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South Park demonstrates racism to be alive and well

Published: Monday, March 19, 2007

Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2011 16:03

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Joshua Shearin

"People Who Annoy You: N_GGERS." Any takers? It's likely that most of us have either seen or heard of this parodied Wheel of Fortune question which was displayed on a recent episode of "South Park".
In the episode, titled "Apologies to Jesse Jackson," Randy Marsh appears on the show and is presented with this question in a bonus round with $30,000 on the line. He and the studio audience stare in shock at the puzzle as the clock ticks by the show's last seconds. What does he do? What would you do?
In those final seconds, Marsh makes the decision to take his chances only to discover that the phrase is not the racial slur expected but instead the word "naggers."

So, wait . the answer was naggers? Well, there's nothing controversial about disliking people who constantly nag, in fact most everyone can't stand a nagger - the nagging wife, nagging parents, nagging older sibling and so forth. It's too bad for Marsh that he had already screamed out his own answer: "Niggers!"
This came to no one's surprise, not the audience in the show and not the viewing audience at home; because it's what all of us were thinking.
We can blame our internal answers on the context of the show even though many of us might have wondered if "South Park" would ever push their luck to this extent.
It might be safe to say that the majority of Americans standing in Marsh's position would have had a similar answer in their minds. Still, I doubt any of us would actually utter the word on national television for the world to brand us as a racist.
Regardless, the word was there in our conscious mind. I can only wonder what this says about us as Americans and humans. The freedoms that have been gained and promised to all of us as citizens of this country and it's still there - that word that has haunted us for so many decades.
The question is: what was "South Park" trying to tell us? Yes, comedic shows do sometimes have messages for their viewers. Taking into account the tremendous amount of hatred that came Randy Marsh's way after his utterance of such a taboo word, there are two clear possibilities.
Through Marsh's suffering, no matter how humorous, we were either being shown how much America has changed or, more likely, how contradictive we can be. In one scene of the episode there comes a group of angered "socially progressive" rednecks, who proclaim that he "insulted an entire race on national television."
Later, a bill is passed by Congress that insists that the n-word cannot be said within seven words of the word "guy" due to Marsh's new nickname. Both of these scenes aid my theory of South Park's intended message: America, stop acting like uptight, contradictive, dumbasses!
Right now, in Tallahassee, Fla., there is a display in the Mary Brogan Museum of Art by a man named John Sims which shows the Confederate flag hanging from a noose. Perhaps there are more hopefuls like Sims who would like to see racism going to the gallows but that's not what 'South Park" thinks.
Just like people are angered over this art display in Florida, saying that the Confederate flag invokes pride for their ancestors, people still feel that slavery and racism are part of a war that must be remembered with dead soldiers who should be honored.
Sadly, I do not honor the weak-minded nor worthless tradition because both have proven to be deadly and most often worthy of extinction.
Just as "South Park" has parodied and offended everyone at least once - Americans, rednecks, Christians, foreigners, atheists - it has done it again. Only this time the message has no specific label. The show was much craftier in its approach to offending who it wanted because it did nothing wrong. South Park never asked us to think the word. It only demonstrated for us our own stupidity through Marsh's situation.
We can't claim racism is dead if a show such as South Park, through characters like Marsh, can so easily remind us of how culturally innate responses like his own have become in America.
The same is evident in the show's poke at "progressive" rednecks with a change of heart and congressional bills which ensure that racially offensive language is free speech until it is directed towards a white man. Then the context in which it is spoken must be altered.
"South Park" might be too brave for its own good. That would explain why so many of us love and approve of its offensive tactics. If such clever statements are allowed then why are they not done more often?
An uncensored America is the only kind from which any of us can benefit. We just need to remember that the heavier the dose that we give, the heavier we'll get in return and sometimes even the silver spoon can't make the truth taste any sweeter.

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