In Salon today, an article here by Rich Benjamin discusses Attorney General Eric Holder's relationship to the president in terms of the politics of race. In doing so, he use a word -- well, okay, "the" word when it comes to race. I won't use it, because it's again my own sensibilities to do so. But I also won't do what's generally done -- oh-so coyly use most of the letters, with an asterisk blocking...well, nothing. That's sort of like a woman wearing a string bikini and thinking she's covered her breasts. I'm going to use an asterisk for the whole word -- you know what it is, so it's not fooling anyone, or covering the private parts. But in the end it's just an asterisk. Thems my standards, what can I say?
What Mr. Benjamin wrote was, "Some of us have an Inner Child. Others have an Inner *. Is Holder the president’s conscience? Or his Inner *?"
There are a lot of things so wrong with this. The most obvious is...well, obvious. It's using a word that knowingly is crushingly hurtful. It's not that it's politically incorrect, it's knowingly offensive and knowingly hurtful, and in being so, it draws attention to itself and detracts from a valid point to discuss.
But there's another reason, and one that caused me to stop reading: and that's that I found it stupid. If this is what the reporter actually thinks, why would I want to read any further? Whether one agrees with the Attorney General of the United States or not, he is a man who is clearly a very bright, highly accomplished man, who has risen to great position on the basis of his notable skills. And to think that such a man might be so racially subservient, shuffling, debased, and dirt-low -- for that's what the word used is -- makes the reporter himself seem like a fool. There are a lot of ways to describe a question about Eric Holder, but to strip away all his talents and life, and paint him as perhaps nothing more than "you know, wink wink" speaks to who the reporter is, not Eric Holder. It says that the reporter believes that if a black man isn't one way -- outspoken, emboldened, he must therefore be 180-degrees the other. It's shabby, unfair thinking. Yes, I know it was a metaphor. But it was a metaphor that has important meaning and which Rich Benjamin intentionally chose as his description. It didn't just slip out. Does he really, actually think that of Eric Holder? It's his words. But if he didn't really mean it at all and was just saying it, "wink wink," to get a guttural reaction -- he's free to do so, and others are free to say that they don't want to read an article that argues a point it's not making.
And that a Salon editor said, "Yeah, okay, if that's what you want to say, then go with it," shows almost as bad judgment. They all have a right to say and approve whatever they want. It's their magazine. But that does make what they say smart and thoughtful and insightful. It was also deeply sloppy writing and editing, not being able to come up with a richer, more meaningful way of coming to terms with actions of which you want to raise questions. It was intended to be smarmy. And at least the magazine can be comforted that it was.