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Jacqueline Woodson received the National Book Award in the young-adult category for her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, and following her acceptance speech, MC Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) shares a secret about his friend Jackie:



Instead of celebrating Jacqueline Woodson's achievement, the retelling of this anecdote, instead, has become the centerpiece of a huge debate.

Quote:
The casual and unexpected racism of Daniel “Lemony Snicket” Handler highlights that this isn’t one guy, but rather, an endemic sickness.

— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) November 20, 2014

I adore Daniel Handler’s work, but those “jokes” are something he needs to apologize for publicly and privately. Now. Dismayed.

— Gwenda Bond (@Gwenda) November 20, 2014

When Jackie Woodson won the NBA, she thanked people for loving books and for changing the world. Then Daniel Handler made a watermelon joke.

— Laila Lalami (@LailaLalami) November 20, 2014

In a NY Times op-ed, Jacqueline Woodson pilloried her friend and dinner host:

Quote:
As I walked away from the stage to a standing ovation after my acceptance speech, it was the last place in the world I thought I’d hear the watermelon joke — directed by the M.C., Daniel Handler, at me. “Jackie’s allergic to watermelon,” he said. “Just let that sink in your mind.” Daniel and I have been friends for years. Last summer, at his home on Cape Cod, he served watermelon soup and I let him know I was allergic to the fruit. I was astonished when he brought this up before the National Book Award audience — in the form of a wink-nudge joke about being black.

Daniel Handler has since apologized. tweeting...

Quote:
My job at last night’s National Book Awards #NBAwards was to shine a light on tremendous writers, including Jacqueline Woodson…and not to overshadow their achievements with my own ill-conceived attempts at humor. I clearly failed, and I’m sorry.

...and even taken it a step further by making monetary amends:

Quote:
My remarks on Wednesday night at #NBAwards were monstrously inappropriate and yes, racist. It would be heartbreaking for the #NBAwards conversation to focus on my behavior instead of great books. So can we do this? Let’s donate to #WeNeedDiverseBooks to #CelebrateJackie. I’m in for $10,000, and matching your money for 24 hours up to $100,000.

Got to admit the guy has balls. No matter where you MC, I'm pretty sure that watermelon jive wouldn't be considered appropriate. Unless you're Chris Rock or Dave Chappell or something.
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Shushnik wrote:
Dude is weird and not funny. They had him on top chef and it was about the most awkward thing I've seen.

That said, his joke wasn't particularly racist. It was more poking at over sensitivity to racism. Which actually kinda makes the backlash pretty fucking funny. I doubt he meant it intentionally, because like I said, he's painfully unfunny. But kudos on being accidentally funny, dude who wrote a series of unfortunate events and for no particular good reason gets way more publicity than that mediocre achievement merits.

:thumbsup:
Yet he does not appear to have run this past the target first, who took offense.

At best he is an insensitive and utterly unemphatic.
 
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Shushnik wrote:
slatersteven wrote:
Shushnik wrote:
Dude is weird and not funny. They had him on top chef and it was about the most awkward thing I've seen.

That said, his joke wasn't particularly racist. It was more poking at over sensitivity to racism. Which actually kinda makes the backlash pretty fucking funny. I doubt he meant it intentionally, because like I said, he's painfully unfunny. But kudos on being accidentally funny, dude who wrote a series of unfortunate events and for no particular good reason gets way more publicity than that mediocre achievement merits.

:thumbsup:
Yet he does not appear to have run this past the target first, who took offense.

At best he is an insensitive and utterly unemphatic.


Unemphatic? I don't think that word means what you think that word means.

No, spell checker did not know what word I wanted. I mean unempathetic.
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He already apologized.


His joke was about embedded racist ideas but it didn't fly...probably because it was the exact wrong crowd.
 
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Thoughtless, crass, ill-considered but not exactly racist. If it had been a black man telling that story, no one would have blinked.
 
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garygarison wrote:
Instead of celebrating Jacqueline Woodson's achievement, the retelling of this anecdote, instead, has become the centerpiece of a huge debate.


Why do you think this is? My vote goes to "Person wins annual award less interesting a story than virtually any controversy".

Woodson's achievement is the story among the small audience that really cares about who wins National Book Awards. The public at large is more interested in gaffes, sideboob, etc.

Quote:
In a NY Times op-ed, Jacqueline Woodson pilloried her friend and dinner host


What you're doing here is pretty amazing. A guy makes a watermelon joke about a black woman. She then writes a beautiful opinion piece in which she explains why those jokes are so painful, talks about how one was made in a time and place she never would have expected, and accuses the teller -- who she identifies as a friend -- not of racism but of contextual and historical ignorance that led him to think that we had reached a point where such a joke was appropriate.

From this you delete both the explanation of why those jokes are hurtful and that she's accusing him only of ignorance of historical context. You then highlight that he's her "friend and dinner host" and accuse her of pillorying him...suddenly she's the villain of the piece.
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CrankyPants wrote:
Thoughtless, crass, ill-considered but not exactly racist. If it had been a black man telling that story, no one would have blinked.

You mean much like the response Chris Rock enjoyed during his recent SNL monologue when he made light of the stereotype of the black man's craving for blonde white women and ribs?



Chris Rock addresses this subject of comedy and hypersensitivity in a recent interview in New York Magazine:

Quote:
[Political correctness] is back stronger than ever. I don’t pay that much attention to it. I mean, you don’t want to piss off the people that are paying you, obviously, but otherwise I’ve just been really good at ignoring it. Honestly, it’s not that people were offended by what I said. They get offended by how much fun I appear to be having while saying it. You could literally take everything I said on Saturday night and say it on Meet the Press, and it would be a general debate, and it would go away... I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative...Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.

Chad_Ellis wrote:
garygarison wrote:
Instead of celebrating Jacqueline Woodson's achievement, the retelling of this anecdote, instead, has become the centerpiece of a huge debate.

Why do you think this is? My vote goes to "Person wins annual award less interesting a story than virtually any controversy".

I wasn't being serious about her achievement being sadly overshadowed. It might have gone unnoticed, but the entire format of my OP mirrors the one in the "Scientist's Shirt" thread.

Chad_Ellis wrote:
Quote:
In a NY Times op-ed, Jacqueline Woodson pilloried her friend and dinner host

What you're doing here is pretty amazing. A guy makes a watermelon joke about a black woman. She then writes a beautiful opinion piece in which she explains why those jokes are so painful, talks about how one was made in a time and place she never would have expected, and accuses the teller -- who she identifies as a friend -- not of racism but of contextual and historical ignorance that led him to think that we had reached a point where such a joke was appropriate.

From this you delete both the explanation of why those jokes are hurtful and that she's accusing him only of ignorance of historical context. You then highlight that he's her "friend and dinner host" and accuse her of pillorying him...suddenly she's the villain of the piece.

"Friend and dinner host" is a fairly neutral framing of the original context of the anecdote. Daniel Handling is not a white stranger to Jacqueline Woodson. Your "watermelon joke about a black woman", however, is very loaded. First, because she's not an anonymous black woman. Second, because Daniel Handling didn't tell a watermelon joke. He told a joke about being sensitive to the blacks-love-watermelon hurtful stereotype. If you want to see what a true watermelon joke is, go here and ctrl+f the fruit. Read that ugliness, then come back and tell us you still think he told a watermelon joke about a black woman.

Jacqueline Woodson characterizes Daniel Handler's comments as "making light of that deep and troubled history" and having a "laugh at another’s too often painful past". Coming from an author, someone whose vocation revolves around words and their meanings, this shallow and one-dimensional interpretation comes as a bit of a disappointment. While Handler could be rightly condemned for telling his anecdote on that particular occasion, in a different setting, say another dinner party with Jacqueline Woodson again present and enjoying the companionship of their other enlightened intelligent bookish friends, the reaction would be only mirth. In essence, his real crime is letting slip something just not fit for the laity.
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garygarison wrote:

"Friend and dinner host" is a fairly neutral framing of the original context of the anecdote. Daniel Handling is not a white stranger to Jacqueline Woodson. Your "watermelon joke about a black woman", however, is very loaded. First, because she's not an anonymous black woman. Second, because Daniel Handling didn't tell a watermelon joke. He told a joke about being sensitive to the blacks-love-watermelon hurtful stereotype. If you want to see what a true watermelon joke is, go here and ctrl+f the fruit. Read that ugliness, then come back and tell us you still think he told a watermelon joke about a black woman.

Jacqueline Woodson characterizes Daniel Handler's comments as "making light of that deep and troubled history" and having a "laugh at another’s too often painful past". Coming from an author, someone whose vocation revolves around words and their meanings, this shallow and one-dimensional interpretation comes as a bit of a disappointment. While Handler could be rightly condemned for telling his anecdote on that particular occasion, in a different setting, say another dinner party with Jacqueline Woodson again present and enjoying the companionship of their other enlightened intelligent bookish friends, the reaction would be only mirth. In essence, his real crime is letting slip something just not fit for the laity.


But the context obviously does matter. This is what she said:

Quote:
As I walked away from the stage to a standing ovation after my acceptance speech, it was the last place in the world I thought I’d hear the watermelon joke — directed by the M.C., Daniel Handler, at me. “Jackie’s allergic to watermelon,” he said. “Just let that sink in your mind.” Daniel and I have been friends for years. Last summer, at his home on Cape Cod, he served watermelon soup and I let him know I was allergic to the fruit. I was astonished when he brought this up before the National Book Award audience — in the form of a wink-nudge joke about being black.

In a few short words, the audience and I were asked to take a step back from everything I’ve ever written, a step back from the power and meaning of the National Book Award, lest we forget, lest I forget, where I came from. By making light of that deep and troubled history, he showed that he believed we were at a point where we could laugh about it all. His historical context, unlike my own, came from a place of ignorance.


And more than that, he decided to make the evening about himself. See this article which breaks it down quite well. The context always matters.

http://www.buffalonews.com/life-arts/book-poetry/what-daniel...
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garygarison wrote:

"Friend and dinner host" is a fairly neutral framing of the original context of the anecdote. Daniel Handling is not a white stranger to Jacqueline Woodson.


The idea that you're framing this neutrally is utter bullshit. You wouldn't have to provide context that he wasn't a stranger to her if you weren't misrepresenting her Op-Ed by selective quoting.

Quote:
Your "watermelon joke about a black woman", however, is very loaded. First, because she's not an anonymous black woman. Second, because Daniel Handling didn't tell a watermelon joke. He told a joke about being sensitive to the blacks-love-watermelon hurtful stereotype.


I'm sorry, but how is it loaded because I didn't make the obvious point that she wasn't anonymous? I also didn't say that her name began with a consonant. There are countless other facts that I didn't list.

The point I was making was about how you were ignoring most of her op-ed; the context of the joke wasn't relevant to that point.

Quote:
Read that ugliness, then come back and tell us you still think he told a watermelon joke about a black woman.


The fact that there are truly nasty, mean-spirited jokes out there to compare against jokes that were maybe stupid but not intended to hurt anyone doesn't mean that a watermelon joke isn't a watermelon joke, or that someone who grew up with a negative racial stereotype like that might find it upsetting to have someone make a joke about it -- even if the joke wasn't intended to be hurtful.

Quote:
Jacqueline Woodson characterizes Daniel Handler's comments as "making light of that deep and troubled history" and having a "laugh at another’s too often painful past". Coming from an author, someone whose vocation revolves around words and their meanings, this shallow and one-dimensional interpretation comes as a bit of a disappointment.


I'm sure you're very disappointed. Since I've read her piece and not just your snippets of it, I just think you're continuing to misrepresent what was written. But we can agree to disagree on that.

Quote:
While Handler could be rightly condemned for telling his anecdote on that particular occasion, in a different setting, say another dinner party with Jacqueline Woodson again present and enjoying the companionship of their other enlightened intelligent bookish friends, the reaction would be only mirth. In essence, his real crime is letting slip something just not fit for the laity.


Well, it's good to know that her whole explanation of why she finds that sort of joke hurtful and inappropriate is just more fiction. Maybe she can enter it and win another prize. We're lucky to have you here to tell us what she and others really think or how they would really have felt in another context.
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The Chris Rock example isn't really appropriate, however.

As Mr. Rock points out, comedian's don't really have a place where they work out jokes and how they play with an audience, except for going out and doing it. And sometimes, they cross a line and go to far. A joke they think is funny falls flat and it bombs. And with modern technology, they run the risk of someone taking cell phone footage and using it to hit them as being insensitive and wrong headed, when what really happened is that the comedian went out on the high wire and fell short.

At this book conference, however, none of the participants are actual comedians. The MC might be making a joke, but this isn't the same as a professional comedian working out a routine, trying it out, and having it fall flat. Its someone in the industry being somewhat disrespectful or at least oblivious about the feelings of someone who is a friend and colleague.

Moreover, a key point that you're NOT including from Mr. Rock is that he explicitly points out that no comedian ever continues telling a joke that's just not funny or is offensive that the audience doesn't enjoy. The "It's just a joke" defense doesn't justify being purposefully antagonistic, offensive, or whatever- being shocking or offensive has to be the means to some other end; presumably- and at the VERY least- the amusement of the audience. If you're offensive, and the audience isn't amused, you're just being an ass.

Mr. Rock is most definitely not arguing that artists should be able to say whatever they want, irregardless of the rest of the world. Rather, he's arguing that comedians have a hard time in that they don't have the same type of 'private space' other artists might have (writers have editors, for instance) needed to really hone their craft. Very different argument.

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Wait, you're saying that Gary used selective quoting and the result was someone seeming to say what Gary wanted when the reality is quite different?

Naw.
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Darilian is the one being selective. Chris Rock didn't say that instead. He said that as well. People were offended by his SNL monologue. He didn't care. He honed it, got laughs, and deemed it worthy. But you can read the interview and decide for yourself. It's linked in my post.

By the way, can we get a show of hands here about the offensiveness and potential racial hurtfulness of Chris Rock's Freedom Tower with Scarlett Johansson on a platter of ribs line?
 
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garygarison wrote:
Darilian is the one being selective. Chris Rock didn't say that instead. He said that as well. People were offended by his SNL monologue. He didn't care. He honed it, got laughs, and deemed it worthy. But you can read the interview and decide for yourself. It's linked in my post.

By the way, can we get a show of hands here about the offensiveness and potential racial hurtfulness of Chris Rock's Freedom Tower with Scarlett Johansson on a platter of ribs line?


Here's the entire bit from the interview with Mr. Rock.

Quote:
Does it force you into some sort of self-censorship?

It does. I swear I just had a conversation with the people at the Comedy Cellar about how we can make cell phones into cigarettes. If you would have told me years ago that they were going to get rid of smoking in comedy clubs, I would have thought you were crazy.

It is scary, because the thing about comedians is that you’re the only ones who practice in front of a crowd. Prince doesn’t run a demo on the radio. But in stand-up, the demo gets out. There are a few guys good enough to write a perfect act and get onstage, but everybody else workshops it and workshops it, and it can get real messy. It can get downright offensive. Before everyone had a recording device and was wired like fucking Sammy the Bull,4 you’d say something that went too far, and you’d go, “Oh, I went too far,” and you would just brush it off. But if you think you don’t have room to make mistakes, it’s going to lead to safer, gooier stand-up. You can’t think the thoughts you want to think if you think you’re being watched.

I assume you worked on the SNL material in the confines of the studio and that it never went before an audience?

Comedy Cellar all week. If I messed up a word here and there, which I did, it could really be get-him-out-of-here offensive. But you just watch to make sure nobody tapes it. You watch and you watch hard. And you make sure the doorman’s watching. What Patton’s trying to say is, like, comedians need a place where we can work on that stuff. And by the way: An audience that’s not laughing is the biggest indictment that something’s too far. No comedian’s ever done a joke that bombs all the time and kept doing it. Nobody in the history of stand-up. Not one guy.


No, Gary-
It's pretty clear that Mr. Rock isn't saying what you're trying to make him say.

Furthermore, as I pointed out, Chris Rock's work isn't really comparable to the OP at hand. Mr. Rock is a professional comedian- that's very different from Mr. Handler making a bad, off color joke at a dinner which is ostensibly supposed to honor a professional colleague.

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Dar didn't say or imply instead. He clearly stated that it was in addition.
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Christ. One of the best moments of her life and some jackass interjects his personal tale about the woes of being a white man who can't tell black person + watermelon stories.

What a fucking idiot.
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Darilian wrote:
No, Gary-
It's pretty clear that Mr. Rock isn't saying what you're trying to make him say.

Furthermore, as I pointed out, Chris Rock's work isn't really comparable to the OP at hand. Mr. Rock is a professional comedian- that's very different from Mr. Handler making a bad, off color joke at a dinner which is ostensibly supposed to honor a professional colleague.

My mention of Chris Rock's SNL bit is a response to CrankyPants pondering what if a black man had said what Handler said. It's a recent example of a black man toying with racial stereotypes. Food-based, no less. My aside about Chris Rock's thoughts on the impact the current climate of sensitivity is having on comedy was just that, an aside.

What do you think of Chris Rock's Scarlett Johansson on a platter of ribs line, Darilian?
 
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garygarison wrote:
Darilian wrote:
No, Gary-
It's pretty clear that Mr. Rock isn't saying what you're trying to make him say.

Furthermore, as I pointed out, Chris Rock's work isn't really comparable to the OP at hand. Mr. Rock is a professional comedian- that's very different from Mr. Handler making a bad, off color joke at a dinner which is ostensibly supposed to honor a professional colleague.

My mention of Chris Rock's SNL bit is a response to CrankyPants pondering what if a black man had said what Handler said. It's a recent example of a black man toying with racial stereotypes. Food-based, no less. My aside about Chris Rock's thoughts on the impact the current climate of sensitivity is having on comedy was just that, an aside.

What do you think of Chris Rock's Scarlett Johansson on a platter of ribs line, Darilian?


That has nothing to do with the subject matter at hand.

Quit trying to move the goalposts. If we were talking about how Patton Oswalt and his comments on Twitter, THEN maybe what Chris Rock had to say would be appropriate. But Handler's bad attempt at humor at a professional dinner for non-comedians is not the same venue or context as Mr. Rock's jokes for SNL.

Stop trying to conflate the two things as if they're the same- they're not.

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So it's not the words Handler uttered, but rather the context in which they were uttered? If so, then we're not in disagreement. I've already very plainly said as much.
 
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garygarison wrote:
So it's not the words Handler uttered, but rather the context in which they were uttered? If so, then we're not in disagreement. I've already very plainly said as much.


Dude you've drifted all over the place in this thread, I have no clear idea what your point is anymore.

I was mostly jumping in because you were misconstruing Chris Rock's comments in the New York magazine piece, and I had had just read the article earlier today so it was fresh on my mind.

Why don't you do us all a favor and clearly, in short little stubby sentences, clearly express what the heck your point is.

Show all of us on the little doll where the big bad feminist woman of color hurt you.

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she2 wrote:
But the context obviously does matter. This is what she said:

Quote:
As I walked away from the stage to a standing ovation after my acceptance speech, it was the last place in the world I thought I’d hear the watermelon joke — directed by the M.C., Daniel Handler, at me. “Jackie’s allergic to watermelon,” he said. “Just let that sink in your mind.” Daniel and I have been friends for years. Last summer, at his home on Cape Cod, he served watermelon soup and I let him know I was allergic to the fruit. I was astonished when he brought this up before the National Book Award audience — in the form of a wink-nudge joke about being black.

In a few short words, the audience and I were asked to take a step back from everything I’ve ever written, a step back from the power and meaning of the National Book Award, lest we forget, lest I forget, where I came from. By making light of that deep and troubled history, he showed that he believed we were at a point where we could laugh about it all. His historical context, unlike my own, came from a place of ignorance.


And more than that, he decided to make the evening about himself. See this article which breaks it down quite well. The context always matters.

http://www.buffalonews.com/life-arts/book-poetry/what-daniel...

"Lest we forget, lest I forget, where I came from." A bit curious, that criticism. The book that won her the award is titled Brown Girl Dreaming, a memoir about what it was like to grow up black. It rings hollow to chastise Handling for highlighting her race when her work devotes itself to that very thing.

"He believed we were at a point where we could laugh about it all." What Handling laughed about is white liberal sensitivity to the delicate matters of historical racial stereotypes. This isn't the same as laughing about racial stereotypes. And it's not the same as making a watermelon joke. Woodson, as an author, should be more qualified than most to employ some ironic distance and be able to tell the difference.

That said, Handling could have handled it better. His delivery was doomed right out of the gate. Instead of blurting out that his friend Jackie is allergic to watermelon, he should have eased into the story by talking about serving watermelon soup to her for dinner and about how she had to kindly refuse. This slight adjustment alone would have done much to keep the internet hate machine at bay.

And the hate really did spring from outside the room of the National Book Awards, dispatched from keyboards of watchdogs far and wide. But don't take my word for it. Here's what Troy Johnson, founder of African American Literature Book Club and attendee that evening, had to say:

Quote:
Most of the outrage was seemingly fueled by people not at the event. I spoke to almost all of the Black people in the room that evening. Nobody mentioned the comment...In any case, neither joke caused much of a stir at the event, was unworthy of the outrage on social media, and certainly did not warrant overshadowing the coverage of the rest of the entire event.

By the way, Chad, in the comments section at that aalbc link, Troy Johnson reports Woodson's response by quoting the exact same portion of the NY Times op-ed that I did in my OP. Take that black man to task for misrepresenting what that black woman said!
 
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garygarison wrote:

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Most of the outrage was seemingly fueled by people not at the event. I spoke to almost all of the Black people in the room that evening. Nobody mentioned the comment...In any case, neither joke caused much of a stir at the event, was unworthy of the outrage on social media, and certainly did not warrant overshadowing the coverage of the rest of the entire event.


Did anyone else read this and have flashbacks to past Gary threads where he "spoke to several women friends" about joke x?

Anyway, what other people thought is kind of beside the point given that it was directed at the author, and she obviously was of a different mind than "almost all of the Black people in the room".
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Koldfoot wrote:


Simple version



You have distilled that right down to a complete and total misunderstanding of everything about the situation.

There is probably no more wrong you can be without misspelling all the words involved.
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she2 wrote:
Did anyone else read this and have flashbacks to past Gary threads where he "spoke to several women friends" about joke x?

Don't hold back Sue. Or Dave. Or anyone else, for that matter. Take that black man to task for conjuring up those phantom blacks!

she2 wrote:
Anyway, what other people thought is kind of beside the point given that it was directed at the author, and she obviously was of a different mind than "almost all of the Black people in the room".

I'm convinced Woodson's NY Times response is a response not to Handling proper, but a response to the social media firebrands who responded to Handling's performance unfavorably. This is not so much social justice theater as social justice pantomime.
 
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garygarison wrote:


she2 wrote:
Anyway, what other people thought is kind of beside the point given that it was directed at the author, and she obviously was of a different mind than "almost all of the Black people in the room".

I'm convinced Woodson's NY Times response is a response not to Handling proper, but a response to the social media firebrands who responded to Handling's performance unfavorably. This is not so much social justice theater as social justice pantomime.


Well, as long as you're convinced, it must be true.
 
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Eugene
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How about this: It's what I feel. And feelings are incontrovertible. Show some compassion for them.
 
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