When I read Artie Lange’s series of viciously scary tweets about Cari Champion, host of ESPN’s First Take, I immediately recognized this as a collective take-off your-earrings moment. The unending fight against feels different to me now, though. Ten years ago, I would have used every curse word in my vocabulary, started a petition and ranted about Lange for weeks, if not months. What happened instead is worse. I was nearly numb to it, having grown to expect stupidity and certainly not be surprised when a fool feels empowered to speak about black women however he chooses.
It all settled into the Public Enemy truth … Here we go again.
When the so-called comedian Lange took to Twitter with his vile, disgusting, racist, and sexist comments, he expected to connect with his audience. I’d bet that he did. He called his series of tweets simply “jokes” and claimed that his Black female friends would have no problem with them. I believe that he has people around him who would laugh about rape or slavery because most of us opt to befriend those who share our values or lack thereof. The social media forum, however, includes those who are not part of his audience and wouldn’t dare call him friend. Concerned and outraged, the folks fought back and stood up for Cari.
I wonder how Cari felt with the majority of the media discussion around her name focused on Lange’s comments rather than her body of work that she is working to build, including her first big Tuesday night E:60 interview of Cam Newton. That’s a big get. As she said, Cari’s’s pitched the network and earned the chance to showcase her journalism skills. Certainly, the smart, capable young woman from UCLA would rather the world discuss her growth as sports professional. I wonder, though, if she wished that she could just bask in the shining moment she worked for instead of splitting her time and focus. No doubt Champion appreciated the tweets voiced in support of her against those foul statements by Lange which he still believes were simply funny. They weren’t.
The comedian didn’t dare think about how far those words could go. The 16 or 17-year-old impressionable kid out there reading them may determine that a little rape joke is okay and black women like the Sally Hemmings comparison when, on-the-real, there’s something wrong with both. For those who don’t connect the dots between the culture’s rape humor and college football players standing on the tables belting out crass lyrics, you’re missing a lot. Lange’s half-hearted apology meant only for Champion dismissed PC groups, he said. He doesn’t care about them.
No PC group had to set an agenda in order for the women that I know to be disgusted at his behavior. Those women are different than those Lange’s circle of friends, for sure. We don’t want your insincere, PR-approved apology statement; we’re too smart to believe those words. Our cautious disbelief has little to do with schooling or professional success and much more a function of our collective experiences with B.S. That’s why we rarely believe the “I’m so sorry” statements.
Lastly, the tweets aren’t a stand alone incident. Lange’s jokes follow Viola Davis being called angry and unconventionally beautiful. They trail the leader of an international tennis organization’s refers to the Williams Sisters as brothers. (What’s wrong with all these people around here?) The incidents build upon each other and settle into the psyche. The narrative stays on repeat in the minds of women who must then spend considerable energy working to ignore it, all the while fighting to keep their spots on the sidelines. No, two paragraphs of measured apologetic words won’t fix those deep scars because for all of the years of training, dedicated hustle and hard work, we know that our butts are always the joke.
That said, it means that no matter how much I expect it, I can’t ignore it or allow myself to be numb to it. There’s no room for cowardice or fear of the loss of opportunity by speaking out against the Artie Langes of the world. He doesn’t deserve too much space. His antics earn some serious sister shade followed by our distinctive, dismissive side eye that folks would pay to do as well as we do it. Now, go watch Cari interview Cam.