Madison County Opinion...

JUNE 30, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
June 30, 2004

Frankly Speaking

What makes a comment a racial slur?
What makes a comment a racial slur? Is a comment by a member of one racial group a slur while the same or a similar comment by another is “nothing?”
This question comes as a result of a heated argument between a NAACP official and a city council leader in Yonkers, New York.
The debate was over an education spending budget that includes a $12.5 million deficit. At the meeting, branch president of the NAACP, Karen Edmonson became confrontational. “What about the $12.5 million,” she shouted at City Council Majority Leader Liam McLaughlin?
“Why don’t you ask the NAACP, McLaughlin responded,” referring to a heavy financial burden on the school system due to an NAACP lawsuit.
“I’m asking you, you leprechaun!” she shouted.
McLaughlin and another council member, Dennis Robertson, have deemed the comment to be racist and demanded that Edmonson apologize and resign. “If anybody else made some type of similar remark, everybody would be calling for their head,” McLaughlin said.
Edmonson has refused to do either. “They’re fishing,” she said. “They’re trying to create controversy. I’m not going to be silenced, and I’m not going anywhere.”
Is Edmonson guilty of making a racist comment? If so, should she face the same kind of criticism that whites face when making similar comments about blacks. Are racial slurs prohibited to one race but permitted for another?
That is the way it has worked in the past. Numerous white politicians, commentators, broadcasters and business leaders have been deprived of their jobs, their positions of leadership and their reputations because of remarks less damaging than Edmondson’s. At the same time many examples of slurs by black speakers have gone unpunished.
Do you remember Jessie Jackson’s slur of New York Jews. He suffered few consequences. What happened when former United Nations Ambassador and then Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young referred to Presidential Candidate Hubert Humphrey’s advance team as “a bunch of smart a.. white boys?” (I still have the hat I had made proclaiming myself as deserving the title.)
How about the McKinney father and daughter team who constantly refer to defenders of Southern Culture as “Nazis?” That is the greatest slur of all. Yet they have never been held responsible for their insults.
We rural white Southerners are the most slandered people in America. But you seldom here any protest from us. We actually embrace the terms people hurl at us in derision and make them part of our identity. We have been called rednecks, ridge runners, crackers, trailer trash, white trash and worse. Yet, the only member of our group that I have ever heard object was Zell Miller responding to some comment by a member of Congress.
In refusing to apologize, Edmonson said Robertson and McLaughlin were being overly sensitive. This from a group that spends vast amounts of time and energy looking for reasons to be insulted. Could this be a case of the pot calling the kettle “bl—-?”
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com

Column
By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
June 30, 2004

A Moment With Margie

Monkey tales
One of the many good things about friends you’ve known for a long time is that it kind of frees you up to be as silly as you want to be and just have a good time.
That was the case one evening last week when Charles and I were pulling in our driveway after a long meeting, the car’s headlights picked out a strange shape perched on the edge of a decorative wishing well that sits next to the driveway.
“What in the world was that?” Charles said, throwing the car in reverse and backing up.
There, caught in our headlights was the unmistakable shape of a monkey, legs and arms crossed, perched motionless on the edge of the well, looking for all the world like he was staring at us.
Not a real monkey, we were relieved to discover, but one of the ugliest ceramic monkeys I have ever seen. A sign on a nearby tree limb proclaimed “Monkey Crossing.”
We both burst out laughing.
“Virginia and Shirley have struck again,” Charles said, shaking his head.
We had no doubts about “who done it” because no one else we know would do such a crazy thing - and besides, as the “girls” will gladly tell you, I brought it on myself.
On a recent jaunt with my pals browsing through antique and junk shops (a favorite pastime of ours) I happened to remark on how many “monkey” things there were - in fact the whole jungle theme thing seems quite popular these days.
Usually each of us are looking for things that go with collections or “themes” (I use that word loosely) we have in our homes - Shirley for cows, or mountain-looking stuff, Virginia, chickens and apples, our friend Sandra, who was along for the ride on this day, goes for western stuff, and as for me I look for lighthouses, cats and armadillos (don’t ask).
After remarking on all the monkey stuff we kept seeing everywhere, I told the girls I thought I’d try decorating my house with monkeys, next for a change.
We all laughed about it and I thought no more of it - but evidently I was the only one who didn’t think any more of it.
Virginia, with Shirley’s complicity, went out the following week on a mission - or you might say on “monkey business.”
The two drove around looking for three monkeys - “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.”
Evidently they walked in to a variety of shops in the mountains and elsewhere looking for these monkeys. Later they told me most shopkeepers barely batted an eye when they walked in and announced they were looking for monkeys.
Well, turns out ‘see’ and ‘hear’ were easy enough monkeys to find, but for some reason ‘speak’ eluded them. (I always thought they came in sets, who knew?)
They showed up at my house a few days later, monkeys in tow. I put ‘hear’ and ‘see’ in a prominent place in my living room, laughing even while I wondered what kind of monster I had created.
Soon, Virginia discovered the missing link ‘speak no evil’ and brought him along to join his brothers. So now, among antiques, cats, and nautical stuff like light houses, beach scenes, etc., sit three monkeys. ‘Speak’ sits in the middle because he is slightly smaller, so we have “hear no evil,” “speak no evil” and then “see no evil” which goes along with my way of having to be a little different anyway.
I wonder if they’re trying to tell me something?
And I should have known something was up again last week when the two called saying they were on their way over to our house. It didn’t matter that Charles and I were both on our way out the door — Virginia had jalapeno cornbread (his favorite) for Charles as a belated birthday present and they just wanted to stop by (or so they said).
When we got home, there was our driveway monkey. Turns out the girls had staked out our driveway to make sure we were gone before leaving the monkey.
Charles couldn’t resist calling Virginia’s home asking if this was “911” and saying he just wanted to report a suspected case of “monkey-business.”
“No speakie de engles,” Virginia replied.
Same result when we called Shirley.
So, if you see two crazy women driving around looking for monkeys - don’t hurt them, or have them locked up for monkey-business (although I threatened that myself) - those women are my friends, I think, and I wouldn’t want to lose them - after all, they’re responsible for my latest collection and life wouldn’t be nearly so much fun without them.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal. Her e-mail address is madisonjournal@alltel.net

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