More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Harvey Fierstein & Prejudice
New York Times
April 13, 2007

AMERICA is watching Don Imus?s self-immolation in a state of shock and awe. And I?m watching America with wry amusement.

Since I?m a second-class citizen ? a gay man ? my seats for the ballgame of American discourse are way back in the bleachers. I don?t have to wait long for a shock jock or stand-up comedian to slip up with hateful epithets aimed at me and mine. Hate speak against homosexuals is as commonplace as spam. It?s daily traffic for those who profess themselves to be regular Joes, men of God, public servants who live off my tax dollars, as well as any number of celebrities.

In fact, I get a good chuckle whenever someone refers to ?the media? as an agent of ?the gay agenda.? There are entire channels, like Spike TV, that couldn?t fill an hour of programming if required to remove their sexist and homophobic content. We?ve got a president and a large part of Congress willing to change the Constitution so they can deprive of us our rights because they feel we are not ?normal.?

So I?m used to catching foul balls up here in the cheap seats. What I am really enjoying is watching the rest of you act as if you had no idea that prejudice was alive and well in your hearts and minds.

For the past two decades political correctness has been derided as a surrender to thin-skinned, humorless, uptight oversensitive sissies. Well, you anti-politically correct people have won the battle, and we?re all now feasting on the spoils of your victory. During the last few months alone we?ve had a few comedians spout racism, a basketball coach put forth anti-Semitism and several high-profile spoutings of anti-gay epithets.

What surprises me, I guess, is how choosy the anti-P.C. crowd is about which hate speech it will not tolerate. Sure, there were voices of protest when the TV actor Isaiah Washington called a gay colleague a ?faggot.? But corporate America didn?t pull its advertising from ?Grey?s Anatomy,? as it did with Mr. Imus, did it? And when Ann Coulter likewise tagged a presidential candidate last month, she paid no real price.

In fact, when Bill Maher discussed Ms. Coulter?s remarks on his HBO show, he repeated the slur no fewer than four times himself; each mention, I must note, solicited a laugh from his audience. No one called for any sort of apology from him. (Well, actually, I did, so the following week he only used it once.)

Face it, if a Pentagon general, his salary paid with my tax dollars, can label homosexual acts as ?immoral? without a call for his dismissal, who are the moral high and mighty kidding? Our nation, historically bursting with generosity toward strangers, remains remarkably unkind toward its own. Just under our gleaming patina of inclusiveness, we harbor corroding guts.

America, I tell you that it doesn?t matter how many times you brush your teeth. If your insides are rotting your breath will stink. So, how do you people choose which hate to embrace, which to forgive with a wink and a week in rehab, and which to protest? Where?s my copy of that rule book?

Let me cite a non-volatile example of how prejudice can cohabit unchecked with good intentions. I am a huge fan of David Letterman?s. I watch the opening of his show a couple of times a week and have done so for decades. Without fail, in his opening monologue or skit Mr. Letterman makes a joke about someone being fat. I kid you not. Will that destroy our nation? Should he be fired or lose his sponsors? Obviously not.

But I think that there is something deeper going on at the Letterman studio than coincidence. And, as I?ve said, I cite this example simply to illustrate that all kinds of prejudice exist in the human heart. Some are harmless. Some not so harmless. But we need to understand who we are if we wish to change. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess to not only being a gay American, but also a fat one. Yes, I?m a double winner.)

I urge you to look around, or better yet, listen around and become aware of the prejudice in everyday life. We are so surrounded by expressions of intolerance that I am in shock and awe that anyone noticed all these recent high-profile instances. Still, I?m gladdened because our no longer being deaf to them may signal their eventual eradication.

The real point is that you cannot harbor malice toward others and then cry foul when someone displays intolerance against you. Prejudice tolerated is intolerance encouraged. Rise up in righteousness when you witness the words and deeds of hate, but only if you are willing to rise up against them all, including your own. Otherwise suffer the slings and arrows of disrespect silently.

Harvey Fierstein is an actor and playwright.


The following is from an article in the paper in reference to Don Imus and I did view Jessie Jackson in a panel discussion expressing similar sentiment.

The decision by CBS was welcomed by those who called for him to be fired. Mr. Sharpton said: "He says he wants to be forgiven. I hope he continues in that process. But we cannot afford a precedent established that the airways can commercialize and mainstream sexism and racism." Jesse Jackson, meanwhile, described the firing as a "victory for public decency". He added: "No one should use the public airwaves to transmit racial or sexual degradation."

I am not a politically correct type person and had never heard of Don Imus prior to this. The comments by the panel bother me because the airways already 'commercialize and mainstream sexism and racism' and much worse. I have no support for what I understand Don Imus said but I can see and hear much worse just by turning on the television, listening to rap music, or spending a few minutes on the internet. Don Imus is just a drop in the bucket and if anyone is speaking up against 'degradation' they are not doing it very loudly. Money first - children last. Does anybody really care? :mad: Mari

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
That pretty much sums up the way I feel about it, too, Mari.

I'd never heard of Imus before this and what he said was reprehensible. But the lyrics of RAP and hip hop jingles that are played on the radio every day, on MTV and MuchMusic, and on millions of ipods everywhere are far worse.

And I'm especially offended by the hypocritical comments of people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. These people are hardly paragons of virtue themselves. They should be embarassed to show their faces in public let alone to publicly comment on questions of decency and morality.

I don't like bigotry and small-minded hatred or intolerance. But I don't like witch hunts either. And most of all I hate hypocrisy.

Maybe Imus should have been fired. I really don't know (or much care). I object to having the media promote people like Sharpton and Jackson to make that decision.


This is not going to hurt Imus, he will just join with Howard Stern on Satellite Radio and the show will go on once again.

I think if he would have been talking about Snoop Doggy Dog pimping Ho's he would have not heard anything, but he targeted college girls who are upstanding kids and the resulting publicity, with their demographic being one that spends a hell of a lot of money killed Imus with advertisers.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Precisely. It's not about morality or right and wrong. It's about money, knee-jerk political correctness, and double-standard hypocrisy. That's what's so offensive.


I think what's happened to Imus may have a ripple effect on some of the absolutely atrocious things that are being said and done in the name of "shock jocks", rap music, and other such destructive "voices" which assail us on a daily basis.

I had never heard Imus. I'd seen pictures of the man, and read a bit about him, and that's all I needed to know I didn't want to hear what he had to say. Perhaps, he is but a symbol of what's really wrong in this day and time. Let's hope that, with his termination, some people wake up and realize that it's not funny to denigrate other people. Many of us (I know I'm not alone) are not at all amused!


Precisely. It's not about morality or right and wrong. It's about money, knee-jerk political correctness, and double-standard hypocrisy. That's what's so offensive.

How many of our "so called friends" have compromised their "integrity" for what they call "growth" of their businesses?

Yes I agree, it is all about power and money for many, they do throw integrity out the door in this age for self promotion, ego, vanity and power.
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