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Calvin Freiburger

Sheila Jackson Lee Comes Out Against Interracial Slapstick

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Posted on February 10 2011 12:00 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

I confess: I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. My interest in pro sports is pretty much limited to whether or not anything good comes out of the big game’s annual crop of Super Bowl commercials. We got a couple winners this year, but Democrat Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has declared one ad not only a failure, but an outrage, as well.

Pepsi ran this commercial, in which a black man on a park bench smiles at a pretty white woman who sits down nearby, and his wife angrily throws a Pepsi Max can at his head, which instead hits the woman when he ducks.

Lee’s reaction:

“In this month of African-American history where we’re trying to celebrate what is good and great, it certainly seems ridiculous that Pepsi would utilize this kind of humor,” she said. “It was not humorous. It was demeaning — an African-American woman throwing something at an African-American male and winding up hitting a Caucasian woman.”

Jackson Lee said she has a sense of humor and believes in the First Amendment. She also said the Super Bowl is a great time for “fellowship” with family members.

“That is why I’m so disappointed with the Pepsi advertisement that showed a demeaning role for African American women, in an ad that showed a can being thrown and being utilized to wound someone else or hit someone else,” she said.

“I think that we can come together in a much better way, sell Pepsi, and as well talk about good nutrition,” she said. “But, frankly, I consider this insulting, and so did many other women of all colors.”

Many? Name five. It’s a little hard to pin down the Congresswoman’s objection—is she coming down on the very concept of slapstick humor, or simply that Pepsi would dare depict black people up to the same sort of shenanigans that America has been laughing at white people doing for years? Is it that the woman’s victim wasn’t also black? Is it that a woman was depicted as a violent hothead? (And while Lee doesn’t allude to this, some other, really radical black leftists would also likely complain about seeing a black man attracted to a white woman. Wasn’t the goal a color-blind society?)

While Shelia Jackson Lee and whoever keeps sending her to Washington were freaking out, sane people instantly recognized that the commercial was playing with one of the oldest, most common tropes in comedy: the jealous wife whose impulsive attempts to punish her husband’s wandering eye get them both in trouble. Normal people who watch this sort of thing don’t fixate on the skin colors of the actors, or stop to think, “How dare they suggest I’d act like that!” or “Hey, they’re legitimizing violence!” Among normal people, the ad most likely elicited lighthearted warnings from wives and girlfriends to their significant others to watch their step.

Sheila Jackson Lee is right that Super Bowl Sunday is an opportunity for friends and family to come together, but in going nuts over an innocuous bit of entertainment, all she’s ended up doing is sowing division.

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