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Everything Under The Sun Is Racism
I've found, in the course of writing my column, that mere mention of certain groups, usually racial or religious groups (but don't even get me started on polyamorists), will cause accusations of racism or anti-something-ism.

My favorite past incident of my own stemmed from my response in my column to a question from a controlling woman, basically telling her to ease up or she'd lose her boyfriend. I started my answer with a example showing how people value freedom:

Note that there were Cubans floating to the US recently, in a green 1959 Buick they turned into a boat, but no Jewish grannies from Miami sailing the other direction in their retrofitted giant yellow Cadillacs: “Oy, Irving, I think I left my heart pills back at the condo.”

Naturally, from the mere mention of a Jewish grandmother in a Cadillac I got letters:

How dare you use your column as a platform for anti-semitism!

My response:

Shalom! If I am anti-semitic, I learned my anti-semitism at Temple Beth El. P.S. That's my bubbie, who used to live in Florida and drive a gigantic pale yellow Cadillac. I thought she'd get a kick out of making it into my column.

Here's another one -- from a column about a woman who wasn't exactly svelte, but whom I was encouraging to dress sexy for her husband. Strangely, all the angry letters were from white women (example: "I'm not black or Latina, but I am a women's studies professor...") protesting on behalf of black and Latino women! Here's the bit from my column:

What should be on your mind is slipping into a sexy little French thing called “bien dans sa peau” -- being comfortable in your skin, much like all the hot black and Latina secretaries I used to see when I lived in downtown New York City. A lot of them were fat, but they wore bright, tight, sexy clothes, and strutted around like they were fat and proud.

If you're not racist, can't you just make observations about people and comment on them? The truth is, it's risky.

A likely upcoming incident is my answer to a short question from my column (soon to run) in support of a girl who'd just gotten divorced, and wanted to change her name. I've always found it hilarious when people give their kids names that are an obvious mismatch. For example, as I wrote in that column:

Some will tell you you’re being silly, as in, “Oh, come on, what’s in a name?” Well, if yours is something like “Dakota Finkelstein,” probably at least a few people nodding to themselves upon meeting you, “Mmmhmm…young Jewish parents, drunk in the western-wear section at Ralph Lauren.”

Even though I'm now technically post-Jewish (my business card reads "Amy Alkon, godless harlot"), at least I can still always play the Heeb card when I get accused of being anti-semitic. Steve Lyons wasn't so lucky. Here's the AP story by sports writer Janie McCauley:

Fox baseball broadcaster Steve Lyons has been fired for making a racially insensitive comment directed at colleague Lou Piniella's Hispanic heritage on the air during Game 3 of the American League championship series.

The network confirmed Saturday that Lyons was dismissed after Friday's game. He has been replaced for the remainder of the series by Los Angeles Angels announcer Jose Mota.

Piniella had made an analogy involving the luck of finding a wallet, then briefly used a couple of Spanish phrases during Friday's broadcast.

Lyons said that Piniella was "hablaing Espanol" — butchering the conjugation for the word "to speak" — and added, "I still can't find my wallet."

"I don't understand him, and I don't want to sit too close to him now," Lyons continued.

Lyons claimed he was kidding.

"If I offended anybody, I'm truly sorry," Lyons said in a phone interview. "But my comment about Lou taking my wallet was a joke and in no way racially motivated."

Lyons flew Saturday to Los Angeles, where he hoped to meet with Fox chairman David Hill. Lyons had been working in the booth for the ALCS alongside Thom Brennaman and Piniella, the No. 2 broadcast team for Fox this postseason.

"Steve Lyons has been relieved of his Fox Sports duties for making comments on air that the company found inappropriate," network spokesman Dan Bell said.

You know, from my own TV and radio experiences, things fly pretty fast and furious on the air. Somebody makes a comment about finding a wallet, I might make a joke about losing mine just as Lyons did. I like teasing people and I like being teased. It can make for some entertaining bits on the air. Unfortunately for Lyons, he apparently made his teasing remark about the wallet a little too close to the "habla-ing" remark.

And sorry, is there some stereotype I have yet to hear about of Latinos, specifically, as pickpockets or muggers more than any other race, color or creed?

Do I think Lyons is racist? No. Unfortunately, he's a victim of the "mere mention" rule, and can't fall back on a Latina granny like I was able to play the Jewish bubbie card.

In that case, I also wrote back to the people to say I could just as easily have used Larry Elder's (now-late little old black lady) mother, whose voice I used to love on the radio. I don't know what she actually looked like, but the picture in my head when I wrote the Cuba remark was some tiny little old lady, all dressed up, whose feet could barely reach the pedals of her big yellow Cadillac boat.

Posted by aalkon at October 15, 2006 1:38 PM

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Dontcha just love the Geico caveman commercials?

Posted by: eric at October 15, 2006 10:35 AM

I think I've seen them, but I can't remember. Do tell.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 15, 2006 11:00 AM

The tag line "So simple even a caveman can use it", which pissed off the remaining cavemen in the world, who tend to have great jobs and dress in Ralph Lauren, and are now demanding apologies for the anti-cavemen remarks.....

The makeup is great.

Posted by: eric at October 15, 2006 11:12 AM

Oh man, and all this time I thought "Women's Studies Professor" was just a euphemism for "Girl Watcher". How embarrassing.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at October 15, 2006 10:14 PM

"And sorry, is there some stereotype I have yet to hear about of Latinos, specifically, as pickpockets or muggers more than any other race, color or creed?"

Yeah, I wondered that about that, too... not exactly a racist remark if it isn't reinforcing a racist stereotype, is it?

I do believe there are racist people out there who need to be publicly castigated, but it's also true that a lot of offhanded comments are made by people who are just having an asshole moment. In which case, the correct response is probably, "Hey, you're being an asshole."

Posted by: Melissa at October 16, 2006 6:53 AM

Did any of you hypersensitives out there notice something curious about Pinella's remark?
In some circles, finding a wallet on the ground is some sort of providential sign, but is a hispanic supposed to then return that wallet full of cash, credit cards, and identification back to its rightful owner? I guess we'll never know, now that the Chicago Cubs have given him a new wallet containing $3 million a year.

Posted by: B. Davis at October 17, 2006 1:12 PM

These GEICO caveman commercials are totally anti-semitic and awful in the way they portray White Anglo Saxon Protestants as somehow superior to the obviously neurotic and whiny Jewish caveman character.

Utterly offensive.

Posted by: Adam Goldberg at January 22, 2007 2:07 AM

Are you out of your mind? The whiny Jewish caveman character? Again, some people see racism everywhere. See above, where people thought I was racist. My bubbie (translation: Jewish grandmother) was just pleased I used an image of her in my column.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 22, 2007 6:04 AM

It's a con. This isn't for real. It's like Cathy's Elisabeth Irwin guy. He'll fake you outta your Reeboks.

Posted by: Crid at January 22, 2007 11:32 AM

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