Will Allen's denouncers be equal-opportunity critics?

August 23, 2006|By CAL THOMAS

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Sen. George Allen, Republican of Virginia, was caught on tape referring to a campaign worker for his Democratic opponent, James Webb, as a "macaca." The campaign worker, S.R. Sidarth, is East Indian, and it was quickly noted that the word "macaca" is considered a racial slur in some European countries. Macaques are monkeys and, thus, the derivative "macaca" is considered racially insensitive.

Mr. Allen said he didn't mean to be offensive and was just joshing with the young man, but The Washington Post twice treated the incident as front-page news, and one of its columnists, Eugene Robinson, unburdened himself in 770 words hinting, if not at Mr. Allen's supposed racial insensitivity, then at his stupidity.

The Daily Show produced a skit from the remark, and the liberal Internet blogs have been making jokes at Mr. Allen's expense. It will be interesting to watch the reaction of all of these to far more serious and undeniably racist remarks by an icon of the civil rights establishment, Andrew Young.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Sentinel, described on its Web page as "an African-American owned newspaper that puts emphasis on what concerns the African-American community and its readers," Mr. Young was asked if he has concerns about Wal-Mart closing down mom-and-pop stores.

In by-now familiar comments, Mr. Young, who headed an outside support group called Working Families for Wal-Mart to help the discount chain improve its public image, responded, in part, that "These [small stores] are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. ... I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs."

Mr. Young announced Friday that he is resigning from his position because "I think I was on the verge of becoming part of the controversy, and I didn't want to become a distraction from the main issues." Mr. Young claimed the report in the newspaper was "misread and misinterpreted." Unlike "macaca," these words don't have to be looked up to find the definition. What's to misread and misinterpret?

Call it a Mel Gibson moment. Nobody ever means these things after they say them and are exposed. It was the booze talking, or the guy was not in his right mind, or he was just making a joke, or he had no idea what the words meant, or that anyone would take offense. And then we usually get the all-encompassing and morally meaningless, "I apologize to anyone who might have been offended."

Some years ago, ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell referred to a speedy running back who had just broken through the opponent's defensive line for a major gain. Excited by his athletic prowess, Mr. Cosell said, "Look at the monkey run." The player was African-American, and some people tried to turn it into a bigoted statement, though an HBO special showed Mr. Cosell using the same phrase to refer to a white athlete.

Speaking of Mr. Young's remarks, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said, "If anyone should know that these are words of bigotry, anti-Semitism and prejudice, it's him."

If the mockers, bloggers and columnists who jumped on George Allen don't jump with at least equal fervor on Andrew Young, their political bias is showing. Maybe Mr. Allen (and Mr. Gibson) can send Mr. Young a sympathy card and wait to see if equal-opportunity ridicule for Mr. Young shows up on Comedy Central.

Cal Thomas' syndicated column appears Wednesdays in The Sun. His e-mail is cal@calthomas.com.

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