Oh, Jesus! The response to
Roseanne Barr’s reprehensible racist rant on twitter was not
only swift but also strong.
Barr, the co-creator and star
of American Broadcasting Companies’ (ABC) number one rated
sitcom “Roseanne” had tweeted: if the “muslim brotherhood &
planet of the apes had a baby = vj.” This reprehensible
anti-black, Islamophobic and misogynist slur was targeted at
Valerie Jarrett, the ultra classy senior advisor to former
president Barack Obama.
Within a matter of only a
couple of hours, ABC’s Channing Dungey, in a thunderous
clapback, personally cancelled the rebooted “Roseanne” show
stating: “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent,
repugnant and inconsistent with our values.”
Evidently, the fact that the
show garnered $45 million in advertising revenue this season
made little difference to Dungey, the first black
entertainment president of a major television network and
also a woman.
Is there a sense of
satisfaction or sweet revenge?
While black women have always
“controlled things” from behind the scenes, many across the
landscape of Black Twitter viewed Dungey’s powerhouse
response to Roseanne Barr as a seminal moment in the rise of
capable black women in powerful public spaces today who are
Yet, while expressions of
racial hostility have increased and are more open during the
current White House administration, which has appeared to
provide green lights through its own words and actions, it
is a mistake to focus only on the vile and viciousness of
For every person like
Roseanne Barr, there are millions of “good-intentioned
whites” who are shocked by her comments and their
condemnation is sincere, but who also perpetuate the same
race-based domination of the past because they do nothing to
confront the dynamics of contemporary racism.
This allows “racism without
racists” to exist and “regular white folks” to distance
themselves from racism, says James B. Duke Distinguished
Professor and sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva of Duke
“It is their ‘killing me
softly’ approach, which explains black and brown poverty,
high unemployment and higher incarceration rates as the
product of their culture or due to seemingly non-racial
market dynamics, that prevents us from moving forward in the
race terrain,” he told me last week before jetting off for a
Memorial Day weekend get away.
“Although racial animus has
increased in Trumpamerica, corporate America has to respond
to consumers who wish to see themselves as ‘beyond race.’
Even most of Trump
supporters claim to be ‘not racist’ and decry comments such
as those of Barr.
That the person (Dungey) at
Disney (which owns ABC), happens to be a black woman, the
fact is that Disney has also been working hard at revamping
its racial image and adding shows and movies (e.g. Black
Panther and Blackish) to signify the change.
These things matter and thicken and add texture to what I
have called ‘the new racism’ system of racial domination,”
The truth is, that contemporary forms of
racism, although more subtle than the in-your-face racism of
a Roseanne Barr, create and recreate racial inequalities and
disparities that are silent but perhaps more destructive.
There is, as Bonilla-Silva points out in his
work, a higher propensity for the State to incarcerate,
arrest or brutalize blacks compared to whites. The median
net worth of whites is $142,000 per person compared to black
wealth of $11,000. The labor market is less likely to hire
blacks than whites even for low-level service jobs and if
blacks do happen to get hired they find a lack of upward
mobility as an ordinary way of life as they are less likely
to receive promotions.
With the courts now requiring a “smoking gun”
or higher burden of proof of discrimination, we must
continue to condemn the hateful speech of the Barrs, KKK and
the Tea Party.
However, if we are smart, really smart, we
also need to confront the subtler, sophisticated and silent
but destructive actions and forms of contemporary
nationalism, supremacy and privilege.
Perhaps dynamic businesswomen like Channing
Dungey or powerful black women on the rise such as Georgia
gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and many others are
just what we need to move us forward.
They have the strength. They have the
respect. They understand the struggle in all its dimensions.
And they are smart
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at