In an attempt to defend presidential hopeful Herman Cain from allegations of sexual harassment, correspondent Ann Coulter proclaimed to viewing audiences that “our blacks are so much better than their blacks.” The comment made on The Sean Hannity Show was in reference to conservative African Americans being better than liberal African Americans. Coulter’s statement not only raised eyebrows, but offended many members of the African American community.
Youtube clip from The Sean Hannity Show
Dr. Boyce Watkins, a professor at Syracuse University, responded to Coulter’s claims in an article challenging how the African American community is being used in politics. He states:
“Ann Coulter’s reference to “our blacks,” is an interesting, powerful and extraordinarily telling statement. Ann Coulter’s remarks, while certainly designed to get ratings for a TV show, actually capture the essence of what happens across the board in American politics. Both liberals and conservatives love playing the tacky and insulting game of Black political ownership, so I can’t say that Coulter is alone in her condescending view of the second class citizenship of the African American community. African Americans are like customers at McDonald’s who are told to choose between the Happy Meal and the Value Meal, but never allowed to go into the kitchen to cook the food they want to eat.” (source)
Comedian and Talk Show Host Whoopi Goldberg voiced her thoughts about Coulter this week on an episode of The View.
A clip from MediaITE
Despite the media backlash, Coulter defended her statement on The Joy Behar Show.
The use of the Black community as a means to a political end is exhausted. I think there are ways to target a constituency without speaking as if they are one entity with all the same interests. The race factor in the presidential campaign this year has been an interesting one to say the least with Donald Trump’s reference to “the blacks”, Gov. Rick Perry’s family ranch and the constant debate about who’s blacker–Herman Cain or Pres. Obama. I think this recent rant by Coulter once again speaks to the racism still brewing in America. There has never been a question of the “whiteness” of any president or presidential hopeful. There has never been a reference to the white community as “the whites,” and we’ve never heard any black person proclaim that “my whites are better than your whites.”
This ownership mentality that still resides in politics needs to stop. Coulter’s attempt to speak about the black American experience was far less than impressive. As Dr. Watkins pointed out, her statements may have been an attempt to shock and awe audiences into boosting TV ratings. However, Coulter, as a white woman, is in no position to question Obama’s identity as a black man, or determine that the experience of conservative Black Republicans is more challenging than the experience of liberal Black Democrats. The whole argument reeks of 19th century slavery, and it is deplorable that someone would even have this conversation in 2011.
I think that as American politics progresses in the 21st century there should be attempts by the political pundits, journalists, and politicians to change how we communicate about constituent groups in our work, especially when those constituency are based upon race or ethnicity. Beyond the African American community, we have seen this debate play out in the use of the “i-word” in reference to undocumented people. The ability of the media to tell audiences what to think about, not what to think is powerful and important, but the manner in which media tells this to viewers is equally powerful and influential. Whether you hold Coulter to a journalistic standard or not, her comments fail to hold those in authority accountable instead they perpetuate everything that is currently wrong with our political system.
Please share your thoughts…
Do you believe that Ann Coulter’s comments were offensive? How should media institutions work towards changing the way they communicate about constituent groups?