Goal: Apologize for airing video of monkey on swinging bars directly after a discussion of Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas
It was alarming that NBC recently aired a video of a monkey swinging on gymnastics rings directly after a photo of athlete Gabby Douglas, the first African-American gymnast to win the all-around gymnastics gold in this year’s London Olympics. Whether or not it was an act of intentional racism, it is absurd that NBC editors did not recognize the indecency and liability of running them together simultaneously, and the event provided controversy as well as one more outlet to discuss and fight against racism. It is a sensitive topic in today’s world, especially since covert offenses can be just as hurtful, if not more so, than that which is spoken aloud.
Though the monkey swinging on bars was a promotion for an upcoming show titled “Animal Kingdom,” it was interpreted by most as covert, yet unmistakable, visual discrimination. Many argue that racism resides deep in the heart, and that is why it is so difficult to detect. Whether this incident was a result of a garish joke or an entirely accidental and embarrassing mistake, there is not doubt that it caused hurt for many in a society that proclaims equality. News sources must be extremely careful in the manner that they promote and provide information, as any message can be read the wrong way. While processing this occurrence, a Linguistic Anthropologist may think of a term called “personalism,” which allows a speaker (or major news source, in this case) to say one thing and mean something completely different. Personalist ideology allows a speaker to treat an offensive comment as a joke, and it can even allow him or her to claim that nothing offensive was intended. If our society allows public media to claim that it never meant to do harm even when it did, we sacrifice hard-earned progress made for racial equality while providing irresponsible speakers the opportunity to make offensive remarks with a classic cover-up: “I didn’t mean it that way.”
For this reason, NBC must acknowledge its mistake publicly and admit to its viewers that it was wrong to display sequential photographs that could be perceived as offensive. Fight for those who are deeply offended by acts of covert racism, intentional or not, and ask NBC to make this apology. Urge them to be careful in the future, as they are an influential source and must set a positive example for others to follow.
You are an influential source of news for our country, and with great privilege comes great responsibility. You are responsible for providing news that is both accurate and reflective of American values, such as justice and equality. It was a mistake that an ad of a monkey swinging on rings was shown next to a photo of Gabby Douglas, an Olympic athlete. The racism of this display is obvious, and whether or not it was intentional, you owe the public an apology.
This is a society where freedom of speech is valued, but not at the expense of racial equality. When public media is allowed to be visually or verbally offensive, regardless of the intention, people are hurt. Please acknowledge this mistake, and tell your viewers that covert racism such as this will never again occur on NBC.
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