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Showdown: Roseanne vs. Samantha

C. Gourgey, Ph.D.

Roseanne Barr compared a black woman to an ape. Samantha Bee used a female vulgarity on Ivanka. Conservatives are yelling because Roseanne was fired and Samantha was not.

The “values voters” are certainly displaying an odd set of values.

What Samantha did, frankly, was stupid. She gave her enemies a perfect excuse to pounce on her. But much more important, she contributed to the coarsening of public discourse that has accelerated ever since the election of Donald Trump. She also made Roseanne’s offense look less serious. And so she did the public a disservice.

What Roseanne did was worse than stupid. What she did was heinous. She contributed to a climate, again exacerbated since the election of Trump, of dehumanizing nonwhite people. Trump and many of his supporters have made it quite clear they do not consider people with nonwhite skin to be their equals. (Examples: stereotyping Latino immigrants as rapists and murderers, grossly neglecting the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico and calling its people “ingrates,” calling neo-Nazis “good people” and non-Caucasian countries “shitholes” while wishing for immigrants from Norway instead - the list goes on.) This mental and cultural climate - it is more than just an “attitude” - is causing real harm to real people.

Roseanne took a nod from Trump that it’s OK to contribute publicly to this behavior, so she used her popularity and huge following to make it even worse. That is why Roseanne is no Samantha.

Perhaps the most pernicious form of racism now being practiced by the Trump Administration is the gratuitously sadistic separation of Latino families. It has already been documented that this forced separation of children from their parents and sending children to remote locations is having a devastatingly traumatic effect on them. Children have been observed crying daily, overwhelmed by anxiety, not knowing whether they will ever see their parents again. And they may not. There is no clear procedure in place for reuniting these families, especially after the parents are deported or sent to another detention center in a different part of the country.

Meanwhile Jeff Sessions and Kirstjen Nielsen smugly defend this policy by saying, if you want to keep your kids, don’t bring them here illegally. But these families are not breaking the law. It is not illegal to come to this country seeking asylum, as most of them are. Apparently the racial hatred of Trump’s core base takes precedence not only over the law but over human decency.

It was precisely this policy Samantha Bee was protesting when she unleashed on Ivanka who, with questionable sensitivity, posted a picture of her happy self with newborn child at the same time that the Administration she works for is tearing apart other people’s families.

So Samantha did the right thing, but in the wrong way. Roseanne did the wrong thing, in a reprehensible way. How we react to these two incidents is a test of our values.

And anyone who is more outraged by Samantha’s use of the “c-word” than by the policy Samantha was using that word to protest is seriously morally flawed.

June 2018