File this under “you’re too sensitive” if you want, but I think people of color notice these types of media mistakes because they reflect, deep-down, America’s lack of evolution on the diversity front.
From Gawker a few days ago: an MSNBC reporter described Spike Lee as “uppity” because of his back-and-forth spat with Clint Eastwood over the lack of African American soldiers represented on his two films about the World War II battle for Iwo Jima, “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima.” When Lee’s criticism, which he made when he was at the Cannes Film Festival in May, was published, Eastwood responded that Lee should “shut his face.”
I linked to the Gawker story in my Facebook page, and this morning I got an IM from a friend in New York, Peter V, who said he didn’t get what the fuss was about. “Forgive my ignorance – but is ‘uppity’ a racial slur? I missed that one,” he said.
I thought about it, because I had immediately linked to the Gawker piece, but upon reflection, he was right “uppity” in itself is not an offensive word. It’s the historical context that I was responding to.
“In itself, no,” I replied. “But someone in the national media should know the loaded nature of using the word when referring to a black man…. She may not have meant anything by it, but shame on her. It has hundreds of years of hate and hangings behind it…”
As I explained in a follow-up email, the parallel, for me, is that I grew up hearing the phrase “sneaky Japs” — all my life, from other kids in school, on the playground, at work (back in the day, when workplaces were less enlightened) and elsewhere, from all ages. Continue reading