20081121

CONTROVERSY OVER MY PREVIOUS POST

Late last night I published a post titled after the song "California, Here I Come", a story about how often I have moved in my life. Part of the story involved a time where my brother and I constantly sang this song in the car as our family headed out to California to live.

At the end of the post I embedded a video clip from YouTube with Al Jolson singing the song, which he made famous in the movie "Bombo". According to Wikipedia, this song is often considered the unoffical state song of California. To me the song is simply a reminder of a family trip and the lyrics have very strong emotional meaning, particularly now since I am finally moving home to the state I love, California.

I have removed the video and my reasons for doing so follow.

I received a very short and terse e-mail from someone regarding this video stating that they were highly offended at the video of a white man dressed in black face and considered it insulting to the African-American community. They then went on to state that they assumed I didn't know this was insulting because they couldn't believe I would intentionally post that video without regard to my readers.

This person was correct, I would NEVER intentionally post anything offensive to my readers or anyone else. Therefore, I HAVE REMOVED THE VIDEO. However, I feel it necessary to respond to this person's comment because it was an entire misreading of my post and my intentions when I posted the video at the bottom.

First, to assume I was unaware of this particular issue is tantamount to calling me uninformed and unintelligent. I am neither, nor am I insensitive to the issues of discrimination and the struggles of those discriminated against in any form. I only saw this video as a simple piece of film history that had the original version I remember of the song "California Here I Come." and I was possibly naive in believing that all my readers would view it in that context alone.

Second, if you read the post you will see it has to do with my life of constantly moving and it is a nostalgic memoir of my life's trials and tribulations of forever changing homes. Moving is said to be one of the most psychologically stressful events that can occur in a person's life. It's right up there with death of a loved one and serious illness on the stress scale. My post was a celebration of ending my gypsy life and finally getting to go home, the video a way of sharing the song "California, Here I Come" in retro style. Nothing more.

Al Jolson's version of "California Here I Come" was the version I heard as a child. I didn't think of it being offensive to anyone, just the first version of that song I ever heard. It was never my intention to insult any community, I was simply posting the original version of a song I heard in my childhood that became part of a fond memory of a family trip.

Let me repeat, posting the video was not meant to insult anyone, nor was it meant to demean anyone. I most definitely did not post it to offend. That movie clip is part of film history and since my blog is a retro pop culture blog and the post involved that particular song I chose to post it instead of more contemporary versions available. I believed that my readers would see the video as a retro musical moment that spoke to my post about moving home and enjoy the clip from that perspective and not as an insult to any person, race or culture.

I have removed the video because I never want to hurt or offend any of my blog visitors, but I do not apologize for posting the video in the first place because my intent was not to offend but to share the lyrics which have an emotional meaning for me, particularly at this point in my life. I do apologize to anyone that was inadvertently insulted and I am sorry if anyone who read the post took offense where none was intended.

Unfortunately, because of that e-mail I have lost a fond memory that is now tainted with an ugly accusation I believe I did not deserve.

Please read on because I think this is important to us all.

I believe it is time to stop using the big club of political correctness to bully others into doing what we want, to create guilt and to assign responsibility where it does not belong. Maybe posting that video was politically incorrect, but frankly, I am sick to death of "politically incorrect".

Political correctness is just that, political. Political correctness is not the best tool for social change. It does not mean you are changing people's attitudes, you are just stopping them from voicing those attitudes because they are not popular. This does not change the way people think and that is what we need to do, change the way people think.

Don't you believe it's time that we all moved away from the past and looked to the future? We cannot do that if we cannot let go of old offenses, especially ones created by people long gone and buried along with their damaging political and sociological views.

We cannot remove history, we cannot avoid it and we cannot pretend it didn't happen. What we can do is see the mistakes and wrong attitudes of the past for the uninformed, inhumane and incorrect views they were and, hopefully, learn from those mistakes to create a better world for us all.

I welcome all your views and sentiments on this post. I am willing and open to all comments that are informed, intelligent and thoughtful without anger or accusations. It is time for anger and accusations to end and thought provoking conversation to begin - then maybe we can change the world.

13 comments:

  1. Hi Honey,

    I am so sorry that you were misunderstood and hurt in the process.

    You are a bright, intelligent woman, and I know that you had good intentions.

    Hugs,

    Sally

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  2. I took your post in the spirit in which it was intended. We have been following each others blogs for several months and although I don't know you personal, I feel I can speak to the fact that you would not intentionally offend anyone. With that said, I am so jealous about the California move...Can I go?

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  3. Sally - thank you for your kind words. I certainly did have good intentions and no thought to offend anyone.

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  4. Pjazzy - thank you so much and you're right, it's not in my nature to be mean or cruel.

    As for going to California with me - pack your bags and bring on the junk road food!!!! You'll have to share the front seat with Pixel though - there's not going to be any room left after I get it all loaded, lol!

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  5. Well that really bites that your post was so misunderstood. I didn't get a chance to see it before it was taken off but, I can asure you that I wouldn't have taken offense to any of it. Please don't let that guy ruin it for you.

    On another note, California sounds like alot of fun. I wouldn't mind going myself. :o)

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  6. Sarcasm - Thanks! It does suck, huh? LOL.

    I only took the video off the bottom of the post - the post is still in place: California Here I Come and you can still read and comment on my story.

    You want to go too! Crap, I may have to get a bigger van, lol.

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  7. Terri, as I have gotten to know you, I know there’s “not a mean bone in your body,” as my husband also says of me. You are a most loving and caring person, someone I trust implicitly without ever having met you in person.

    As I commented on the original post, I loved the words of California Here I Come. They are very meaningful to me as an adopted Californian of 35 years. It’s not like I didn’t notice Al Jolson in black face, but I was focused on the words/ experience connection. I said to myself, how great that race relations have changed so much since then. Overall, I believe this is true. I could not be more excited over having our first African American President! Even though I do not support hatred of any kind with inclusivity as my ideal, I don’t want to stop watching Gone with the Wind because it has some terrible racial stereotypes or throw out the baby with the bath water when it comes to any cultural icon. How we overcome is to remember where we came from—that’s why we call it overcome—we get over where we came from to get to a better place.

    Admittedly, I am not African American, but I am a person who has “offended easily” much of her life. On that issue, I am a self-proclaimed expert! With time, I learned that I often “read into” things. Ultimately, I found myself a lot happier, by exploring the other person’s intent while giving the benefit of the doubt. This often works best through humor. I might say if I was uncomfortable with something, but I’d be sure to add, “but that’s me.” I discovered something about getting offended easily that I really didn’t like seeing in myself. I realized it was a form of control. It does not create an open atmosphere for other people to share their opinions, views, and true feelings when the sensitive person tends toward intense reactions. Rather than go through the drama, the other person either has to tone down their view/feelings to meet the desires of the offended individual, thus being inauthentic; and when that happens often enough, they can no longer have an honest relationship with that person.

    Each incident is unique, of course, and sometimes an individual is just having a bad day or series of challenges in their lives that influence their perceptions. I believe we have to strike a balance between sensitivity to others’ needs while not abandoning ourselves and our own needs. You can’t change how others perceive things, but we can all work on honest openness to each other’s points of view. That’s how we grow, and if we’re lucky, heal by realizing we are each other—all of one great spirit.

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  8. Joyce, well said. Your comment about getting easily offended being a form of control was very interesting. It could be an indication of a lack of tolerance of other ideas or viewpoints, I never thought about it that way.

    It made me think about my reaction to this e-mail I received. My first reaction was anger and feeling offended myself, but upon reflection I did realize that my posting of that video was not thought through and I immediately removed it.

    My next reaction was hurt that my innocent attempt to share the lyrics of this song was twisted into something ugly.

    The anger I felt has already dissipated, but the hurt will be with me for a very long time.

    Thank you for taking the time to post such an insightful and thoughtful comment. Pardon my pun on your blog title but your comment was a very "cool insight on a hot topic!"

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  9. Dear Terri,

    It saddens and hurts me that you were so misunderstood. Of course, you would never do anything to cause anyone pain in any way.

    I cannot speak to the African American experience and my reference is truly pale by comparison. But I was born a natural blonde and still am (well, not quite so natural at this point). For years and years, dumb blonde jokes have circulated and are totally socially acceptable. Many of my friends make it a point to send them to me because they know I'll get a laugh out of them.

    However, I have other blonde friends who don't find them in the least bit funny and get offended at the pointed humor and reference to the "less than intellectual" attributes of those of us with flaxen colored hair.

    For me, life is just too short to get offended when, obviously, no offense was intended. Although I admit to my own share of human frailties and sometimes do get hurt by silly things, it's one of the very best aspect of being an old broad to no longer "sweat the small stuff" like I used to.

    So, my friend, please know that you have many, many fans and we are behind you. Sending my love and best wishes,
    Eileen

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  10. First - congratulations on going home!

    Now, you are so correct. It is time we stop using the past and all the weapons it offers to bludgeon people into submission. I for one, took your post just as you intended. And no insult to the African American community intended, but you aren't the only people ever to be discriminated against. My father was Slavic by birth, and I have listened to enough "dumb Polack" comments to make me ill! My husband is part Cherokee and my maternal grandmother was Blackfoot. Imagine having to coax your daughter into attending her Thanksgiving school play because she was an Indian and she was ashamed to play that part. Indians are drunken savages after all! And no, Polish people were never slaves. But let my husband sit down and tell you about his family's journey on the Trail of Tears. And when is the last time you actually met a full-blooded Blackfoot Indian? There aren't many left. Does anyone remember what happened to the Native Americans when the "white man" came calling?

    While I do not advocate that we all just forget the past and move on - that would just be an invitation for it to happen again - I do think it's time we stop seeing discrimination and hurtfulness at every turn. It is possible to love a song and honor a performance such as Al Jolson's, without turning it into some sort of political statement.

    You are more "politically correct" than I am I guess, because I would have explained my intent, apologized if anyone misunderstood, and then left the video up and people could choose to continue to read my blog - or not. Isn't freedom of speech and freedom of choice a wonderful thing? God bless America!

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  11. Eileen & Melodieann: Thank you for your comments and your kind words to me.

    I continue to be sorry that something I posted might have caused even a moment of distress to anyone. As I said, it certainly was not my intent to do so. I am not African American and cannot ever speak to their suffering and struggles in a world that has discriminated, and still continues to discriminate, against them. Though this is not an excuse, it did get me to thinking about that old adage of "walk in my shoes".

    We have come far in our efforts to value all peoples and cultures but we have still not come far enough. To think that something I posted would contribute even the tiniest bit to fostering discrimination or furthering a disgusting stereotype gives me great pain and pause for thought.

    Thought I was upset and hurt to be questioned about my intent, and angered at being "chastised" for being insensitive and even racist, that e-mail also gave me a gift - a view through someone else's eyes and a little "walk in someone else's shoes". It pointed out to me that I had been insensitive to how the visuals might affect others because it didn't affect me that way. To me the video was so silly and so old I thought it no longer carried the stigma of racism, in my opinion the world moved beyond this.

    I am now acutely aware that we often make judgments on what is and what isn't important based on our own thoughts, opinions and feelings, without regard for others. This is a very subtle form of discrimination - one I practiced by posting that video. It was also practiced by the person who e-mailed me when they totally ignored my story and the intent of my post and chose only to see what offended them. By only considering my thoughts and and my feelings about the song, nothing else, and not taking the time to see how the video might affect others I made an error in judgment.

    I am not perfect, and this whole episode has brought to light a flaw in myself I didn't know existed (I have a lot of flaws so sometimes a few get lost in the shuffle!). If all this has done anything it has pointed out to me that my opinion is not necessarily the right opinion for everyone and I hope to be more cognizant, insightful and tolerant of other people's thoughts and views in the future.

    As you both mentioned, discrimination comes in a multitude of forms - discrimination against race, culture, body type, sex, hair color, cost of clothing, accent - it's an endless dirty road of pathways which allow those who discriminate to feel superior to someone or anyone else.

    The next time I want to make a remark about how someone looks, how they are dressed, how they talk or how they live their lives, I hope I will stop and think instead about the wonderful uniqueness and qualities they bring to the world.

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  12. Pop Art Diva,

    No thanks are necessary :-D You know I love what you do on your blog. While the topics you present are about good memories of your childhood and adolescence, this was also a very turbulent era historically, eventually giving rise to the Civil Rights Movement of the 50's and 60's. To quote Charles Dickens, "It was the best of times and it was the worst of times".

    Being a child during this era (I was born in 1956) I identify with the good memories you convey on your blog. By the same token I can conceive how someone who does not know you and what your blog is about might feel slighted in some way (I wasn't). I actually liked what Ms. Mason said about how life's challenges or simply having a bad day can affect our perception of an act or event. Sometimes we can read more (or less) into an incident simply because of our disposition at the time.

    Anyhow, you keep your head up and continue to rekindle memories for those of us who enjoy reminiscing about days gone by! I will meet you and Sarcasm on Route 66 and I'll bring the snacks.

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  13. Pjazzy - yes, you and I did grow up in turbulent times - I guess that is a blessing and a curse like the old proverb says, "may you live in interesting times" and we sure have and still are! I mean, wow, our first African-American president!!! How great is that? Honestly, I thought I would not see it in my lifetime and I did, I did!

    Makes me proud of our generation because I feel we had a little something to do with that, don't you?

    Since you're bringing the snacks and meeting me and Sarcasm on Route 66, would you grab a six pack of YooHoos, some crunchy cheetos and a pecan praline for me??? They are my favorite road trip food!

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