Douchebag Decree: An Open Letter to Whoopi Goldberg
Dear Whoopi Goldberg,
You were the obvious choice for this week's Douchebag Decree. On Monday's episode of The View, you said that you know Mel Gibson and that he's not a racist, which is definitely a partial defense of his character, and attempted to excuse his behavior because of his alcohol abuse, which doesn't even make sense, because you then said he wasn't drunk during the taped phone calls. I linked to the video, but it basically went like this:
I mean, you know! Because you were there. Then yesterday on The View, you responded to the media backlash (I guess you can skip this part, because you know what you said):
"There has been a lot of a lot of hassle and hazzerai [ed. note removed] in the media recently, about moi! (Pause for laughs.)... Because I had the audacity to say that I had some personal time with Mel that goes over years and years, and said that I did not think of him as a racist. People lost their minds and said 'you, you are defending him!' I do believe had you actually watched the show, all of you nice bloggers and all the folks that sit around at home and try to figure out stuff to do, if you had actually watched the show, you would have heard us say, and you would have heard me specifically say, I don't condone this. I don't think this is right, I don't think this is smart. But here's the piece of information that I have, my experience tells me that this is not a racist. Now being a black woman, you would think you would give me a little bit of leeway to feel if I'm around a racist. But I understand, I understand you don't get it. I understand that. ... And the last thing I wanna say, [putting on an exaggerated 'emotional' voice] because I wanna confess to you guys, is that I myself am a racist. [Audience laughs.] Yes. I mean, you're laughing, but here's what happens. [Returns to her normal voice] If you cut me off while I'm driving, and I happen to look over, whatever I happen to see, that's what you are. You're a black frmrmrmrmrm, or you're a white frmrmrmrm, or you're a female frmrmrmrm. You are everything in the book, in my book, and I realize given the criteria people are using for racist, that I'm a racist. Now if any of you can actually look in your mirror and say that you've never done that, then you get the right to cast the first stone."
Here's the thing, Ms. Goldberg. You're saying that your judgment of whether someone is racist is the most valid judgment because you're black; that everyone's a little bit racist, and that because everyone's a little bit racist, it's not okay for anyone to condemn racism. You're saying things that would be unquestionably considered racist if they came from a white person, but that you seem to think are just charming and irreverent. You're also suggesting that I actually watch a full episode of The View, which is just silly. There are a lot of things wrong with your defense of Gibson, then your defense of your defense of Gibson, but I still don't want to give the Decree to you alone. I think pouring a cooler full of haterade on you is kind of an easy way out. If you read the comments on any of the blog posts or YouTube videos about this incident (my advice: don't), it's obvious that although you're speaking only from personal experience, you're still voicing pretty popular opinions.
Your defense of Gibson seemed baffling at first—it's hard to imagine how anyone could think that Gibson is not a racist after hearing those tapes and after his previous anti-Semitic remarks. But, if what you said is true, Gibson is your longtime friend. He has met your family. He has, presumably, never called your family "a pack of niggers." It's very difficult to accept the fact that your close friends (or family) can harbor beliefs that you find completely poisonous, beliefs that are harmful to you and large groups of other people. It's hard to accept that someone can be racist towards people of your race or nationality and still be your friend; that they can consider you a friend but still believe awful stereotypes about everyone you're related to. It's hard to understand how someone can spend time with you and come to the conclusion that you're Okay, you're Cool, you're Acceptable, but you're still only an exception to (not a representative of) your race. And often what makes you Cool and Acceptable is your tolerance for jokes tinged with racism that masquerade as irony. This happens. This happens all the fucking time. Denial is powerful, and subjectivity is seductive. I'm not trying to excuse your comments here, Ms. Goldberg. You're a grownup and you can deal with the contradictions of these issues, and the fact that you're on an intellectual void of a show and forced to speak in soundbites doesn't mean that you're not allowed to hold forth complex opinions. Whoopi Goldberg, you're on television. You have a responsibility to be informed about the issues you spend your working life discussing, and you have a responsibility to be clear and precise about your opinions, and to consider the impact of this news on everyone who isn't close personal friends with Mel Gibson. That's your job, or it should be.
At this point, you kind of represent everyone who has defended Gibson and castigated his partner Oksana Grigorieva. I've read that at one point on the show, you questioned Grigorieva's motives for leaking the tapes (I couldn't find a clip of this, but it'd be great if you could post it in the comments) and implied that she should be publicly criticized just as much as Gibson. On the radio today (I was in a public place and don't know what station or what program), I heard a talk show host saying the exact same thing: condemning Grigorieva for making the tapes in the first place and then for making them public, calling her a "gold digger" and saying, "what kind of a person would do that to the father of their child?"
Maybe a better question is, what kind of a person would punch the mother of their child in the face, while she was carrying said child, and then later tell her she "fucking deserved it"? What kind of a person would pull a gun on the mother of his child to prevent her from leaving his house? What kind of person would tell the mother of his child that she "need[s] a bat to the side of the head," that he will put her "in a fucking rose garden"? What kind of a person would tell the mother of his child that she looks like "a pig in heat," and that if she "get[s] raped by a pack of niggers it will be [her] fault"? Mel Gibson, that's who. And even if you still don't think he's a racist, do you really still want to call yourself a friend of this man? Because that's what you said. On national television. Even if you and every other misogynistic waste of space out there are right, and Grigorieva really is going public with this story so she can sue Gibson and take all his money, not because widespread media attention was an extreme but completely necessary way to protect herself and her daughter from him—even that is not as heinous as Gibson's abuse. Grigorieva made multiple attempts to privately end what appears to have been a consistently and severely abusive relationship, and nothing put more attention on Gibson than the leaking of these tapes. I would wager that Grigorieva knew that, and that she decided that her personal safety (i.e. her life) is just a bit more important to her than any potential settlement money or the reputation of her horrifically abusive ex-partner.
The full audio files of Gibson's rants are in multiple posts on Radaronline.com. I haven't heard the unedited audio yet, and I don't plan to (even the transcribed excerpts are only palatable when tempered with pictures of kittens), but I suggest you take another listen. Imagine yourself in Grigorieva's shoes. Try and figure out if Gibson's racial slurs are true indicators of deep-seated racism, and I hope you'll realize it doesn't really matter that much whether he "really meant it" or not. Maybe he didn't "really mean it" when he threatened to kill his wife, but he still said it. He meant it enough to say it, and that's enough for me. Mel Gibson doesn't need you to defend him, Ms. Goldberg. He has a lawyer for that.
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