(Opinion) What is media? The literal definition of media is any means used to communicate ideas to the masses. Television, radio, the Internet and news periodicals all fall into the media category. In the United States, the races and ethnic breadown of the masses are as follows; 70 percent White, 13 percent Hispanic, 12 percent Black. Generally speaking, the media communicates ideas that are of importance to, and indicative of, the mindset of the majority. In other words, White folks. So, one has to wonder why all the bewilderment when an agent of the majority mindset states how many in the majority actual feel about minorities.
On Monday, E! Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic took what she considered a light-hearted jab at teenage actress Zendaya Coleman as she graced the red carpet at the 87th Annual Academy Awards. Said Rancic: “I feel that she smells like patchouli oil . . . or weed,” Rancic said during Monday night’s show. “Yeah, maybe weed.”
Her White co-hosts chuckled lightly if not uncomfortably at that comment, but there was already some social media get-back being formulated behind the scenes.
Said Coleman in response; “There’s a fine line between funny and disrespectful.”
“There is already a harsh criticism of African American hair in society without the help of ignorant people who choose to judge others based on the curl of their hair,” she added. “My wearing my hair in locs on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough.”
Since that time, Giuliana Rancic has apologized twice on national television for her faux pas. That apology is keeping in line with those who previously made racist comments that were eventually aired for public consumption. Justin Bieber, Riley Cooper, Lemony Snicket author Daniel Handler, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Atlanta Hawks CEO Danny Ferry, former Sony Pictures President Amy Pascal and former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling are all individuals who found themselves in the midst of a contrived controversy for making statements, jokingly or otherwise, that denigrated a particular racial or ethnic minority. And that's just in the past 12 months.
And, with the exception of Donald Sterling, each of the aforementioned individuals have apologized for, or backed away from, their prior statements. The satisfaction for this writer doesn’t come from the apology, but from the inadvertent admission of personal prejudices and racist viewpoints by White people in a nation that constantly tells minorities that racism and racial prejudices are a figment of our collective imaginations.
You see, the apologies usually come from an angle of denying racism or prejudice were the point of their original statements. However, for me, the fact that each felt comfortable enough to make their statements in the manner that they did is indicative of the pervasiveness of racism in contemporary society and the phenomenon of White privilege as well.
Though there are exceptions, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Charles Rangel (D), I don’t know of anyone,of any race or ethnic background, who would feel comfortable enough to disparage a White person, their hair or smell on national television or in the nationally distributed media unless the purpose of the show was comedy. But White folks do it all the time.
The same day that Rancic made her statements, Fox News reporter Kristi Capel twice used the word “jigaboo” to describe Lady Gaga’s performance. For the unenlightened, jigaboo is a derogatory term used originally during the Reconstruction Era toward freed slaves and throughout the 20th century. One wonders where she picked up a 160 year old word, and how she became comfortable enough to use it in her vocabulary without knowing what it meant.
Though the hosts of Fashion Police are notoriously snarky, they’re usually careful not to push the race or ethnicity button.
However, oftentimes people make mistakes when lulled into a sense of comfort, and Ms. Giuliana likely made her comments in the belief that they were snarky and that a significant portion of society would agree with her “joke”. And she is right in that a great deal of society does agree with her. Unfortunately for her, those people are engaging in racial stereotyping when doing so, just as she was when she opened her mouth.
So, I would personally invite everyone in the media to say exactly what is on their minds so we can fully cut the wheat from the chaff regarding who is racist and who is ignorant. Then, we can proceed down the long road of rooting out racism and racist, as well as educating those who are genuinely ignorant, which can’t be done when people who say racist things feign ignorance to the impact of the things that they say. Rancic may not be a racist, but she sure is ignorant, and ignorance is the very miasma that racism thrives in.