THE WAR ON RACISM HAS BEEN WON
The NAACP thinks there should be more black people on TV. They announced this week that they may sue the television networks because the new fall line-up doesn’t have any black actors in the lead roles. To be honest, it’s a fair gripe — there isn’t really any good reason for there not to be more black-oriented entertainment in a 500-channel universe. And there will be.
But just not in this year’s new fall line-up. And that’s not a big deal.
But the NAACP’s reaction just shows how they and other race-groups can be their own worst enemies. They know that this isn’t bigotry at work. The people who make sitcom decisions are Upper West Side liberals who’ve gone to the Left coast so they can be really knee-jerk in their politics. They can’t even bring themselves to call the networks racist, which is saying something, considering how glibly that charge gets thrown around.
The science of picking sitcoms is only slightly more irrational than the science of predicting victory in battle by deciphering the color of a disemboweled goat’s spleen. The fact that no shows with black lead characters made it to air this year is about as significant as the fact that no sitcoms about astronauts made it. Everyone knows that appealing to a black audience can be a successful network strategy. Blacks are only getting more prosperous, and they watch more TV on average than whites. Does anyone doubt that this is a minor one-year hiccup?
But they can’t leave it alone. Now there is this notion out there that black shows can only get on when networks get sued or mau-maued. That ratchets up racial tensions a bit more in another nook of American life where things were okay.
More to the point, it undercuts an already-eviscerated notion that the NAACP is deeply invested in: the idea that the society is drenched in racism. If this is their big issue, then we can call the troops home in the war against racism. We’ve won.
THE ROLE MODEL DILEMMA
And while we’re on the topic, part of the NAACP’s critique of the networks is that blacks deserve to see recognizable role models in the media. I don’t know this, but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that steakheads like Alec Baldwin and the rest would nod to the point of high-vertebrate carpal-tunnel syndrome in agreement with this notion. Fair enough. But aren’t these the same guys who thought violence in the media was just a “scapegoat” after Littleton? The whole idea of positive role models is contingent on the premise that one can have negative role models too.
One program that had a black lead, The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer, was cancelled last year, largely because blacks protested its depiction of a house slave in Lincoln’s White House. Personally, I agreed with the protestors; the show was awful. But you can’t have it both ways. If role models can be good or bad, then it must have something to do with what the role models do with themselves. That includes actions like killing and beating people, not just smoking.
TITLE POX IT MORE LIKE IT
Speaking of role models, I’m sorry but I just can’t get on the women’s-soccer bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong, I think these young women are impressive in every way. And I take a backseat to no one when it comes to savoring sticking it to the Chi-Coms. But there’s a Julie McCoy Cruise Director bubbliness to all this that I can’t take. There’s also more than a bit of what one friend of mine calls “horny patriotism” behind the coverage. If these women looked like the East German Women’s Horse-Wrestling Team, I doubt Sam Donaldson would be fidgeting like an eighth-grader afraid of stepping up to the blackboard. And even I felt a little frisson of women’s-prison-movie fantasy when, on the Today show, Katie Couric asked Brandi Chastain if she could tell her she “had a beautiful body” after checking out her nude spread on the cover of Gear magazine.
“Thank you, Katie, actually I find these TV clothes very constricting, could you help me with my blouse so I can show you?” Noooo, she didn’t say that. My depraved couch wrote that.
Anyway, the biggest bunk is, of course, the universal mantra that Title IX (which I only just learned isn’t pronounced “Title Icks”) made all of this possible and therefore we need to keep the troglodytic mouth-breathers from getting rid of it. For those who don’t know, Title IX is a 1972 law which forbids sex discrimination in education. The impression one gets watching the fawning news coverage is that women couldn’t play sports before 1972 because the Chinese foot-binding and forced needlepoint work made running too difficult.
To be sure, Title IX enforcement, which didn’t begin until the 1980s, jump-started women’s sports on some campuses. But there was a high price to pay. This is explicated briefly, but brilliantly, in a piece co-written by Jessica Gavora, former Policy Director for Lamar Alexander and the founder of the Play Fair Project of the Independent Women’s Forum, in today’s Wall Street Journal (very close G-File readers may have suspicions I’ve mentioned her before).
Across the United States, colleges are being forced to kill their men’s programs in order to bring parity between men’s and women’s sports. Under Title IX, women must participate in athletics in numbers proportionate to their population on campus.
At Central Connecticut State University, 49% of its athletes are women. But the school is 51% female, so the Clinton administration has told CCSU that they must sign up 20 more women athletes. The problem is that the school has been minting new women’s sports teams for the last few years (bringing participation up from 29% to 49% in four years) and there just aren’t any more women who want to play ball (or fence or whatever). Too bad, says Clinton’s Department of Education. If you can’t meet your quota of women athletes, you’ll just have to cut some men. So men’s wrestling or crew or something else will just have to go. IWF (a href=”www.iwf.org” mce_href=”www.iwf.org”>www.iwf.org) has cataloged over 350 men’s sports teams that have been axed because of this perverted logic.
Imagine if the U.S. government said there needs to be more equity between the number of black plumbers and white plumbers — surely that would be a good thing, no? Well, now imagine that getting the number of black plumbers up proved too difficult, so instead the feds started bringing the number of white plumbing businesses down. Equity, blissful equity, would be achieved!
That is precisely the logic at work here.
Even the most outlandish advocates of quotas will say that once there is an equal playing field between whites and blacks — a colorblind society — quotas will no longer be necessary. When you’re filling stadiums and prime television slots with women’s sports, when pro basketball is on the march, and, most importantly, when you’re talking about smothering opportunities for teenage boys over a lousy 2% swing, I think you’ve gotten close enough to the gender equivalent of color blindness.
If Title IX worked to get women out on the field, great. If it didn’t, well, it was a nice idea. Regardless, if women’s sports have gotten the jump-start they need, let’s scrap the law that’s devastating men’s sports for no good reason.
MOTOR MOUTH WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Okay, the polls are now closed. Matt Drudge decisively won round three of the contest (alas, my old stomping ground Think Tank came in last (programming note: Title IX will be the topic this weekend on Think Tank — and yes, Ms. Gavora will be on shilling for truth and justice — check your listings).
So today it’s Drudge vs. Tony Snow’s Fox News Sunday vs. Chris Matthews’s Hardball. It’s all men and we will have no forced equity here. And, since all three never invite me on anymore, may the best man win (and may this interminable poll end).
|The Jonah Poll ||What is the best political show on TV: The Finals|
Fox News Sunday
Hardball with Chris Matthews