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Sun's PC police need to lighten up on Cafe Hon incident

Freedom of the PressHalloweenCafe HonImmigrationAl Jolson

The "Unhappy Halloween, Hon" (Nov. 3) commentary by Michael Cross-Barnet was a scream. Like a Holy Roman emperor or a demented totalitarian dictator, it dictated what was appropriate free speech for all times and all places. It also chastised the owner of Cafe Hon for apologizing for a Halloween depiction of a white person with a black face only twice and not at least three times. Moreover, the writer actually spelled out in several sentences what it deemed as the only appropriate wording of a theoretical third apology by the Cafe Hon.

And what was the Hon's verbal trespass? The Hampden cafe "posted on its Facebook page a photo of one of its staff members in blackface for Halloween." Lordy, lordy as unemployment borders on historical highs, Asians and Muslims are routinely slandered by right wing pundits, darker skinned immigrants are insulted by opponents of a law that makes it easier for immigrant children (almost all Mexicans or Latin Americans) to attend college in Maryland, and as recently as several months ago, The Sun for a solid week ran usually on its front page a thug-like picture of an alleged Black cannibal fanning racial fears and stereotypes far more than any black-faced partier.

While The Sun is correct that such jokes, costumes and so on are generally despicable, they are a matter of private choice, of something that The Sun's venerable writers of the past, including H. L. Mencken, Gerald Johnson, and Russell Baker, would instantly point out to its current (and in my opinion, utterly inferior crop of politically-correct zanies) reminding them that journalists use to defend free speech. Criticisms are in order but attempting to assign to an inferior wrung, if not a cabin in hell, to those who reflect what both the writer and many others might consider to be in bad taste advances neither journalism nor race relations.

I suggest that Mr. Cross-Barnet examine the works of Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, and many other entertainers. These should be understood within the context of their times. Engaging in chrono-centrism (time centered-ness to dismiss behavior of those in another generation), is narrow and self-serving.

H. L. Goldstein, Towson

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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