Roseanne, Racism, and ‘The Planet of the Apes’

By John Zmirak Published on May 31, 2018

I’m reluctant to write on this subject for a long list of solid reasons:

  • I’ve never seen Roseanne’s show. Not in its old incarnation, not in the new one. I’ve seen more than my share of loveably oafish blue-collar life up close and personal in my family. For instance, the year we finished Thanksgiving dinner in 17 minutes. One of the entrees? Dinosaur shaped microwaved chicken nuggets. (No, there were no children present.) No thanks.
  • One group of conservatives, whom I’ll neutrally call the “Insufferables,” is using this deeply stupid incident to preen and virtue signal. Their goal? To impress the old classmates from Vassar who will hate them whatever they do. (Short of “transitioning” to the opposite sex, converting to Islam, and endorsing Bernie Sanders.) Or maybe to swing one more guest spot on All Things Considered.
  • Another set, the reflexive “Deplorables,” is rallying behind Roseanne Barr’s “free speech” or something. But not ABC’s freedom to hire and fire. (Which should mirror the NFL’s, of course.) If Roseanne had shot someone on Fifth Avenue …. You get the idea.
  • Roseanne Barr is an actress, and hence an under-educated nutcase. With very few exceptions (Jimmy Stewart, Ronald Reagan) actors are people you should watch from a very safe distance, who should stick to reading words written by others. Don’t date them or trust their political opinions. (Remember the great exchange from Mel Brooks’ The Producers. LEO: “Actors aren’t animals! They’re human beings!” MAX: “Have you ever eaten with one?!”)
  • Months ago, National Review ran a suitable warning about Ms. Barr’s long list of crackpot views. They including blaming George Bush for 9/11, and the Nazis for Zionism. (As if Zionism were a bad thing.) President Trump wouldn’t thank you for tying him to any of them. Neither would the unborn children and American workers he’s trying to protect.
  • I enjoy tasteless humor, and have been guilty of engaging in it in the past. Some of it (from when I was a teenager) I genuinely regret.
  • I detest Valerie Jarrett, who is a foaming at the mouth radical leftist. Barr’s outburst helped insulate her from legitimate criticism.
  • There really is a screaming double standard, as the White House is pointing out. The vast, groupthink media establishment winks at liberals’ insane abuses. (Kathy Griffin, Rosie O’ Donnell, Keith Olbermann, fill in dozens more names here.) Then it turns Victorian schoolmarm when a Trump supporter crosses the line.
  • Roseanne Barr really did cross a legitimate line. As I’ll explain below.

Okay, now that we’ve cleared all that up, let’s proceed.

Can Only White Folks Be Racists? Ask the Tutsis.

First of all, what’s not true. It’s not true that only white people can be racists. If it were, then you’d have to find another word for what it was when Hutus in Rwanda labeled equally black Tutsis “cockroaches” and massacred them. Or when thugs in Zimbabwe or South Africa target white farmers for ethnic cleansing. Or when Arabs try to massacre Jews.

Jesse Jackson once called abortion “black genocide.” White racist leader Richard Spencer seems to agree with him. And you know what else Jesse and Richard agree on? They’re both in favor of it.

In a slightly more sophisticated, more openly Marxist form, this argument is little better. It defines “racism” as attitudes or actions that perpetuate historic discrimination. So if you’re part of a group that was ever privileged, you’re always on the hook. If you’re in a group that ever suffered oppression, you’re coated in moral Teflon. I heard this nonsense from a “diversity” expert invited by the Catholic bishop of Baton Rouge in the ’90s. He was trying to deal with the rise of David Duke. So he meant well. So did the U.S. bishops, whose pastoral letter echoes this Marxist line. But you don’t fight lies with lies. You don’t counter hatred with gibberish. At least, Jesus didn’t.

Narcissism Writ Large

Racism belongs in ethical, not political categories. It’s a human temptation, an extension of narcissism from the single, fallen human soul to a group. Just as every human is subject to each of the Seven Deadly Sins, so are groups of humans. Racism would seem to be “Vainglory” writ large.

What is Vainglory? I defined it in my (by the way very funny and still available for purchase) book on the Seven Deadlies. “Vainglory teaches people to preen themselves and be proud of nothing real, or nothing for which they really deserve any credit—for instance, they’re proud to be pretty or white or tall.”BCGSevenDeadlySins_525859_Cf

A crucial, life-changing point: The opposite of every deadly sin is another. Virtue lies in the Golden Mean between them. “You can counter this vice by the starkly honest practice of Humility, which takes a frank account of one’s actual pluses and minuses. Or you can panic at the prospect you might, just might, be proud—and learn to rip yourself to little, despairing shreds through Scrupulosity.” And that is the left’s answer to racial Vainglory: racial self-hatred.

A Time for Humility

A genuinely humble Christian response to racism? That would entail being honest. And as Americans, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that black people (along with Native Americans) got a uniquely raw deal in our country. Not in Sweden. Nor in the Czech Republic. Not in a long list of countries full of white folks.

Right here, in America. Our civic ancestors bought them as slaves and dragged them here. We justified that by pretending they were animals, suited to little else. Then after slavery ended, we let most of the country (not just the South) enforce laws that treated blacks like animals. And our pop culture included plenty of stereotyped, animalistic images of them. That helped us feel okay about it.

As Americans, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that black people (along with Native Americans) got a uniquely raw deal in our country. Not in Sweden. Nor in the Czech Republic. Not in a long list of countries full of white folks. Right here, in America.

Even now, our government sluices money into Planned Parenthood. That group was founded by people who treated blacks as quasi-animals. As The Stream reported in 2016, Margaret Sanger’s close ally “Madison Grant, a prominent Darwin apostle and eugenicist, helped to exhibit Ota Benga, an African pygmy, in a cage with an orangutan for ten days at New York City’s Bronx Zoo, to ‘illustrate evolution.’ Mr. Benga took his own life ten years later.”

See the problem with jokes about the Planet of the Apes?

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And Planned Parenthood is still targeting blacks with abortion to this day. Jesse Jackson once called abortion “black genocide.” White racist leader Richard Spencer seems to agree with him. And you know what else Jesse and Richard agree on? They’re both in favor of it.

A Near Occasion of Sin

So I’d say that we should apply a stricter scrutiny on tasteless humor aimed at African Americans (and Native Americans). Not because of a power structure, or some absurd double standard that favors the left. No, because we white Americans have proven very good at treating black people like animals. We kind of enjoyed it. It seems to be a temptation to which we’re subject. So we should flee the occasion of sin. But without lapsing into the opposite, equally dangerous temptation: self-loathing and self-congratulatory preening.

President Trump seems to tread this balance rather well. He really does want to help black Americans climb out of systemic poverty and dependence. (That’s a key reason he wants to stop flooding the country with low-price foreign workers.) And the Democrats can’t have that, can they?

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  • Patmos

    “No, because we white Americans have proven very good at treating black people like animals.”

    It appears the “white guilt” tactic that gets so many on the left also got you.

    I saw a video that actually showed that Jarrett does indeed look like one of the characters from those movies, and the video also showed a white European politician who also looks just like one of the characters from those movies.

    Point being, making fun of how someone looks is a lot different than racism. It was a dumb thing to quote given the context, but then again the context needs to stop crying wolf.

    • Irene Neuner

      Yes, I don’t think Rosannes comment was intended to be racist but liberals do because there context is evolution.

      • Freeland_Dave

        But most liberals are evolutionists that believe humanity evolved from the apes. So why do they have a problem when someone labels members of humanity as being descendants of ‘The planet of the Apes?’ If anything they should be proud that others feel the same way that they do about evolution as they continue to turn away from the face of God.

    • Freeland_Dave

      “No, because we white Americans have proven very good at treating black people like animals.”

      Make that ‘some white Americans’ will you. Note carefully, slavery was abolished by many of the same white Americans who were in power at the time. Does the author feel ‘guilty’ about that?

      Also, how did black slavery come into existence in America in the first place. As I recall Blacks in Africa sold their own people into slavery rather than kill them as they warred with neighboring tribes. Muslims happily saw a method to capitalize on this to make money, entered into a trade agreement with European Dutch shipping merchants who bought the slaves from the Muslim traders transported them to America and the Indies for sale so they could make the long haul back to Europe laden with tobacco, cotton, molasses and rum. It was called the trade triangle.

      Had these ‘slaves’ not been involved as the cargo the vast majority of them would have been murdered by their own people who sold them into slavery for a tidy profit for themselves.

      This is not a defense of slavery for it’s wrong in the eyes of God for any man to ‘own’ another man even though slavery was something that God recognized existed. That’s why he told us how slaves should be treated and many a slave owner did just that.

      Did some white Americans mistreat black slaves? Most certainly they did. But it’s an incorrect view of history to foist the problems of slavery on the race of white Americans when many races and cultures were involved especially when it was the white Americans that were in power that abolished it.

      If you must judge people do it from the perspective of what they do and how they behave and not the color of their skin. I know many blacks that I associate with and love as if they were cherished members of my family. Equally I know many whites that I do not associate with and do my best to stay completely away from them and their warped outlook towards humanity. This is not racism, it’s discerning who I will associate with and who I support.

  • Boris

    Roseanne Barr looks just like a hog

  • stoneman

    No we didn’t bring blacks here as slaves first. We brought them here as “indentured servants” just like the whites were (indluding some of my own ancestors) until in 1660 a former indentured servant, Anthony Johnson, an Angolan, had a Virginia Court rule that an indentured servant, who another plantation owner tried to take as his own, was ruled an “indentured servant” for life. Hence the first Virginia slave. I might add that the Native Americans already had slaves and so did the Caliphates at that time.

    In spite your attempts, you still spout apologist attitudes. You are doing what the Liberals still want you to do: live up to impossible morals that they don’t even begin to live by. While the “Planet of the Apes” was stupid, Valerie Jarrett is hardly someone to give any moral high ground.

    • Bezukhov

      You tell ’em! If Native Americans and the Caliphates had slaves then it was Moral, Just and Good that Christian Europeans have them as well.

  • Andrew Mason

    The problem I have with the attacks on Barr is that they insist on the Blacks=Apes concept. Barr has acknowledged that writing Jarrett was the spawn of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Planet of the Apes, but what exactly does that mean? The Brotherhood mean Islamic extremism, but is Jarrett a Muslim? Frankly I’ve no clue. And what does Planet of the Apes mean? The Left insist on seeing Blacks as Apes but couldn’t it be a reference to something else? What about a Hollywood association, or mental retardation? I had an inkling that humans that survived in that world were devolved to apelike intellect, or am I confusing series?

  • Wilbo The Deplorable

    First of all, Roseanne, like many people, did not even consider Jarrett to be black, or know that she had some African DNA in her mix. She was often referred to as someone of Iranian origin. So the Planet of the Apes thing can only be a clumsy reference to her looks. How is that any worse than the liberals who make fun of Sarah Sanders’ looks? And how does one look at the light-skinned ape-like make-up in the movie and reach the conclusion that these actors must be portraying blacks? That assumption in itself would be racist. I really believe that ABC is using it’s double standard to find an excuse to cancel the show. While Roseanne is hardly a conservative, the people at ABC just couldn’t promote anyone who even slightly supports Trump.

    • Sam

      I certainly never knew Jarrett was black (or technically, part-black). You’re quite right about the implicit racist assumption that a reference to “apes” necessarily is a reference to blacks. Roseanne was making one of her usual bad-taste classless jokes. Before she decided she was a Trump supporter, no one in Hollywood was bothered by that. But it’s a leap of logic to infer that she was targeting Jarrett “as black.” I’ve known some white people who look like apes, fewer black people who do, and maybe some other people of other ethnicities who do. About the only universal factor is that leftists all act like apes.

  • BGracious

    Great thoughts and analysis. Dialogues have become so mean-spirited I can barely stand to listen or read. So much that is said and written these days seems purely motivated by a desire to lash-out and hurt.

  • Dan

    Barr, didn’t think fast enough and could have said she didn’t know Jarrett was black and the ape comment was to Jarrett’s ugliness but she didn’t. The ship has sailed; we have bigger problems than a tv sitcom to worry about; like NFL football is still 3 months away; sad!

    • Freeland_Dave

      Are you really ‘worried’ about the NFL? Seriously? Like your life isn’t going to be happy without it?

      • Dan

        No I was being facetious.

  • Bitter-clinging Deplorable

    The problem I have with Zirmak’s analysis here is he falls into the trap of “white guilt”. Specifically, the comment: “We justified that by pretending they were animals, suited to little else.” WE- did not. “Some” of our ancestors did. My family tree never had a slave-owner, so what is being imposed on me is guilt by association simply based on skin color. That, my friends, rises to the level of slander, and we need to stop looking at the color of people’s skin and making rash judgements. If we do this, then we are no better than the people we pretend to be abhorred by. It is prejudice and inexcusable no matter who you are, so long as you are one of His people.

    • steve5656546346

      Yes, he misses the situation of the white ethnic whose ancestors came here long after slavery was ended and had no part in it.

  • Howard Rosenbaum

    It’s time to stop monkeying around with ethically challenged one liners .
    Every liberal knows they came from monkeys . It’s just that some monkeys prefer the pretense of being more enlightened than the other monkeys they are too quick to disparage.
    In this context Planet Of The Apes was perhaps a foretelling of the very times in which all of us “monkeys” are engaged. Anyone see my bannana ….?

    • Freeland_Dave

      You must have been reading my mind. Evolutionists, who tend to be pseudo-scientific, progressive and enlightened liberals, words they tend to identify themselves as, hold that mankind is descendant from the apes. I am bewildered in that if we are ‘naked apes’ which has been intoned by the liberal left, why they would be upset at a comment containing the phrase of ‘Planet of the Apes’ when they honestly believe that we evolved from the apes; a notion that is patently false when one considers if we evolved from the apes current apes would no longer exist.

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