Tuesday, May 15, 2007

His Name Is Earl

On Sunday Night Earl Cole won Survivor: Fiji. The two finalists Earl beat for Season 14’s top prize were “Dreamz” (Dre Herd) and Cassandra Franklin. All three are African-American -- surely a first in Survivor history.

I mention this because I haven’t heard too much talk about Survivor this year. Last year, in a pathetic attempt to grab publicity, producers divided the four teams by ethnicity: Asian, Hispanic, African-American and Caucasian. It caused a minor wave in the pop culture pool, and coverage in all of the major newspapers and networks assured the wilting Survivor franchise another 15 minutes in the spotlight. Entertainers like Rush Limbaugh represented the culture’s knuckle-dragging wing, dredging up old racial clichés to handicap the season and causing still more Survivor-related ripples as the predictable protests ensued. Let the games begin.

This season of Survivor also featured an ethnically-diverse cast. Although the show didn’t pit one race against the other (something the show ditched after just two episodes last year anyway), the teams contained an equal number of African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Caucasians.

This was completely ignored by the pop culture pundits, I guess because CBS didn’t issue a press release about it. In the end, the “final four” consisted of three African Americans and a 54-year-old Chinese man. To the best of my knowledge, the absence of white people and Hispanics went undetected by Rush Limbaugh’s radar--without a klieg lights on the topic, why bother, right?

Which I guess gets to my point. I’m getting tired of hearing about the “national conversation.” I’d like to know who sets the agenda for these conversations and how I can get my pet issue on the list. We were supposed to be having a “national conversation” about race during the whole Don Imus kerfuffle, but all I heard was a lot of talk about political correctness. These days, any discussion of race stops at whether it’s hypocritical to call your own ethnic/religious group a nasty name and then complain when someone else does it. That’s not a discussion of race, that’s talking about manners.

It seems every time a major story hits the headlines, the political correctness angle takes precedence over anything else. Not surprisingly, the folks yelling the loudest about it are the rude pundits on the right: Glenn Beck, Rush and that crowd. These folks have built their entire careers on being the anti-PC crowd, so it’s no surprise they’ll defend their right to be rude to the death. It’s the only thing keeping them in business.

Since it keeps coming up anyway, why don’t we just have a national conversation about political correctness? Let’s just get down in the mud, hash it out and be done with it once and for all. Then, the next time some stupid reality show wants to pit blacks against whites, the poor against the rich, the college educated against the street-smart, we’ll have already been through through the “manners” part of the conversation and we can talk about something substantive for a change.

Just a thought.