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“President Obama” kicks open a door in a doctored video from <i>The Tonight Show with Jay Leno</i>.
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“President Obama” kicks open a door in a doctored video from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Microaggressions and macroheadaches

Culture

Have you read the latest looking-for-racism-under-rocks news? The word “racism,” like the word “marriage,” has been redefined to the point of absurdity. Last October, college student Brian Farnan emailed animated GIF of President Barack Obama supposedly kicking open a door in frustration after a press conference (see below; the scene came from an obviously doctored video featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last year). We’re all familiar with racial oversensitivity: After another student complained, the school’s Equity Committee investigated.

obamakickopendoorgif.gif

Farnan was then forced/coerced/advised/persuaded to apologize. He said the image was intended to reflect the way students felt about midterm exams, but he cited the school’s equity policy and apparently agreed with the committee’s recommendation:

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“Oppression … means the exercise of power by a group of people over another group of people with specific consideration of cultural, historical and living legacies. The image in question was an extension of the cultural, historical and living legacy surrounding people of color—particularly young men—being portrayed as violent in contemporary culture and media. By using this particular image of President Obama, I unknowingly perpetuated this living legacy and subsequently allowed a medium of [Society of McGill University]’s communication to become the site of a microaggression; for this, I am deeply sorry.”

The interesting thing about this “controversy” is that it happened in Canada, not the United States. Why is a college in a different country concerned about how their students perceive an American president of any color? Regardless, by Farnan’s own account, his actions weren’t racially motivated, but he caved anyway, invoking the buzzword “microaggression,” which are perceived mostly as small race- or sex-based slights. For example, although blacks are no longer relegated to the back of the bus, “racism” still exists in the form of funny looks or subtle comments.

We’ve long since reached the point where fairness has crossed the line of reasonable to the farcical. Hurt feelings are a personal problem, and offending people—intentional or otherwise—isn’t against the law. Although it would be interesting to know the complaining student’s race, it doesn’t change the fact that going to such lengths for an emailed photo is ridiculous, especially one that wasn’t intended to offend.

Human nature, we’ve all got one. If we look for ways to be offended, we will find them. But we do have the ability to rise above our natures. The main thing I don’t like about “equity” policies is that they treat people like sensitive children who can’t handle themselves. There must be a written policy or unwritten pressure to silence dissent.

In my years of blogging and writing for publications, I’ve offended plenty of people. I’ve always said I’d apologize only if I got the facts wrong. Too many people are pressured to grovel for uttering unpopular opinions. (Public apologies for “offending” make me cringe.) The apology culture has to go. Prostrating ourselves before the PC altar emboldens those who seek to silence dissent.

La Shawn Barber
La Shawn Barber

La Shawn writes about culture, faith, and politics. Her work has appeared in the Christian Research Journal, Christianity Today, the Washington Examiner, and other publications

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