Less than a year after Michael Richards shocked Hollywood with his impetuous racist diatribe at a Los Angeles comedy club, another off-beat celebrity finds himself in the news with his personal prejudices broadcast before the nation.
Duane “Dog” Chapman, the eccentric bounty hunter known for his image of being caring toward his subjects and compassionate in his approach toward those who ran afoul of the law, was caught on tape spewing racist slurs including repeated use of the n-word.
The context of the tape concerns Chapman’s son, who is apparently intent on dating a black woman. Chapman is noticeably infuriated with his son’s choice of girlfriend, leading to repeated slurs and vilifications during the five minute recording.
In his defense, Chapman claims that the recording was taken out of context, and that he was objecting not to the race of his son’s girlfriend, but rather to her character.
In fact, the context is quite clear. Dog was explaining to his son that he has a proclivity to say the n-word frequently, and didn’t want to run the risk that his son’s girlfriend, or, in his terminology, “some fucking n*****,” would inform a tabloid such as the National Enquirer about the Dog’s habit, thus ruining his career.
Of, course, bypassing the irony that this tape itself found its way to the National Enquirer, a more immediate observation is striking. Contextualized, the conversation reveals that Chapman has a habit of saying the n-word.
From a different perspective, an increasing number of whites, including liberal whites, are choosing to use the word in regular discourse, unquestionably believing that the word’s proliferation in black circles should be extended to them, as they mean no racial animosity by its utilization.
Events like Chapman’s hateful explosion show that an odious racism can hide behind the call among whites for the word’s universalizing. By pretending that racial intolerance is a thing of the past, these people ignore their structured superiority and flaunt it in the face of others under the veneer of “burying the past.” It is intriguing to wonder whether glimpses into the private thoughts and worldviews of these people might reveal a bigoted disposition that would not have been out of place a century ago, as it did with Dog Chapman.
Structural inequality is also masked by those who have come to Chapman’s defense, as with the defenders of Richards last year and Mel Gibson before that. Whoopi Goldberg was quick to offer the defense that Chapman was only expressing private thoughts in a flash of anger, and that all of us, if we are honest, will admit that we say prejudiced things in times of anger and despair.
It is this type of “everyone’s a racist” excuse that lets real, structural racism, off the hook. Represented in Hollywood culture through movies such as “Crash,” this theme allows white racists to feel comforted because they learn that, supposedly, minorities hold prejudices just like they do. It obfuscates the patent fact that minority prejudice, or even minority racism, will never have the structural, crushing effect that five centuries of white racism and white supremacy have had on the human condition.
The Minaret sheds no tears for Dog Chapman. His career looks like it may be ruined, as well it should be. In or out of context, Dog’s comments and the response to them by the likes of Goldberg represent an alarming trend in post-Jim Crow America that justifies structural racism by dismissing it as either a past issue or a trait that we’re all guilty of possessing. This type of deception should be fully criticized when it hits our airwaves.