Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Don't speak that name

Reader JB informed me of an interesting--but not entirely surprising--double standard in the world of sport journalism.
At the beginning of the summer ESPN columnist Jemele Hill, a young black woman, was suspended from her job after likening rooting for the Celtics to thinking Hitler was a victim. She apologized and served her suspension.
Last weekend, Lou Holtz, older white guy, also working for ESPN made a comment during a conversation about the not-so-hot record of Michigan's football coach saying something about Hitler was a good leader too. I assume facetiously though another commentator said "you mean, bad leader" and he said yeah, yeah, bad.
Holtz was made to apologize--that's it.
The racist and gendered double standard just smacks one across the face. Holtz just made himself sound stupid. Hill's analogy I cannot quite understand because I don't have the whole context (ESPN took down the column).
But here's the thing, I guess I'm not sure when just mentioning Hitler became inherently problematic. Hitler references are hackneyed and often dehistoricized especially when used in sport. They lack a certain sensitivity, but just mentioning the name Hitler is not anti-Semitic. I find the anti-Semitic slang words far more offensive. Neither Hill nor Holtz actually called anyone Hitler or Hitler-esque.
Let me be clear: I don't think this is political correctness run amok. I think it's actually another example of double (or some other number) standard. Because words like fascist and communist are thrown about all the time. Would there be the same uproar if someone invoked Stalin? (Maybe, who knows.) And, as a self-identified feminist, people of my political persuasion are frequently called femi-nazis because we, horror upon horrors, believe in things like reproductive freedom and the end of domestic violence and sexual assault. I have yet to see a big condemnation of that term.
I am willing to be convinced that Hitler is a dirty word. But if it is, people better start cleaning up other parts of their speech too. Because the mention of a historical figure--as awful as he was--does not seem to be as malicious as calling someone a nazi or a fascist--in any context.

1 comment:

Diane said...

The really strange thing about this is that she was suspended for making an anti-Hitler remark. It's one thing to go looking for a reason to suspend someone who isn't a white male; it's another thing to be too stupid to live.