race: what year is it, again?

Well I’m glad I don’t live in the NCO! Last Friday a liberal* Ohio blog, OhioDaily, posted a story about a North Canton, OH police dispatcher forwarding an hilarious e-mail from her work address. Here’s a summary!

edit of the original message showing the tail of Air Force One with the tail number NI66ER

New “Air Force One” Tail Number and yes, please forgive me, I’m really sorry, I really, really tried not to laugh, but …………………..!

[see the complete message & thread]

After a little more research, they discovered that it had been forwarded to her by a police dispatcher from Uniontown, OH from her personal address while on the clock with the addition, “now this is funny !!” At last check, the Uniontown PD website is offline.

Both have since been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. Snopes confirms that this has been floating around since at least February of this year and that tail number is actually registered to a privately owned airplane.

Of course there is nothing illegal with hating on the President or any other publicly-elected official.** If it were, a lot of news networks would have been shut down a long while ago. And everyone’s dealt with getting that forwarded e-mail that is maybe kinda funny and even though you never do this, you find yourself forwarding it on to others anyway.***

But just because these women (and countless others) didn’t do anything illegal doesn’t mean I don’t think they did anything wrong****. I really don’t want to think that police dispatchers are passing around e-mails and pictures implying the n-word and that they think it’s “funny”. Knowing that it’s actually happening is disappointing to say the least. There’s an interesting split in the comments on the Think Progress and Canton Repository pages. Some commenters decry racist and other -ism/-ist messages while others think it’s no big deal!*****

Since I don’t live in OH and I don’t know anyone personally that’s sent around this e-mail, my rage is a bit tempered, but I’m reminded of a quote from Ellen Degeneres:

…once you’re upset they say, ‘Just kidding.’ As if that makes it all right. They were just kidding. ‘Well, obviously you don’t know how to kid because we both should be laughing.’

As he’s the president now, Obama is open to a lot of criticism and humor, it’s only natural. And sure, there’s no list of rules about what is or isn’t off-limits to make fun of, but when a man you don’t agree with attains that position and the only thing you seem to be able to make fun of is his race? Yeah, you don’t know how to kid.

And as a side note to all of those who do send out these “funny” e-mails. In the above case, there was at least one person it was sent to that didn’t think it was all that funny. As a result, it was forwarded to a form of the media. Think about that the next time your mouse hovers over the “Forward” button, is that really an e-mail you want people to be able to trace back to you? Is it worth it?

* Just keeping it honest, however I haven’t seen any conservative blogs picking up the story.

** Actually, I can’t say that for certain, there’s probably a lot of shit buried in the Patriot Act.

*** I’m still waiting for my check from Microsoft!

**** Considering these women both work for the police, they had to know that this was at least against their code of conduct or the department’s nondiscriminatory policies.

***** Some comedians have said that if we can’t laugh at everyone then we can’t laugh at anyone. I agree but with one exception: the joke still needs to be funny.

1. Rogue Dispatcher Endangers Lives of North Canton Police
2. BREAKING: Second Dispatcher Caught in Obama Hate Thread
3. E-mails land local police dispatchers in hot water

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6 Responses

  1. Lawrence L. Graham says:

    As Molly used to say to Fibber, “’tain’t funny, McGee.”

    No supposed joke that demeans somebody else can be funny. The only demeaning jokes that can be truly funny are the self-deprecating ones. This kind of supposed humor has the effect of dehumanizing its target. And that can, in the long run, make the target a target for worse.

    Alas, racism is alive and well in an American where all persons are supposedly created equal. When will be learn?

    Old Southern White Boy

  2. Tracy Albert says:

    The human laugh reflex can be dangerous. When you are told an offensive joke that targets a population, there are two moments. There is the moment when you understand what is supposed to be funny about the statement. Then there is the moment you recognize that the joke targets a group maliciously and is, therefore, not funny. Had the plane’s tail spelled out Penis or perhaps Beer, it would be funny and even forwardable. The fact that the readers excused themselves by saying that they tried not to laugh and then forwarded it anyway shows that they got past both moments and still sent it on. They should be fired, IMO.

    In the past, I have often chuckled after moment one, guilty as charged. I hope that I will always sober up after moment two, and I do better every year in not passing on humor that is offensive to anyone. Heck, I don’t even forward e-mails slamming Republicans, although I will admit to laughing heartily at those, even after moment two. Guess I haven’t reached the peak of the truly righteous.

    Years ago, a friend repeated a racist joke to me, and I laughed after moment one. That friend never forgave me. I have always been torn between feelings of shame and persecution over that episode. I still haven’t decided which emotion deserves to win out. Yes, I did laugh. But, I did not “hit the forward button”. Am I a bad person? To this day, I am still not sure.

  3. BeyondDC says:

    Humor is how we deal with pain and unfortunate events. It’s why slapstick is funny.

    The reason this is a big deal is that the joke is only funny if you’re really worried about a black man being president.

  4. Esprix says:

    I actually lost a friend in part over his insipid forwarded e-mails to me. ‘Cause, you know, fat people are FUNNY. Let’s forward pictures of them and POINT AND LAUGH. ‘Cause that’s FUNNY.
    .-= latest entry: Whew! =-.

  5. DCMovieGirl says:

    This quote: “Some comedians have said that if we can’t laugh at everyone then we can’t laugh at anyone. I agree but with one exception: the joke still needs to be funny.”

    I agree, SO HARD.

    Funny is understanding what you’re making fun of. Joke about anyone, but is it funny to just spout the same tired four hundred year old insults?

    I just ask for creativity people.
    .-= latest entry: EARLY REVIEW: DISTRICT 9 =-.

  6. brian says:

    Again, thanks for the comments. This entry got a lot more exposure than I thought!

    @Lawrence: I wish it were always so simple as saying “t’aint funny”. Too often people use “get a sense of humor” or “oh, lighten up” as a response to explain away why someone didn’t like an offensive comment. Placing the other person at fault for one’s own shortcomings is getting old.

    @Tracy: Well said. I have been guilty of the moments of laughter just as many times as my face has instantly and uncontrollably given away the “…what you just said? NOT funny” sentiment. I wonder if this joke had been more recent, if the tail number wouldn’t have spelled out Hitler or Nazi. Not as if that would have been funny either, but the above joke isn’t really trying to be funny.

    @BeyondDC: True enough. I’ve grown very weary of the veiled and coded criticisms from some corners because they know they can’t just come out and say “I don’t like Barack Obama because he’s a black man.” The same kind of commentary was used during Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation. Even if it would damn them, I’d much rather people be honest.

    @Esprix: We still have too many socially-marginalized groups whose discrimination somehow still isn’t obvious. Like Lawrence said, “No joke that demeans somebody else can be funny.”

    @DCMovieGirl: After being called the same names (for years) by one particularly brutish bully growing up, I finally asked “Is that all you got?” I got slugged for my insolence, but the name-calling stopped for a while until he realized that yes… it was all he had.

    And let me just say, you guys are all awesome. 🙂

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