“You don’t get to decide what offends me!”
This is, of course, true, but only trivially so. Any of us are free to be offended by anything we like. I’m offended when sesame seeds come on my hamburger bun. I’m offended by freight trains with an odd number of cars. I’m offended when the sun does that same tired eastern-sky-to-western-sky trajectory over, and over, and over…
The line tends to be a little more charged than that, though. Generally I hear it in matters of alleged racism or sexism. It may or may not be underpinned by accusations that I can’t possibly understand because I’m a white male, and my privilege blinds me.
You’re right, typical person who says the above. I don’t get to decide what offends you.
But I get to call what offends you ridiculous. And being offended by this Photoshopped photo that Ellen DeGeneres tweeted yesterday is ridiculous.
(This is Olympic champion Usain Bolt, in case you don’t know that. He is, as I type, the fastest person ever timed.) Accompanying the photo, Ellen says: “This is how I’m going to run errands from now on.”
This is, according to masses of people on social media, heinously racist. It’s a privileged white woman using a black man like a pack animal. She’s Miss Daisy, I read more than once. She should issue an immediate apology.
Blah, blah, blah.
Shut your mouths, you pathetic, fatuous, unthinking whiners. Every single one of you sit down, shut up, and listen to me.
In the first place, it’s a great photo, because it’s Bolt giving the camera a smile in the middle of a competition. I’m an aggressive non-follower of the Olympics, and even I picked up on that from my feeds here and there.
In the second place…this is a photograph of the fastest person in the world.
Do you get that? Do you see that that’s the salient point?
Do you really believe in your heart that somehow Ellen wouldn’t have done this if it were a white man, or an Asian woman, or (insert whatever identity you want here)? No, of course you don’t. So how is it racist?
Do you find anything in the past behavior of Ellen DeGeneres that would lead you to believe she’s racist?
It’s something that gave Ellen a chuckle and she shared with her feed, thinking it would generate more. That’s the extent of it. That is where thinking, reasonable people stop processing this. And I sincerely hope that, invited to opine further on this, she doubles down. I hope she says no, I’m not going to apologize because I did nothing wrong, and by the way, all of you just relax.
If you’ve decided it matters in this photograph that Usain Bolt is a black man, then you are the problem. You are manufacturing crisis.
You are the racist.
If we can’t all figure out how to presume some basic common sense and a little charity of spirit, then all of our sociocultural problems are insurmountable.