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The simplicity and beauty of Dog the Bounty Hunter's racist tirade

The National Enquirer has an audio clip of bounty hunter and A&E reality TV star Duane “Dog” Chapman going off on a terrific self-immolating racist rant to his son Tucker, who is dating a black woman. He insists that his son stop dating girlfriend Monique Shinnery because it will “deny” Dog the freedom to express his inner Klansman.

Via Sandra Rose, a transcript of the audio:

Duane “Dog” Chapman: I'm not taking the chance on some motherf**ker. I don't care if she's a Mexican, a whore, whatever…it's not because she's black. It’s because we use he word n***er sometimes here.

I'm not going to take a chance ever in life for losing everything I've worked for for 30 years because some f**king n**er heard us say n***er and turned us into the Enquirer magazine. Our career is over. I'm not taking that chance at all, never in life. Never. Never.

If Lyssa [his daughter] was dating a n***er we would all say F*ck You. . .and you know that. If Lyssa brought a black guy home ya da da…it's not that they're black, it's none of that. It's that we use the word n***er. We don't mean you fucking scum n***er without a soul. We don't mean that shit. But America would think we mean that. And we're not taking a chance on losing everything we got over a racial slur because our son goes with a girl like that. I can't do that Tucker. You can't expect Gary, Bonnie, Cecily, all them young kids to [garbled] because 'I'm in love for 7 months' – fuck that! So, I'll help you get another job but you can not work here unless you break up with her and she's out of your life. I can't handle that shit. I got 'em in the parking lot trying to record us. I got that girl saying she's gonna wear a recorder…

Tucker Chapman: I don't even know what to say.

I thought this reaction over at Celebitchy mirrored my initial reaction:

It looks like all of Dog’s concerns could be coming to fruition. A&E has announced that it has suspended production on his reality series until they thoroughly investigate the matter. You know they’re just talking to their lawyers and trying to figure out how to tie up all the loose ends before dropping the guy.

Meanwhile Dog has asked esteemed Reverend Al Sharpton to help him, and has retained the African American pastor that performed his last marriage to speak on his behalf. He has also released a statement saying how sorry he is. The pastor makes sure we know that Dog has gone to black churches “to help inner-city kids” before all this happened. I wonder if he used the N word in front of the little kids, because he pretty much told his son that it just comes out without his knowledge when black people are around. Was he uttering it under his breath repeatedly while he was taking his vows?

How about a big Charlie Brown “ARRRRGGGGGGGH!” Right out of the Michael Richard playbook — step 1: go hide behind Al Sharpton's apron (and, of course, Sharpton, never one to avoid a camera, is considering meeting with him). Man, this is incredible. Next step will be racial tolerance rehab, right? What a sorry spectacle.

But back to the simplicity and beauty of Dog's diatribe. It is beautiful in that it strips off the nicities, and exposes the third rail of race in a way — albeit a crude, offensive way — that can generate honest discussion about the “closeting” of overt racism. For some people — who knows how many — this is a sad cultural development. More after the jump.It's Tucker and Ms. Shinnery's fault that Dog's career might be threatened he believes, because he wants the free license to say nigger when he wants to. Well, no one is stopping him; free speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences of social disapproval of that speech. He fully realizes that, which is why he said “Our career is over.” (Actually, I don't think that's necessarily true, given that Don Imus will be back on the air after what I suppose the MSM considers the appropriate amount of time in media purgatory for his slurs against the Rutgers women's basketball team.)

It's as if her presence will cause Chapman to blow a gasket because in private, he'd have to watch what he says.  The more pointed question is why does he feel compelled to use “nigger” so casually — he knows the connotations, the history, the vitriol behind the word. From his statements on the tape, it's clear he isn't using it as a term of endearment (the ludicrous excuse often cited by blacks as justification for tossing the denigrating word around). Dog isn't into self-reflection, it's everyone else that's not with the program.

Dog's dilemma is that he wants to project a public image of tolerance — he may even have an honest sense that “racism” is wrong.  Remember, as defined in his minds of plenty of good people, when called on their ignorance-based racism, they usually cannot admit to themselves they are racist (see Michael Richards), even though are culture is steeped in it. A racist in their minds wears a Klan sheet, or hangs out in a white supremacist survivalist unit, they are not the person next door. “That couldn't possible be me,” they say to soothe themselves.

Clearly burning a cross on someone's lawn or dragging a black man to death behind a pickup truck is not the same as hurling “nigger” at the dinner table, but it comes from the same place — a dehumanization of an entire group of people in order to preserve a sense of supremacy in a world that is race-mixing out of control. It's clearly unnerving many, and when it “hits home” in this case, Dog didn't hold back.

Stripping away the crudeness of his remarks, you can see the underlying emotion being articulated — Chapman's disappointment at his son for even contemplating, let alone actually dating, someone outside his race. It's pretty obvious that Tucker Chapman grew up in a home where the word “nigger” and other racial slurs were used casually. Through the profane bluster on the audio,  there is disbelief directed at his son in that moment; he's reallly saying “Didn't you get the message when I used that word in our home for all those years? Did I have to spell it out for you? Stay with your own kind.

I think it's safe to say that many parents who feel the same way about interracial relationships and their children are equally reluctant to spell that sentiment out directly to them. What has spun out of control for parents uncomfortable with the idea of their son or daughter dating outside their race is the ability for subtle (or in Dog's case, not-so-subtle) messages about what is “appropriate” to get through to their kids, because it's hard to project and foster tolerance in public, and then justify the opposite in private. In interpersonal relationships it's quite difficult for people who hold opposing public and private views on race they have to interact with a real person, not a stereotype, and that bores into long-held assumptions and beliefs. It. Does
. Not. Compute.
They only way to hold on to the security blanket of private racism is to isolate oneself from people in that group that challenge those beliefs, because the conflict is too messy to deal with.

Tucker Chapman ended up on the receiving end of  “It. Does. Not. Compute.”

Chapman is unnerved that despite raising his son “right” he didn't get the message — the culture of increased tolerance that Tucker grew up in allowed him to see Ms. Shinnery as a person he could be in a public romantic relationship with. He has forced his father to admit his inner racist exists — and Dog's reaction is a fight for its right to exist. The realization that a cultural norm has shifted makes people like Dog long for the “good times” when dropping “nigger” in public or private was acceptable among friends and family. That's progress, in my opinion. This also shows, however, that we are so far away from eradicating racism and bigotry in this culture.

***

Public versus private views on race are kept well-hidden in some ways, and not in others. For instance, in the corporate sphere, no company would run an ad like that one on the left today, an example I blogged about during the Imus debacle. Eventually someone at the company realized this wasn't going to fly as a marketing tool; times had changed, and what was once publicly acceptable, had become unacceptable. David Pilgrim, Professor of Sociology, Ferris State University (and the The Jim Crow Museum), discussed this in  “Commercial Toms.”

Rastus was created in 1893 by Emery Mapes, one of the owners of North Dakota's Diamond Milling Company. He wanted a likable image to help sell packages of “breakfast porridge.” Maples, a former printer, remembered the image of a Black chef among his stock of old printing blocks. He made a template of the Black chef and named the product Cream of Wheat.

…Rastus, like Aunt Jemima, is more than a company trademark — he is arguably a cultural icon. Rastus is marketed as a symbol of wholeness and stability. The toothy, well-dressed Black chef happily serves breakfast to a nation. In 1898 Cream of Wheat began advertising in national magazines. These advertisements were often reproduced as posters. Many of those advertisements are, by today's standards, racially insensitive.

Racism was bad for business (something clearly at the forefront of Dog Chapman's mind in his rant), and what is defined as racist or racism is always going to be a moving social target, and that can be unnerving for those who are having a difficulty getting past their internal biases. That's the place where the Bounty Hunter's anger comes from.

We all have prejudices, and some of us are self-aware enough to try to overcome them, others remain blissfully in their own world until it blows up in their face in public embarrassment, and then we have the Dogs of the world, well aware of the impact of private biases surfacing publicly and seeking others to blame for his desire to maintain them.

UPDATE: The AP reports that Dog’s son was the one that sold the tape, to reveal his father’s racism. As predicted, Chapman’s lawyer put out the “he’s not a racist” statement.

Hart said his client is not a racist and vowed never to use the word again. “I have never seen anything that suggests he judges people by the color of their skin or racial background or anything but on their character,” he said. “Duane lost his composure and made very, very inappropriate remarks, for which he truly regrets.”

Related:
* Addressing the problems of Imus and hip-hop

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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