Poor Marge Schott! This lovably eccentric lady, owner of the Cincinnati Reds, is the latest American to fall victim to the piranhas of Political Correctness, Thought-Police division. One slip, her blood is in the water, and the rest is only a grisly mopping-up operation.
Marge Schott’s sin, so unforgivable as to be beyond redemption, was to use a few Incorrect Words and phrases. The fact that she committed these sins in private, and not even as the public television comments that brought down Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek Snyder, apparently makes no difference. The Constitution may be held to guarantee the right of privacy in the bedroom, but never for Hate Thoughts. Then you’re finished. Sports commentators, who lead the jackal pack, assert that a huge fine and suspension from baseball, would not be enough; apparently no punishment meted out to Marge would be sufficient. They are backed by such as Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who has no known connection with baseball, but who chimed in that Marge had “tainted and sullied baseball.” How about this, fellas: How about a public drawing-and-quartering of Marge on TV, accompanied by “We Shall Overcome”? Would that be enough?
What terrible criminal deeds did Marge commit? She either agrees, or does not deny, that she has, on occasion, used the words: “nigger,” “Jap,” and, about certain people, “money-grubbing Jews.” She also acknowledged keeping a swastika armband in her drawer at home. And that’s IT! Enough for capital punishment, right?
How did these terrible Hate Thoughts come to light? It seems that one Tim Sabo, who is neither black nor Jewish nor Japanese, was fired by Schott as the controller for the Cincinnati Reds. Sabo had the nerve to sue Schott for $2.5 million – nerve because Ohio is, fortunately, an “at will” state that allows an employer to fire any employee as he sees fit. (And why not? Why should anyone have a legal obligation to pay money to anyone else for a service the former no longer wants?) The suit was thrown out of court, as surely Sabo’s lawyers knew it would be. But, and here’s the kicker, part of Sabo’s suit claimed that one reason he was fired is because he disliked Marge’s “racial and religious slurs.” Poor sensitive soul, ethnically altruist to the core!
Obviously, the idea was to bulldoze Marge Schott into settlement, on the threat that her Political Incorrectness would emerge from the deposition that she was forced to make to answer Sabo’s vindictive charges. But, she didn’t bite, and as a result, her deposition, by some magic process, hit the public media like a firestorm. Her blood was poured into the water.
Poor Marge never realized what her deposition would get her into. “Nigger” was a joke term, she said, and she vigorously denied calling two of her players “million-dollar niggers,” because she admires and loves them. She denies being anti-Semitic, since one of her managers is Jewish and he “is like a son to me.” As for the swastika armband, she explained that she got it as a gift from one of her employees who had “taken it off a dead German” soldier during the war. As she explained: “It’s what they call, what, memorabilia? It’s no big deal. I keep it in a drawer with Christmas decorations.”
Poor Marge. All of these explanations, perfectly sensible as they are, would have been totally acceptable not too many years ago. Why aren’t ethnic slurs “joke terms,” especially if not made to the people involved? How indeed can one be anti-Semitic while having Jewish friends? Have no Jews ever been “money-grubbing”? And what’s wrong with keeping memorabilia of wartime? Do you mean to tell me that all those millions who have purchased virtually every book ever published about Hitler are all secret Nazis, worshiping the icons in private?
A final charge emerged during the process, as the bloodhounds descended upon Marge for interviews after her deposition was leaked to the press. Asked about Germany in the 1930s, where Marge’s family resided at the time, Marge opined: “Hitler was good in the beginning, but he went too far.” This statement is supposed to wrap it all up, and to warrant shipping her off to the guillotine. But after all, what’s so terrible about this sentence? Those who are unfortunately Keynesians might well state that Hitler, at the beginning, put the unemployed back to work, brought about prosperity, etc. And weren’t Hitler’s worst deeds committed in the latter part of his reign? It was during World War II that left-liberals at Columbia University told me that “we should learn from Hitler” about government planning of the economy.
There are, of course, no longer any “joke terms” that violate the increasingly rigid canons of Political Incorrectness. Left-liberals are a crew as serioso and humorless as Robespierre or some KGB administrator of a Gulag. The only “humor” permitted now is nasty insults directed at white Christian males.
Indeed, left-liberals have managed to redefine “obscenity,” urging taxpayers to subsidize art that used to be called obscene, while substituting a new category of the Verboten. In the late 1960s, a young libertarian graduate student, now a distinguished investment newsletter editor, formed the Filthy Speech Movement, an offshoot of the Free Speech Movement, at Berkeley. The height of his radicalism came when he challenged the obscenity law as follows: getting up in public in the outdoor political speech area on campus, and starting, slowly and portentously, uttering words on a spectrum of titillation, each one increasingly closer to the obscene. Finally, when he uttered a word that Went Too Far, he was hauled away by the polizei to the pokey. He had made his point about the silliness of words being a jailing offense.
So that’s what we should do with the new Hate words. Start, for example, with the French “negre” (for Negro). Then “Negro.” Still OK? Then “ni-gra.” And then, finally, the ultimate shiver: “nig-ger.” Oooh, wow! Many years ago, the militant black comic Dick Gregory, taking his cue from Lenny Bruce, published a book entitled Nigger, explaining that anyone who used the word from then on was advertising his book. How about treating the whole trumped-up issue with humor?
But the most idiotic charge of all against poor Marge is that she habitually uses the word “Jap.” As in: gifts that she had received from “the Japs” while touring Japan with some Reds players. As theserioso sports reporter Ira Berkow wrote wonderingly in a lengthy piece on Marge in the New York Times (Nov. 2), “she made the comment (about gifts from the “the Japs”) without a seeming concern or understanding of its pejorative implications.” Marge insisted that she didn’t mean to insult the Japanese, that she loves and respects them. Berkow deserves to explain to us further; justwhy is “Japs” pejorative? Tell us, Ira.
Because here the PC brigade has Gone Too Far: they are interfering with a practice that every American stubbornly considers as his birthright: contraction. The American contracts: he doesn’t say “Pep-si Co-la”; he says “Pepsi.” He doesn’t insist on “Bud-weiser,” he says “Bud.” And now he can’t say “Jap”? You mean he has to dutifully say “Ja-pa-nese”? Rubbish. They’ll never get away with it. On “Japs” they lose one.
Back to the Negro Question. The PC blacks have been leading us a merry chase for many decades. Every ten or twenty years we have to learn a new term, because the older one has suddenly become “racist” and “Uncle Tom.” When I was growing up, the good people of my parents’ generation all referred to them as “the colored.” (I don’t know what the Bad Guys, the racists, called them in those days, since I had never met one: perhaps, after all, “nigger.”) But us younger progressives regarded “colored” as racist and Uncle Tom, for some reason that I’ve never grasped: we used the Good word “Negro.” No sooner had “Negro” swept the boards, however, and “colored” been vanquished, when the radical blacks of the late 60s denounced the good old word “Negro” as racist and Uncle Tom and insisted on the word “black.” (Although, oddly enough, in older decades, “black” was considered terribly racist and pejorative, referring as it did to color.) Finally, after a sharp but short fight, “black” was triumphant, and “Negro” sent to the brig, beyond the pale of civilized people.
From the point of view of the average American, the word “black” had a great advantage: it has only one syllable. But, a couple of years ago, the black leadership put their heads together and decided that “black” was now racist and Uncle Tom, and that the only satisfactory term is “African-American.” No guys, no way. No way that a word of seven syllables “Af-ri-can A-mer-i-can” is going to replace a word of one syllable. Never. There are still some verities that the average American holds to with great firmness; and contracting syllables is one of them.
I see signs on the horizon that “African-American” might already be obsolete, and that a new phrase is coming onto the horizon. Get this, it’s: “people of color.” So: after a hundred years of putting us through the hoops the upshot is almost the same phrase with which we started, oh so long ago. Except that for the two syllable “col-ored” we now have the five-syllable “people of co-lor.” I suppose some would call that “progress.”