Thursday, July 16, 2009

try to use humor to distance themselves from racism

So did you catch David Arquette's "hilarious" assessment of Sonia Sotomayor? That one-minute drive-by he did on "Fox and Friends"?

You know it was funny -- racist, true, but hey, funny too! -- because that "Fox and Friends" technician reacted right on cue.

He's the guy (or gal) who sits there with a finger poised over some button, waiting to release a whistle-and-rimshot sound effect, which I guess says something like, "Wow, THAT was pretty nuts, wasn't it folks?! But it's all good, har har har!"

The transcript of Arquette's idiotic remarks appear below. They're so stupid and disrespectful that they hardly merit comment (though if you want to comment on them, by all means, please do).

What interests me more is that whistle-and-rimshot sound effect. Or maybe, whistle-and-cymbal? What IS that second sound? And more to the point, what exactly is the whole sound effect supposed to indicate?

I think it's another among many examples of something more general, a common white tendency. That common tendency is to think that it's okay to say or do something racist, if you turn it into a joke somehow.

If you're worried about being labeled a racist, just start grinning and somehow suggest that the racism isn't a reflection on you. Act in a way that more or less says, "hey, I know this here is racist, but I'm just joking! So don't worry, I myself am certainly not a racist!"

"Never mind," you also seem to be saying at such moments, "that I do just somehow have to say this racist thing, because, like, you know, it's just true, right?"

In this case, I think it's "Fox and Friends" that wants to distance itself from Arquette's racist commentary (although he's doing a lot of his own Distancing Laughter too), by using that sound effect. And it's not the first time Fox has used it. Just last week, I noticed that they used that sound for the same distancing effect when Brian Kilmeade started prattling outrageously about how pure-blooded people shouldn't marry "ethnics" and "other species."

This use of such a sound effect on live programs, to blunt or counteract someone's objectionable words, is new to me.

Does Fox use it on other shows? Are there other networks that use anything like it?

At any rate, it's certainly a common "white" thing, isn't it, when it's used to deflect serious attention from someone's racism, with something that's supposed to elicit laughter, instead of anger.

Here's the transcript of David Arquette's remarks:

Can I mention something about Sotomayor since we're like, you know, it's politics? I think Latino women are -- it depends on the woman -- but I think they are very, they have great judgment, but there are some that are just nuts.


I would just say it. I mean, it's -- you can't -- (laughs)

[distancing sound effect]

Personal history?

Now your wife, Courtney Cox, is not Latino, is she?

No, she's not Latino, but I'm from Los Angeles so we know all about the Latino women.

I get it! Now we're getting into your personal history.

I don't know what I'm talking about but --

But she's qualified?

Oh yeah, she's qualified. But who knows if she's nuts or not! No, I'm just kidding.

Well you know what, David? Sometimes you're a little nuts.

That's right. I love Latina women!

h/t: Vanessa @ feministing

Update (7/17/09): David Arquette has apologized; he really was just trying to be "humorous." And hey, give the guy a break, some of his best friends are Latinas!

I would like to issue an apology for the comments I made on Fox and Friends. My intent was to be humorous and not offensive. I have nothing but love and respect for Latina women and women in general of all cultural backgrounds. What saddens me most is that it took away from the issue of Hunger in America, for which I was on the show to begin with. I work and [sic] a pantry in Venice California with a hispanic women named Delpia (who has been feeding people at St. Joseph's Center for 29 years) and she is my personal hero. Having been raised in Los Angeles I have grown up with a deep and profound love for the Latino culture.


  1. If I didn't know any better I'd think he was drunk.

  2. I don't think he's drunk but he's definitely a racist who should be investigated and never allowed to be in cast in a movie again. He's just like every white person and should not be allowed to freely speak such things.

  3. Yes, I thought he was drunk too. The thing is, he looks like such a nice pleasant guy...*rolls eyes*

  4. Sheedaz,

    Now, to be fair, not all white people are racist.

  5. He sounds every bit as idiotic here as his deputy character from the "Scream" franchise. Sounds to me like he dated a Latina or two and got burned.

  6. I couldn't figure out what part of that was even supposed to be funny. It was actually confusing to me, and just sounded stupid - as though he were impaired in some way. I think that's why drunk comes to mind so quickly - because his comments are completely nonsensical.

    I'm imagining that there are a lot of times when Courtney has to lean over and whisper, "Not now, honey, the grownups are talking."

  7. Sheedaz was being sarcastic maybe?

    How was what he said racist? I'm curious to know.

  8. myblackfriendsays,

    I have no idea whether Sheedaz was being sarcastic or not, this is the Internet, where you can't hear a person's voice to know whether they are being sarcastic or serious, as you know.

    But, he wants to make a point about Sotomayor, which is that Latina women are nuts? That doesn't make any sense to me and has nothing to do with Politics or the topic of discussion.

    Looks to me as though he wanted to get something off his chest. It's almost as though he wants to say something else and then changes his mind at the last second.

    Also sometimes with veiled racism, it's covert. It's easier when a person just comes out and makes their point instead of getting people to play guessing games with words.

    Also a lot of the time, racism has a lot to do with stereotypes, take my ex-manager for example "You appear to be over-confident", "You think you know everything" and a number of derogatory comments. What is that supposed to mean? Translation of what she really meant was that as a Black person, I should know my place and act accordingly and not have an opinion but just say "yes master, three bags full..."

    Basically, some racist people talk in code = less easy to prove.

    If Sotomayor were White, I don't even think we would be having this conversation because it wouldn't be relevant at all.

    So, that is just my opinion.

  9. White's View of the World:

  10. Fox is on a roll with its racism and sexism. Who's up next tomorrow?

    If I have to hear that sad whistle again, I might have to vomit. "Whoo-hoo, we're so wacky over here at Fox."

    No. Just no.

  11. Maybe he was trying to be funny...but to no avail.

  12. If you're worried about being labeled a racist, just start grinning and somehow suggest that the racism isn't a reflection on you. Act in a way that more or less says, "hey, I know this here is racist, but I'm just joking! So don't worry, I myself am certainly not a racist!"

    Yes, it's like you saying something full of privilege and racial ignorance, and then when you are criticized for it, you say that it "was written in jest" when it was in a serious context.

    (Of course, I'm not allowed to reference, quote, or link to any of your problematic comments from other posts, according to your special commenting rules for me, ensuring that I am stripped of my ability to back up my assertions. And when a white person disagrees with a POC and the POC has no proof, guess which person people are more likely to believe, and which person is assumed to be a liar? It's great that you have no qualms about cashing in your white privilege like this!)

  13. Restructure, I certainly have committed many of the common white actions and errors that I write about. Writing about them is a way for me to learn about them. But the commenting rules you mention here aren't just for you. Anyone else who insisted on rehashing and sometimes misrepresenting things that I wrote many months ago in particular comments, and that I then commented on again and again in response to their claims about them, would eventually face the same restrictions. I'm not exercising white privilege in imposing those restrictions -- I'm exercising blogger privilege. I also haven't stripped you of your ability to back up your assertions. You've written many of your own blog entries about my writings (in my own posts and comments) on two other blogs, and you've commented many times on still other blogs about my writings, and about the "me" that you've come to think I am. As far as I can tell, all of that has been negative, and you can easily continue with it. I can do nothing here to strip you of the ability to continue elsewhere what others have aptly labeled your "crusade" in this regard. I would only ask you again (though to no avail, I see), to apply that magnifying glass of yours to what I write much more carefully in blog posts, than to what you find much easier to pounce on, which is what I write in sometimes hurriedly written comments that I have already discussed with you, repeatedly.

  14. Wow, that was...odd...I thought he was just being like those poor people who never fit in with any crowd so they just keep talking in the wrong direction because at first, they thought everybody would laugh. And then they don't. Just like Fox didn't laugh.

    Then after reading people's comments, I'd have to agree, he was probably under the influence of something other than peer pressure.

    And, I think that's a cymbal. Its sounds very much like the same sound that follows a drum roll when something supposedly funny has just been said. (And then everyone catches on that it was supposed to be funny because they've just been cued by the drumroll/cymbal combo).

  15. Thank you Cham, I think it's a cymbal too.

    I know Fox is forever behind the times, but still, Vaudeville sound effects?? Oy!

  16. The distancing sound effect sounded to me like what cartoons use for a pratfall - perhaps to suggest that his joke fell flat?

  17. Hmm, maybe Zula, but then, Brian Kilmeade wasn't trying to tell a joke when they used it for his gaffe. Maybe they use it for different reasons, or effects. Weird.

    I hope other live "news"-type shows don't start using it. I think it also has a kind of dumbing-down effect.


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