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Views in brief

December 1, 2006 | Page 4

Celebrating the Dixon run
Nothing funny about Borat

Racist rant of a "comedian"

AS A Seinfeld fan, I had the surreal experience this week of watching (over and over and over again) footage of one of its most hilarious actors, Michael Richards (Kramer, on the show), raving back and forth across a comedy club stage and shouting about the "niggers" who were interrupting his standup comedy act.

While some laughed, I was relieved to see that many audience members challenged him, and from what I could see on the grainy, cell-phone-quality video, it looked like quite a few walked out.

Then came the apology. Jerry Seinfeld yielded his standup time on Late Night with David Letterman to allow Richards a chance to make a public statement. Just when you thought it couldn't get worse, Richards started talking about Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq--all of this meant, no doubt, to bolster his claim that he's not a racist. What???

Later, the Today show interviewed two of the audience members. They explained that Richards started racially harassing their group from the minute they walked in. "Here comes the Blacks and Mexicans," he is alleged to have said. When one person from their group called out, "You're not funny," he apparently stuck up his middle finger and said, "Fuck you, nigger."

He followed that comment with (among other things): "Fifty years ago, we would have had you upside down with a pitchfork in your ass!"

Keep that in mind next time you hear him or his buddies insist, "Michael's not a racist."

Don't get me wrong, it's a good thing that Richards felt like he needed to apologize. This is part of the legacy of the Black struggle from the 1960s and '70s. Overt racism has been officially discredited. But we should never forget that there are lots of worse ways that racism still destroys people's lives in America--the slow destruction of the schools and the simultaneous buildup of prisons are just two examples--and no one's rushing to apologize for that.

Still, one can't help but wonder what became of the reporters and journalists who a short time ago were defending the anti-immigrant racist rantings of Jim Gilchrist at Columbia University in the name of "free speech." Some racist rants are given a pass, it seems.

And if it's not already obvious, Michael Richards is a racist.
Brian Jones, New York City

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Celebrating the Dixon run

ON ELECTION Night 2006, more than 100 supporters of Aaron Dixon's Green Party campaign for U.S. Senate gathered for a celebration.

The program began with video of memorable campaign moments as well as footage of the Seattle Black Panther Party, which Dixon co-founded. Organizers, volunteers and sympathizers chanted and cheered as leaders of the campaign gave speeches outlining their accomplishments regardless of the vote totals. As Dixon put it, "No matter what comes out of this tomorrow, this campaign has been groundbreaking for the state of Washington."

The campaign raised issues that both the major party candidates ignored--the human costs of the disastrous war in Iraq, the diversion of those resources from badly needed community programs such as health care, jobs, education and the environment as well as the need to fight racism and other forms of oppression. This powerful message, summed up by the slogan "Out of war...Into our communities" was spread across the state by a grassroots, all-volunteer effort.

Weekly volunteer meetings in Seattle consistently drew 20-30 multiracial activists of all ages--including many high school students, neighborhood residents, immigrants, socialists and Green Party members. The campaign also raised an unprecedented $80,000 in contributions, primarily from ordinary people giving whatever they could.

The mood at the celebration was enthusiastic, with most activists expressing their dedication to continue the struggle after the campaign. At one point, the whole crowd was on their feet with fists in the air chanting "We will never quit!", along with Duncan Autrey, the campaign's volunteer coordinator.

As Jesse Hagopian, Dixon's campaign manager, put it, "This campaign shows the potential to rebuild a confident, multiracial, grassroots movement for social justice. We must build on this momentum!"

As of this writing, Dixon has received over 16,000 votes. This lower-than-hoped-for figure reflects a number of factors, including the overwhelming public opposition to the Republican Party, which led many to vote for the Democrats as the "viable" alternative. In addition, Dixon was banned from televised debates, severely limiting the number of people who were able to hear his message.

Lastly, Bruce Guthrie, the Libertarian candidate who bought his way into the debate, called for bringing the troops home now. While Guthrie's other platforms are very different from Dixon's, there is no doubt that his position split the antiwar vote.

Nevertheless, Dixon's campaign marked an important step forward for progressives in Washington. In coming weeks, volunteers will be assessing the campaign and discussing proposals for future work. The fight for justice in Washington will continue.
Sam Bernstein and Leela Yellesetty, Seattle

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Nothing funny about Borat

AFTER READING the review of Borat by Brian Jones ("Comin' to America," November 17), I saw the move and am absolutely appalled at the racist stereotype that the filmmakers use to carry its narrative.

I'll admit that I laughed and found it interesting that the film was able to expose the racism and homophobia that grips this country. However, movies that use bigotry to "expose bigotry" will only add to mixed consciousness. Can the portrayal of a Muslim man as a sex-obsessed anti-Semite serve as a tool for progressives? No it cannot.

Dumb, sex-obsessed, perverted, Jew-hater. What other way can you see this character? Does the fact that the person doing it is himself Jewish actually make it acceptable?

The scene in which Borat tries to "marry" Pamela Anderson by attempting to kidnap her in a burlap sack is quite disturbing. When he is unsuccessful in this attempt, he proceeds to chase her as she screams in terror. Not only does it add to the stereotype of Muslim men being misogynists, but it also makes fun of what is essentially a sexual assault, when the victim is not in on the "joke."

What is most disgusting about this vile film is the beginning scene where Borat introduces us to his village. As he walks down the dirt road of his hometown, he introduces us to the "town rapist," and then points to small children playing with assault rifles and shotguns and calls it "kindergarten"!

It is a sad state of affairs when socialists try to find value in comedy films that can only add to the vile racism and sexism that exist in society. If you want to laugh to political commentary you are better off reading Mark Steel's book on the French revolution, or listening to his lectures. Better yet, read them next to a roaring fire of Borat DVDs.
Alessandro Tinonga, Santa Cruz, Calif.

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