that all kinds of prejudice exist in the human heart. Some are harmless. Some not so harmless. But we need to understand who we are if we wish to change. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess to not only being a gay American, but also a fat one. Yes, I'm a double winner.)
I urge you to look around, or better yet, listen around and become aware of the prejudice in everyday life. We are so surrounded by expressions of intolerance that I am in shock and awe that anyone noticed all these recent high-profile instances. Still, I'm gladdened because our no longer being deaf to them may signal their eventual eradication.
The real point is that you cannot harbor malice toward others and then cry foul when someone displays intolerance against you. Prejudice tolerated is intolerance encouraged. Rise up in righteousness when you witness the words and deeds of hate, but only if you are willing to rise up against them all, including your own. Otherwise suffer the slings and arrows of disrespect silently. - Harvey Fierstein.