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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Co-opted Innocence

Have you ever started to say something - a completely innocent word or phrase on its surface - and then caught yourself and stopped 'cause you worried your word(s) could be misinterpreted?

I know you have. I know I have, anyway. Perfect example - silly, but perfect. Waaaay, waaaay back if we referred to one of these

we had no problem saying ass. Now, I'm so squeamish these days that someone will think badly of me I can't even say that word when I am referring to the four-legged variety.

And what about bitch, or, if you're the enemy of a rapper, beeeee-atch? It's a female dog. Always has been. But when someone, somewhere (as far back as the year 1400, if you believe this blog post on the origins of curse words) decided it should also be a put-down to human females people freaked out and stopped calling their female canines that word.

We're way past slippery slope when it comes to what we won't do in order to not appear as one of the bad guys. Modesty is a good thing. Erring on the side of manners and caution is a good thing.

But not doing something 'cause a "bad" person does it too? Not good.

A few days ago my hometown newspaper the Virginian-Pilot reported that the state of Virginia Department of Tourism nearly killed an ad campaign called "Live Passionately," designed to portray the state as romantic place to vacation. I guess "Virginia is for Lovers" is too last decade or something to stand on its own. Anyway, they nearly killed the campaign, 'cause an actress in a campaign poster held her hands together to form a heart symbol. The ad campaign cost the state about $400,000. Members of the Virginia Gang Investigators Association told the tourism department they shouldn't use the poster, 'cause while the intent was innocent, the gesture was one also used by members of a street gang affiliated with the Chicago-based Gangsta Disciples.

The tourism folks, worried that the campaign might appear to support gang activity or inadvertently stoke gang strife, decided to save the campaign but use a different image.

Why? I respect the cops' desire to not give attention to gang activity. But this wasn't about gang activity. It was about a simple, innocent ad campaign. We're so worried about looking like gang bangers and stoking a gang war that we can't do something similar to this?

Damn shame, if you ask me. We'd better quit not doing things because a bad guy or group has tried to lay claim to them, or pretty soon we'll run out of stuff to do.

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  • That's too bad. It reminds me of many of the high schools here in California. At first we weren't allowed to wear Raiders gear ("Like I would anyway" she says indignantly). Then it was hats. Period. Then we couldn't wear anything professional sports related. Then we couldn't wear the same colors two days in a row.

    All of this ridiculous crap was to curb gang activity on campus and all of it failed. Gangs are no less a part of California culture than they were before the idiotic bans on clothing.

    ... how stupid of Virginia to give up on a simple gesture.

    By Blogger Queen of Dysfunction, at 12:49 AM  

  • Boy, do I ever agree with you on this! It's getting so anymore, one doesn't have a clue as to what words are acceptable, which ones aren't. If there is even a hint of a stereotypical action involved, no matter how on target something actually may be, scuttle it!
    Now, I'll take my chances here by using this example but here goes. Back in the late 70's, maybe early 80's (time escapes me any more -getting senile ya know), the Pennsylvania Lottery dropped an ad campaign to try to get people to buy tickets for the lottery. The ad was "No tickee, no laundry." Okay, many will say but that statement is racist, anti-oriental, etc., thus, it should be banned. However, I think sometimes we push this envelope so far that we fail to see humor in anything and yes, there is value in humor when it comes to sales -which is what the lottery needs and wants to be successful, is it not?
    But does saying those words above really, I mean REALLY, cause people to continually look down on people from the far east? Only if they already had that kind of attitude against them to begin with, is my opinion. Ok, fire away and tell me now how wrong I am. "Splain" it to me, please.

    By Blogger Jeni, at 12:52 AM  

  • I agree with people going overboard. For a while, guards at the local malls wouldn't let anyone in with a sports team T shirt or baseball cap.

    As a teen, I was asked to leave an arcade because I had a blue shirt on, they said no colors..clueless at that time, I asked " green and orange?"..they explained it was a gang uniform. So I had to figure out what color shirt I could wear on what days without being gang affiliated.

    All this pussy footing around and worrying how things might be misconstrued, is just a waste of energy.

    By Blogger Hammer, at 2:43 AM  

  • But giving someone the finger because they are idiots still works universally. *middle finger to the caving in Virginia did*

    By Blogger Christina_the_wench, at 8:22 AM  

  • Well, I wont quit meditating, and if the badies do pick up on that habit then it might be a good thing...nah, who am I kidding...thoughtful post as usual James..well done

    By Blogger Cazzie!!!, at 8:33 AM  

  • Sounds like the Virginia Gang Investigators Association might want to spend more time going after gangs and less time worrying about people making heart shapes with their hands.

    By Blogger BobG, at 1:36 PM  

  • Oh, my goodness. Stupidity abounds. Virginia does have a MS-13 problem but... I seriously doubt anyone's going to confuse the two.

    I hate it when stupid editors tell me I shouldn't use a particular word because of one little connotation when the word is in fact le mot juste.

    I say, Let's take back the night!

    By Blogger M@, at 2:55 PM  

  • James, I give this posting two thumbs up!

    No, wait. I think that might be a gang sign somewhere.

    Alright, I give it the A-OK!

    Hold on, that could get me shot at in certain cities.

    How 'bout if I just keep my hands in my pockets.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 6:01 PM  

  • UGH.

    I'd comment further, but I'm afraid I might offend or upset or infringe...

    By Blogger Melissa, at 10:37 PM  

  • Queen, Jeni, Hammer, Christina, Cazzie, BobG, Matt, and Sarc, thanks and I think we're on the same page.

    Melissa, good to see you. And c'mon, by now you must know that I don't oppose different opinions. No worries about offending me. You know that. If we disagree and can't change that on this issue, then so be it. But come back and say what was on your mind. This is the "real" no-spin zone.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 10:43 PM  

  • #1) CONGRATS! How stellar!

    #2) I wasn't disagreeing at all - a little sarcasm gone awry. ;-)

    I think people take political correctness/social sensitivity to the Nth degree and it's overboard. Obviously VA didn't intend to evoke gang signs. DUH. People walk on eggshells and I think it's foolish.

    You're right - you shouldn't NOT do something because someone bad does the same thing. I bet there are lots of bad people who eat chocolate, but you can bet your sweet ass that I'm going to keep eating chocolate, too.

    By Blogger Melissa, at 10:57 PM  

  • Ah, sorry. You know something funny? I've had three friends lately tell me that my sense-of-humor-and-sarcasm-meter is broken. I think I'm just tired.

    But yeah, this hyper-sensitivity thing is ridiculous.

    I heard gangbangers wear pants and drawers. I guess I'm gonna have to stop wearing both now. Look out co-workers. It's gonna be a reaaaaaaallly casual Friday!

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:23 AM  

  • they steal enough from us all ready..please not our ability to communicate with delight and pleasure.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 1:48 AM  

  • Thank You, THANK YOU for that post. I moved here from SC and I thought I was leaving idiocy behind, but apparently it's a national epidemic. This entire things smacks of surrender to the onslaught of gangs in our cities. I don't understand the point of giving up anything to them; not a block or a neighborhood and certainly not an idea and a symbol of love.

    By Blogger WNG, at 8:54 AM  

  • How about mayor Anthony Howard's aide using the term 'niggardly' to refer to their stingy budget? The ignorance of the audience created quite a stir and dude resigned over it.

    By Anonymous calmerthanyouare, at 12:14 PM  

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