San Francisco-based photographer and EJS ally Dwayne Newton shares his reactions to A&E TV’s approach towards diversity.
I haven’t had a chance to view A&E Network’s reality TV show entitled “Dog The Bounty Hunter” starring Duane “Dog” Chapman and family, and it looks like I won’t get the chance anytime soon – the show was yanked by A&E after an audio taped phone call was released featuring “Dog” Chapman repeatedly barking the “N” word in reference to his son’s girlfriend. But Chapman’s foaming rhetoric led me to something I felt was equally disturbing.
“Dog the Bounty Hunter” chronicles Chapman’s Hawaii-based and family run Da Kine Bail Bonds, and how he tracks down bail-jumpers while keeping track of some of his dozen children. One of his offspring, 24-year-old Tucker Chapman, happens to have an African-American girlfriend; Daddy Chapman, in an effort to protect his interests and short chain Tucker, unleashes on Tucker during a phone call that, unknown to Daddy Chapman, was being tape recorded…
Duane “Dog” Chapman speaking to his son Tucker Chapman: “I don’t care if she’s a Mexican, a whore or whatever. It’s not because she’s black, it’s because we use the word nigger sometimes here. I’m not gonna take a chance ever in life of losing everything I’ve worked for for 30 years because some f**ing nigger heard us say nigger and turned us in to the Enquirer magazine. Our career is over! I’m not taking that chance at all! Never in life! Never! Never! If Lyssa [Dog’s daughter] was dating a nigger, we would all say ‘f**k 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 nigger. We don’t mean you f**king scum nigger without a soul. We don’t mean that sh*t. 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’ – f**k 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 sh*t. I got ’em in the parking lot trying to record us. I got that girl saying she’s gonna wear a recorder…”
Ummmm, Father Knows Best? It’s unsettlingly fascinating how “Dog” Chapman takes the trouble to distinguish the nuances of “niggers,” as if he were utilizing some sort of Dante’s Infernoesque Nine Levels of “Nigger” scale in his rant. He was, but that’s another story. Tucker Chapman’s response: “I don’t even know what to say.” Rather than waste his breath, Tucker handed the tapes over to the National Enquirer for hard cash and the proverbial cat was out of the bag. “Dog” Chapman issued an apology, but the damage was done; civil rights leaders put heavy pressure on A&E TV Networks to suspend the show, which brings me to the why I’m writing this.
As an African-American male, I was more piqued than outraged – I don’t particularly care what happens to convicted murderers like Duane “Dog” Chapman, nor was I concerned about Chapman’s privacy issues. I was going to blast an email to A&E and I wanted to know just what A&E was going to do about their “N-word” flinging, mullet-sporting cash cow.
So I navigate to http://www.aetv.com and at the bottom of a busy page, I find faint links directing me to the backlot of A&E TV – “terms of service,” “site maps,” “corporate information,” which I select. Before I write my digital umbrage, let’s just see what’s what. More links, and one link caught my eye – “diversity.” I clicked, and what I initially saw made me laugh out loud but what I read made me go silent.
On first glance, I thought that of eight A&E employees pictured, not one was a person of color. But lo! There, third from the top, was an Asian male. And yes, there were three women there. I sat there with mixed feelings. There’s nothing wrong with having a page of images with few if any people of color on it; I’m used to that by now. But this was the “diversity” page dammit and I wanted some color.
Then I read the text. I’d found my answer for the lack of color and I forgot all about “Dog” Chapman’s racist rant…
From A&E Televison Networks website:
“Diversity extends beyond race, color, creed or sexual orientation. Diversity is that combination of traits and characteristics that makes each of us unique individuals and what brings us together toachieve our goals. Diversity is about respect, openness, innovation, and knowledge. It’s what we practice in our business.”
Wow. Apparently A&E has a new definition for diversity. After hearing the term “diversity” almost used as a slur itself (along with it’s cousin “multicultural”) this was a surprise and a sea change for the word itself. And conveniently enough, it almost seemed as if A&E’s Silly Putty version of diversity explained away why they felt they could post a “diversity” page with such a dearth of diversity.
Take a look yourself. I could be wrong, or overly sensitive, I’ve been accused of that. Or maybe the people of color happened to be out, having mint juleps with “Dog” Chapman. Or the photographer was color-blind. Or…