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Author Topic: Insensitive? Yes. Rude? Yes. Racist? Tell Me How
Noemon
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There is a wire story on Salon about an immigration judge who is in trouble for having made a Tarzan joke to a woman named Jane who was seeking asylum in the US because of her husband's murder and her own rape and torture.

The joke ammounted to a "me Tarzan you Jane" type comment.

This was completely insensitive and inappropriate, and I think that the judge should be punished in some way. I understand that a job like that would wear a person down, but come on, there's a time and a place.

The woman's doctor is qouted in the article as saying "It was disrespectful and insulting, and in my mind it was racist to have a white judge making Tarzan comments to a black woman".

Huh? Why? I mean...where does race enter into it? I'll admit that it's been decades since I've read or seen anything Tarzan related, so maybe my memory is just faulty. Can anyone clue me in on this one?

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katharina
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Jane was English.

As was Tarzan!

[ August 05, 2003, 01:13 PM: Message edited by: katharina ]

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Noemon
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Well, that's how I remembered it. I'd love to be able to ask the doctor in question why she thinks that.
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FlyingCow
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Hold on a sec...

::puts on +3 cap of idiocy::

Tarzan has a popular association with swinging through the jungle on vines, along with associating with apes and gorillas. Couple that with his poor communication skills and unkempt appearance. That leads up to a pretty strong image of what the judge thinks this poor woman's mate will (or must!) be like.

On top of this, the woman is black! Because of the perspective of her race, how could she *not* have assumed racial implications in his words? I mean, Tarzan swings on vines! That's a stereotypical racist comment on everyone from Africa, isn't it? Arthur Conan Doyle was obviously making a statement about black culture when he wrote Tarzan - only the book wouldn't have sold had he made the characters black.

The woman's perspective changes the meaning of the judge's words, and gave her the impression that he was being racist. Because she got that feeling and felt offended, *obviously* the judge was *being* racist. If he wasn't being racist, she never would have been offended.

He should lose his judge's seat, be disbarred and have to work pro bono for the NAACP for a period no less than 20 years. Oh, and the state should give this woman $10 million for the pain and suffering caused by their putting a racist on the bench.

::takes off +3 cap of idiocy::

Is that enough justification for you? Never overestimate the intelligence of the average human being.

[ August 05, 2003, 03:18 PM: Message edited by: FlyingCow ]

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Belle
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I think the airborne bovine has made a case for how the leap could occur in the thoughts of some folks.

Same rationale that the word "niggardly" is offensive, even though it's a perfectly good word meaning stingy.

When you go looking for things to be offensive, it's easy to twist just about anything that way.

Judge was insensitive, and rude but racist? Not in my book.

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ClaudiaTherese
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Noemon, I remember reading that "Tarzan" means "white skin" in the "ape language" of ERB's novel (see link). At least one of the concerns raised about racism in the Tarzan stories is the implied inherent superiority of the white man, who is the natural "Lord of the Jungle," even if thrown into a primitive African environment as a baby.

Perhaps the physician's concern was more about the judge emphasizing his position of power and authority over someone who was seen as representing a primitive African environment? (That is, maybe it was more about him being white and her happening to be called Jane -- in this emotionally charged context of power and race -- rather than it was about her being black.)

It isn't an argument I would have made, but I think I can sort of see the perspective.

[ August 05, 2003, 03:46 PM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]

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katharina
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The original Tarzan are very rascist, I think. My dad had a few, and they are almost unreadable for modern sensibilities.
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AndrewR
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quote:
Arthur Conan Doyle was obviously making a statement about black culture when he wrote Tarzan.
I very, very much doubt that, mainly because Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the Tarzan stories. [Taunt]
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ClaudiaTherese
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From the link above (Holland Sentinel article):

quote:
"the baiting of blacks was Tarzan's chief divertissement," Burroughs declares in one story ... [emphasis added]

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Speed
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quote:
Arthur Conan Doyle was obviously making a statement about black culture when he wrote Tarzan - only the book wouldn't have sold had he made the characters black.
I thought Tarzan was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

But you did have your +3 idiocy cap on when you said it, so no worries. [Wink]

[edit: Ooh, we all jumped right on that one, eh? I've never seen three posts at once on the same mistake. I wonder if that's a record. [Big Grin] ]

[ August 05, 2003, 03:36 PM: Message edited by: Speed ]

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FlyingCow
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Um... better make that a +4 cap of idiocy...
[Blushing]

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ClaudiaTherese
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[Smile] Ah, no, guys ... I emphasized "Burroughs declares" just because I thought it was worth noting that this sad quote was from the text of one of the novels.

I mean, wow ... katharina is so right. In reading some excerpts from the original stories, I'm amazed. It's like rereading some of Heinlein as a grown woman -- how did I miss this? I must've read Burroughs way back in grade school, and the racism didn't even occur to me then.

Egads, I knew growing up in southern Indiana was crippling in the whole "exposure to non-German-Catholics" sort of things, but damn.

That's pretty bad. [Frown]

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Noemon
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I don't know about your theory, CT. I mean, it's possible, and it's definitely the best explanation anyone's made, but it doesn't quite mesh with what the doctor is quoted as saying. It could be that she was unable to articulate it though.

You know, I really can't believe that judge--I can't say how glad I am that I'm not so inured to human suffering that I could listen to someone's story of their rape and torture, along with their husband's murder, while checking the weather and talking to somebody about buying some real estate. To me those two things seem quite a bit more horrifying than his Tarzan comments. Can you imagine having a job like that, having to listen to endless, true stories of human suffering? I really don't think that I could have that job.

I'm not really surprised that the Tarzan books are racist, although I didn't actually remember that (or much of anything else) about them. I think I only read one of them, and that only once. When it came to humans raised by animals, I was a much bigger Jungle Book fan (not that Kippling wasn't racist by our standards as well). I truly wanted to be Mowgli when I was 6 or so. Mowgli or Spiderman, one or the other.

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Geoffrey Card
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You know, it really doesn't matter at all to this case whether the Tarzan books were racist by modern standards. I sincerely doubt that the judge was aware of any such content he was merely quoting something that could be picked up from pop culture in general. People rarely do in-depth research to support their off-the-cuff comments. Trent Lott comes to mind.
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