THIS IS A COLUMN to praise Philadelphia-area media outlets for alerting their readers, listeners and viewers to the hate speech of University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler, who last week tweeted out about Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson. Her tweet was, "If only there was a 'coon of the year' award . . . ." The professor had tweeted at Goldie Taylor, Daily Beast editor at large, whose tweet had highlighted a Sports Illustrated article in which Carson championed Americans' right to fly flags, even the Confederate flag.
If you're reading this and saying, "I consumed a lot of local media last week, how did I miss it?" don't worry, you didn't miss a thing. It's because I really can't praise the media for its almost nonexistent coverage. Why was there not a tremendous amount of coverage and calls for the University of Pennsylvania to make the professor apologize or be censured in some way?
The word "coon" is so offensive that I did not even feel comfortable when I reported it on my radio show. According to Online Etymology, etymonline.com, the word "coon" is an offensive term to slander Africans, deriving from the Portuguese word barracoos, which is a hut-like dwelling used to store slaves during auctions. It's an awful, hurtful term.
It seems then because Butler differs with Carson's comments, she feels that he has adopted a slave's mentality. This clearly hateful and derisive comment is not the first time Butler has engaged in, shall we say, "racially charged" comments.
In the wake of the not-guilty verdict in the case of George Zimmerman, Butler, a contributing editor to ReligionDispatches.org, wrote, "As a black woman in a nation that has taken too many pains to remind me that I am not a white man, and am not capable of taking care of my reproductive rights, or my voting rights, I know that the American god ain't my god." She went on to say, "More importantly, he is carrying a gun and stalking young black men."
These remarks drew a lot of fire and Butler retreated to her stance that she has tenure and there is nothing that can be done to her. I find her comments to be distasteful, but I get it that provocative comments are a good thing to stir debate. However, her nominating Carson as "Coon of the Year" is not provocative. It clearly is a slur.
The University of Pennsylvania has a history of remarks like this. Remember the white student who made national news because of the charges the university brought against him for calling two African-American female students who he thought were disrupting his study time "water buffalo"? This was seen as hate speech.
So I'd like to know the rules on all this hate-speech stuff. Can Butler make the "coon" remark because she has tenure? Or is it because she is an African-American woman? Or is it because Carson is a black conservative?
On that last question, there was a stir last week when Rupert Murdoch tweeted out a comparison between President Obama and Carson seeming to say Carson was more authentically black. That was wrong, but there is a more constant narrative that prominent conservative blacks like Carson, Col. Allen West, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and others are tools of whites, sellouts or "Uncle Toms."
Isn't it time that we collectively get the University of Pennsylvania to comment on Butler and clarify its position on her rhetoric? If not, it's clear to me that all the speech codes and "hate speech" guidelines are frauds. They are set up to punish those who are mainly white males.
Carson has recently made a number of provocative comments in response to questions he has been asked. It's fair to challenge him on them. However, his life story is a fulfillment of the American Dream, and I happen to believe in a God that smiles on that.
Teacher-turned-talk-show host Dom Giordano is heard weekdays
9 a.m. to noon on WPHT (1210-AM) Radio.