Talkshow comedienne Ellen DeGeneres has replied to widespread accusations that a Photoshopped tweet featuring her with Olympic champion runner Usain Bolt was racist and insensitive. The photograph has gone viral on the internet. The Louisiana native said, "I am highly aware of the racism that exists in our country. That’s the furthest thing from who I am."
Her tweet showed DeGeneres piggybacking on the smiling Jamaican Bolt, who is black, with the caption: “This is how I'm running errands from now on." Ever since it appeared on Twitter on August 15, DeGeneres has been lashed with criticism. Critics have written that depicting herself as riding on a black man’s back is racist. For example, a Jon Snow-ratio tweeted: “@TheEllenShow so the first thing that pops in your head when looking at this pic is ‘oh let me jump onto his back like he's a common mule’"?
This is not the first time DeGeneres has faced criticism for alleged racism. Several years ago, when singer Nicki Minaj announced that a network sitcom would be based on her childhood, DeGeneres produced a mock clip of the show. In it, DeGeneres showed a young black girl playing in her home. When the girl’s mother calls her, it is revealed that she has large buttocks, while the mother also has large buttocks. Viewers were not amused. DeGeneres said after the clip, “They have big butts, that’s the joke.”
Others were not so sensitive over the latest flap. Bryan Young tweeted, “What's wrong with it? She's saying he's fast. Nothing more. Nothing less.” Another Twitter poster wrote, “Literally I'm black and don't take offense to this she's basically complimenting him on his speed and stamina.” Bolt has appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show before. Last year, Bolt races an eight-year-old Jamaican video entertainer. TIME magazine has come to DeGeneres' defense, as has entertainer Steve Harvey -- a black man.
DeGeneres tweeted a clip from the show after the offensive Usain Bolt photo. She wrote, “Heres something you don’t see very often Usain Bolt losing a race. This was 1 of my favorite moments from last season.”
In another instance of political correctness run amok, a chain of Mexican restaurants announced plans that it will take down advertising billboards by the end of this week that some found offensive. Hacienda Mexican Restaurants used billboard that read “The Best Mexican food this side of the wall.” Hacienda Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Leslie confirmed that the signs are coming down.
An advocacy group located in South Bend, Indiana, La Casa de la Amistad, was offended by the sign and saw no humor in it. The group said that Hacienda’s sign has unwarranted political connotations that offend the sensibilities of Latinos.
At Hacienda, executives claimed that they did not wish to offend anyone and were merely seeking to be funny. La Casa de la Amistad was not amused. Leslie said that his company does use humor. According to a local report, he said, When you use humor, there's going to be some groups that are particularly sensitive to certain things."
Executive Director Sam Centellas of Amistad said he was not satisifed with the explanation. He claimed that his group had received social media requests to have the sign taken down, and that Hacienda has featured offensive advertising in the past. He said that having fun is possible without degrading or demeaning languge.
Amistad is affiliated with a number of groups, including the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. Among agencies partnering with Amistad, according to its website, are the Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, United Way of St. Joseph County, Comcast, ArcelorMittal, Wells Fargo Foundations, Center of Social Concerns Notre Dame, South Bend Police Department, LULAC, and Saint Mary’s College -- an affiliate of Notre Dame University.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.