Bil Browning

Offensive e-mail of the day

Filed By Bil Browning | August 28, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Site News
Tags: anti-immigrant, offensive e-mails, racism is funny, racist jokes, US Border Patrol

Got this in the inbox this morning from a friend who will remain nameless. You'd think they'd know not to send me crap like this.

The other day, I needed to go to the emergency room.

Not wanting to sit there for 4 hours, I put on my old Army fatigues and stuck a patch onto the front of my shirt that I had downloaded off the Internet.

When I went into the ER, I noticed that 3/4 of the people got up and left. I guess they decided that they weren't that sick after all. Cut at least 3 hours off my waiting time.

Here's the patch. Feel free to use it the next time you're in need of quicker emergency service.

"Punchline" after the jump.

It also works at the DMV and laundromat.

Don't try it at McDonald's, the whole crew will exit and you'll never get your order.

image001.jpg

Aren't you gasping for air and holding your sides? Wait, are you puking or laughing?

My reply?

[Friend],

Please don't forward me racist emails. I've been the butt of jokes like this when gays were the target de jour instead of immigrants; I know the type of prejudice they help spread and the consequences that come from them.

After all, who can forget those timeless classics, "What does GAY stand for? Got AIDS Yet?" or "What's the greatest thing about AIDS? It can turn a fruit into a vegetable!"

They're not funny and cause some stereotypes with severe repercussions - like lack of access to quality health care. Remember when some hospitals wouldn't admit people dying of AIDS? How is this different?

Bil

How would you have replied?


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Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | August 28, 2009 1:24 PM

Bil, I think your reply is perfect. It's a shame you had to write it.

What an offensive email. I had to insist that one of my adoptive siblings take me off of her group email list because she regularly send out stuff that bothers me on religious and political issues.

One thing: I don't think it requires making gay oppression comparisons to determine how this e-mail is offensive on its own terms.

Some people are just damn stupid.

I used to get offensive emails like that from my aunt on a regular basis. Like so many ignorant people, telling her I didn't want chain emails (offensive or not) didn't help.

Finally I just filtered her email to "automatic delete." If she needs to get hold of me for something important, she can talk to my mom.

Ugh! This is the story of my life!

I think it's important to note that writing the friend off or just telling them they're stupid isn't really a workable solution. The idea isn't to lose a friend...

The idea is to find a way to point out to the person why the joke is offensive. To their credit, they promptly wrote back to apologize and admit that the joke was racist and tasteless and they should have thought about it for two seconds before hitting the Send key. It was very gracious and accepted full responsibility. That's refreshing in today's day and age.

And I'd like to think it helped our friendship too now that we're both on the same page.

Your last comment is exactly why you are a daily read and so well respected in our household, thank you.

Impersonating a Federal Agent is a Federal Crime punishable by 10 years at hard labor.

10 years of hard labor... I also point that out to those who think its ok to put on fatigues and say "I'm a veteran, give me money!" when I know they'er not and never were a veteran.

His actions really tick me off and if I was there I would have called him on it by having the local police pick him up on felony charges.

Mr. Browning:

1. It is du jour, not de jour.

2. "Immigrant" is not a race. "Illegal immigrant" is not a race. It is not racist to oppose illegal immigration.

3. If you were to go illegally to Mexico and demand free hospital care, you wouldn't get it, and if there were enough Yankees attempting it, they would pass around joke emails about it. That wouldn't make them racist.

Stop your mindless PC drivel and focus on your usual insightful political analysis.

Seriously, I thought I was going to click after the jump and see a swastika. I totally thought that was the punchline.

And yet....

I agree with you only partly Bill. One can defend this saying that being sick is not the same as being in a country illegally. Being gay is also not the same as being in a country illegally. Personally i have to admit i chuckled. Having said that i do know the other side of this having experienced being the brunt of ignorance. In 1983 at the height of fear, i was walking in North Beach SF and this speed freak tweaker did not like the fact i was (flaunting) myself. lol. He started saying things about fags and AIDS and the girl with him was embarrassed but only told him to shut up when i told him to fuck off in the middle of the street in the middle of the day. Make a scene so damn big that a spectacle is in sight for many to witness was my motto. Fortunately i felt no fear because of the place, time and my state of mind but have heard an acquaintance once say that he would not ever say anything in defiance because people like that would take it out on other gay people somewhere else in a more vulnerable time. I sense there are subliminal meanings behind that joke Bill and one of them is that the caller is fueled by the feeling that him and his are paying the bills for others emergency situations. Not necessarily true but not altogether false. I heard no mention of specific subgroups so the racist interpretation may be reading a lot into it.

But Bill, i do agree with you and i am sure you know by now that if someone says white, i will say black and vice versa just for the sake of argument. lol. Did i just admit that about myself?

OMG ewe. No. I didn't, actually.

You know how you just never agree with some people and they always want to argue about everything to try and prove you wrong? I always thought that was our relationship. *grins* That helps me put you in perspective now as someone who wants to challenge the assumptions and enjoy the debate. Good to know. :)

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 28, 2009 9:22 PM

You know Bill I received this same email from one of my less enlightened correspondents and I took it as an opportunity to remind the sender (and all she had sent it to as well *bonus*) that the next pandemic disease does not care who is stateside legally or not. The A hole wearing the shirt just could have sent out the means of killing his own children and grandchildren.

Rick Elliott | August 29, 2009 2:33 AM

I'd reply-- vaya con dios.

I have to respond to this.

I lived in Mexico for a year and a half with a trans friend and her family. Where we lived was not at the touristy spots like Puerta Vallarta or Cancun. It was in an impoverished area that gave me a new perspective of being poor.

Transpersons in particular have to leave Mexico just to survive. While there I learned of an attack on a transwoman where the perpetrator amputated both her legs and left her for dead. The police are no help. In fact a policewoman attacked my friend.

Trans persons almost have to come to the USA just to be able to live. And yet they have little opportunity to work and have to turn to sex work. It was this work that led to the murder of my young friend in August 2004.

And, yes. I believe no one is illegal. Undocumented perhaps, but not illegal.

Seth,

You are right that opposing illegal immigration is not in of itself racist. Just like being opposed to gay marriage and equal rights doesn't make you a conservative nor an anti-rights individual. Being a nazi or a Klan member doesn't make you a racist nor an anti-semite. Being gay, and I am really stretching it on this one, doesn't make you promiscuous or a deviant or an abomination. There are no absolutes, but at what point does it become racist or hate language? At what point does it matter that people get killed because of language in jokes like this one. It creates a prevailing attitude of maginalization and the fact that they too are human beings is eventually lost.

Where we really need to focus is on those who would blanketly defend a "joke" that makes some group of people the butt of some generalization. The coonservatives that can defend that are willing to allow marginalization that has no end. They generally are also willing to do to anyone else what they think the other person would do to them, like that person would never help me why should I help them. What a spiral of separatism and marginalization that creates.

In summary I agree with you on what you said but I pray every day that I can find some love in my heart for everyone. Wow, I guess that makes me a bleeding heart liberal and you know your buddies George Bush and Dick Cheney would sure like to see us exterminated after a little water-board play.

Bill, I got this as well last week and I thought the same thing... why in the world would you send this crap to me!

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 29, 2009 12:45 PM

That friend of Bil’s embodied the authentic voice of racism and union busting. "Illegal", as used to describe imported and immigrant workers, has evolved into a racist term used to race bait imported and immigrant workers. Racists and national chauvinists have used language like that from colonial times for economic reason: to steal land from native Nations, promote slavery and super exploit successive waves of immigrants from Ireland, Italy and Europe west of the Oder.


Just for perspective, Euroamericans are in the Americas illegally. That's the point of view of native Nations who, in a fit of misplaced humanitarian sentimentality taught European illegals how to survive and the importance of basic hygiene like bathing more than annually. What a screw up that turned out to be.


Now imported and immigrant workers from Latin America are doubly exploited by business owners, paid low wages and denied the benefits other working people take for granted. At least we took them for granted until Clinton, Bush and Obama began busting unions and cutting social programs and welfare in earnest.

For unions the effort to gain basic rights for immigrant and imported workers is a question of basic solidarity.

As a naturalized U.S. citizen and a Latino transman who grew up first overseas and then later in the South beginning in the early '60s as racism and ethnic or status profiling was HOT and segregation still ruled the schools and the nation, I sure do understand every single comment in this thread.

Bil, your passion is right and the language you used wasn't your point. I adore you, my brother. As for the semantics correctors, I see your point, too, but I hope you'll set down your red pen and hear the roots of the passion and sentiment, not the words used. Bil raising being gay was saying, "I understand; I empathize." He wasn't saying that immigration status is race. Get beyond the words and then education and understanding can be enriched.

Also, there is a key point yet to be made, which is the key reason I'm posting this. People clearing out a room when someone displays a fake badge doesn't mean that they are not here legally. It means that there is a risk of a pending confrontation or problem, and we who are not -- WHATEVER -- rarely win outright when there is a confrontation. So, we usually take the option for less drama. Wearing fatigues and a fake badge (shame on that felonious person who did that) as described might be interpreted to mean "I don't have to know ANY OF YOU PEOPLE to dislike ALL OF YOU PEOPLE."

In New England and in U.S. history, we are familiar with the phrase "Don't tread on me." This is a little like that. For we who bear enough struggle just getting through our days, we tend not to want to invite unneeded struggle unless there is a point to it, a principle (Hello, Rosa Parks and Bayard Rustin). ERs often have too few providers and they are focused on triage. They're saving lives at medical risk. They can't watch out for people who hate or threaten folks in a waiting room. It'd be too much to ask.

In the South, we used to call the ER scenario described as 'borrowing trouble,' and we have more than a bodyful of lessons from our elders warning us NOT to do it -- "Don't borrow trouble."

So, just because people left the room didn't mean that they were not here legally. It meant that they knew well enough not to borrow trouble because really, they were just seeking care not trying to make a statement on principle. That's just my humble lens.

Keep the passion and principle high, but please know that many of us of color or who are possibly visibly different or unexpected (gender identity and expression included) do not borrow trouble unless we're willing to die for it - and perhaps some of the people who walked out of that ER actually did, unfortunately.

AMEN! Folks do a really good job of missing the point sometimes. Bil's post here was 100% authentic. Seth, whether or not this email Bil got was racist, it was certainly prejudiced. It may have been meant to be humorous, but that same kind of language works people up into violent frenzies. Among the kind of circles these opinions pass freely 'Illegal Immigrant' and 'Latino/a, Hispanic' are interchangeable anymore. I'm sorry, that's racism. How do I know? I worked for many years in a small farming town. They're good people who are well intentioned, and many are far more with-it than people who never leave suburbia/urbia will give them credit for... but still others definitely taught me that sometimes when someone says "Illegal Immigrant" they mean "that guy isn't white, and I don't like it."

I've received damn stupid emails like this before, and trust me, they were in that spirit.

Bil was right on for tackling this in this way.

DIEGO, your words are powerful, and perfect, and I'd like to see anyone dare follow you up with further ignorant argument. Your eloquent summary is EXACTLY what we needed here to end this mindlessness.