Musings Societal The Word 6 minute read

The Predictability of It All: The Rosanne Barr Story


For Black folks, racism is like rain: a part of life.  We know it’s going to come; though even when we are prepared, it can put a damper on things.  Sometimes, it ruins our entire mood and day.  Most times, we rely on our protective gear: the umbrella of knowing, the raincoat of fortitude, the wipers of our friends who can relate; and then place our heads slightly down, and our eyes up and focused on our goals.

Accordingly, not one Black person is surprised by Roseanne’s racist’s behavior: from insult to kiss-up, to her eventual and predictable state of pay-up (we all know that she’s going try to sue—don’t we).  What’s most annoying, in fact, is the continued predictability of it all.  It’s like being forced to watch a movie you don’t like for the 32nd time.

1. Roseanne is racist

No shit.  She has called a Black person an ape before.  In 2013, Barr said former National Security Advisor Susan Rice was a “big man with swinging ape balls” (she later deleted that tweet too).  Of course, she said that she isn’t a racist.  That’s what all racists do when they are called a racist.  We are just waiting for her to present her Black resume (we know it’s coming): the list of Black, Jewish, Gay people to whom she’s been nice that she thinks proves that she couldn’t possibly be a bigot.  She’s wrong.

Barr desecrated the National Anthem. but no one said that she was unpatriotic or should leave the country.

2. Though she had shown her racism before she still was a highly paid, working actress

When Isaiah Washington from Grey’s Anatomy said a gay slur, everyone knew that his career was probably over— or certainly severely harmed at the very least.  Black people rarely get one chance at stardom or great success, we definitely don’t get two.  But, Roseanne is White and a woman.  She just isn’t always presumed innocent in America; she is the symbol of innocence.  She is the “Snow White, waiting for a great Prince to save her from the darkness of the world character.”  White women’s tears have moved more mountains than every hurricane and flood of the past century (and I am not blaming White women for this construct.  I know many who resent it.  But it remains a fact).

And let’s be honest, none of us will be surprised if she works again.  It is very likely that she will gain even greater success now.

3. Many Rush to Her Defense and Say She’s Not Racist

This is where Rosanne’s own industry, entertainment, has helped her and hurt race relations.  The entertainment industry has given racists a look.  Hollywood has created the idea that racists wear White robes, are dirty plantation overseers, or poorly-spoken Rednecks in the middle of a no-name town, in a Southern state.  They outright say the word “Nigger” as they chew on tobacco and spit on dirt roads.  So, if a Black person accuses a White person, who doesn’t fit the character description, most White people will come to their defense.

Many White people can’t accept that the well-dressed HR manager, the highly-paid actress they see on the red carpet, the “sweet” sales lady at Saks, the high school principal, or their very religious neighbor could be a racist, a person who says and does harmful things to people of color.  Racist rarely announce themselves.

4. Some White Folks Will Make Illogical Arguments to Defend Roseanne because Most are Uninformed About Black History and Black Folks

Part of the reason some White folks are defending Rosanne is that they are ignorant about Black history.  They think that Rosanne comparing Valerie Jarret to an ape is the same thing as to Bill Maher comparing Trump to an orangutan.  They do not know that Black people were compared to animals, particularly to apes to justify enslaving them, beating them, housing them in sub-standard conditions, trading them like property and working them to death (literally).  The history of Black people being compared to apes, being considered less evolved than the White man, is well-documented; and should be understood by all.

5. Black People are Expected to Be Forgiving

We are expected to be “Give it to God, Martin Luther King, Turn the Other Cheek, “No-problem Suh”, type of folks.  President Obama knew that under no circumstances could he ever show anger.  Most professional people know that dare we show anger, we will be harshly judged and punished.  The student who slaps the other student for calling them Nigger is always the one suspended; the woman who doesn’t associate socially with her co-workers because they always touched her hair, compared her skin tone to theirs after a vacation, and suggested that she got her job because of affirmative action, will be deemed the one with a bad attitude.  Our reaction, if not perfect, is always judged more harshly than the offending person or the root cause statement or action.  Good Blacks are the ones like the Charleston Church Shooting victims who forgive, pray, and stay silent, so when we don’t; it is expected that folks will become angrier.

6. Roseanne and Her Supporters are Indignant

The only unexpected thing to happen in this Roseanne Barr scenario is that a Black person was in a position of power that out-ranked a White person.  This is almost never the case.  If Channing Dungey was not the President of ABC Entertainment, Roseanne Barr would not have been fired—at least not so swiftly and without weeks of losing sponsors and protests.  Roseanne would have issued a public-relations driven apology and her career would have gone on normally.  The occurrence of a Black woman punishing a White person by firing them and canceling their show is like when O.J. Simpson bought his freedom by hiring the best lawyers (as many White people with the ability to secure the best legal teams do daily).  It was not supposed to happen; it defies the natural order of things.

Black folks know the routine.  We may take a moment to pause and stand by the window and watch the storm predictably play out; but for the most part, we are going to keep on moving, focused on our goals, and ensure that our protective gear is at-the-ready in preparation for the next storm that is sure to come.

My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more


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