March 11 11

I was syndicated on BlogHer.com

By nature, I am one who shies away from internet drama. I don’t always weigh in on the spectacle du jour. In fact, I am usually one of the last to even hear about it and I don’t even know what linkbait actually is when I see it fly by in my twitter stream. I tend to stick to my own thing over here in this little space. I am proud to say that I have been troll-free since ’03. Actually, that’s kind of a lie, but I only have one troll and since her IP has been blocked, there has been little feather-ruffling around here. But, yesterday, a little drama went down, and not only did I know about it, I may have had a hand in causing some of the stir.

It all started on Facebook. A few days ago, I took a look at my news feed and saw that several of my Facebook friends had all posted the same video. And then I saw it some more. And then some more. And then some more. So, finally, I clicked on it. I mean, the comments, after all, were filled with things like, “OMG! I love this girl! She is hilarious!”

I like funny people, so I clicked. Only, I didn’t laugh. I didn’t even find it funny at all. In fact, I was slightly uncomfortable watching it. I found it mildly offensive, actually. What it is, folks, is a video of an Orthodox Jewish girl named Deena entitled “gettin’ mah nails did.” You can feel free to watch the video here. Some people probably looked at it thought that she was just a girl who did impressions.

But I didn’t. I thought it was in poor taste and was about to just walk away.

BUT, something caught my eye. It was her comment section.

Now, if you take a look at the comment a few down, by a Naftoli Mann, it says these words:

so the girls in my office were talking about how this girl is doing black imitation, how funny etc etc and i was thinking however good this girl is MY cousin could prob wipe her with her shvartz impressions. and i went on and it was you! lol

A comment to which Deena Mann replied with these words:

lol thats awesome!! ya supposedly the whole world posted it on their page…..not so awesome

I’m sorry. WHAT????

“black imitation”

“shvartz impression”

“lol that’s awesome”

I am now completely at a loss for words.

SHVARTZ.

SHVARTZ.

Seriously?

Just putting that horrifying word in writing is making me sick to my stomach.

Do people not realize how ridiculously derogatory this word is? Yes, you can argue that it simply means “black” in Yiddish. But, I can argue that unless you are 85-years-old and Yiddish is your first and only language, you are using it in a ridiculously offensive way. In fact, I’d go out on a limb to tell you that the only word I find more offensive is the n-word. I’m not even kidding.

So, the more I thought about it, the angrier I got.

SERIOUSLY? JEWS? BEHAVING LIKE THIS?

I don’t know if you know this, but we Jews know a thing or two about racism and persecution. I wonder, even, if the tables were turned. If there was a lovely girl sitting at her kitchen table deciding to make a video with her “awesome impression” of the Chassidic woman she knows. And I wonder if people would watch it and check out her comments section and take a look at what her cousin had to say about her “dirty jew imitation” or her “KIKE IMPRESSION?” What do you think would happen there? Do you think Jews would be offended?

DO WE REALLY NEED TO SPECULATE?

The most shocking thing to me, actually, was when I took it to twitter. My entire twitter stream was filled with people telling me that I WAS WRONG TO FEEL OFFENDED BY THIS AND THAT I NEED TO STOP TRYING SO HARD TO BE PC AND LEARN TO LAUGH AT MYSELF AND THAT SHE ISN’T A CRUEL PERSON AND THAT I NEED TO STOP BEING ANGRY AT HER AND THINK THAT IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T MEAN TO BE OFFENSIVE.

I’m sorry, you guys.

Because it’s funny is not a good enough excuse for me.

Because she may or may not have non-racist intentions is not a good enough excuse for me.

Because she and her readers are ignorant is not a good enough excuse for me.

-
  1. I completely agree with you!! Hate that word.
    And sadly, I know people who use it without a 2nd thought.

    Well written post!

    [Reply]

    Comment by TeeWrexx on March 11, 2011
  2. As an ignorant agnostic who didn’t even know where the closest Temple was where I grew up, it makes SO much more sense as to the enormity of how hateful the comments are now that you’ve explained it in detail to me.

    I’m sorry you’re being told you’re wrong in your feelings, because you’re absolutely NOT wrong. It’s deplorable.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Angie [A Whole Lot o on March 11, 2011
  3. I agree. It’s horrible and inexplicable.

    [Reply]

    Comment by feefifoto on March 11, 2011
  4. Just watched it, didn’t find it funny. I’ve never seen that word before, now I know. I’m so sorry Ali.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Tammi Marie on March 11, 2011
  5. I didn’t find the video that funny, but mainly because it wasn’t funny. I wasn’t offended, either, though.

    I don’t think there are any problems with doing impressions of stereotypes.

    I do think, however, that saying “shvartz impression” was offensive. That really is the equivalent to someone commenting “Oh, I heard there’s an awesome nigger impression here.” and then she replies with “Awesome!”

    [Reply]

    Comment by Avitable on March 11, 2011
  6. And, let me say, that it’s uber shitty for people to tell you that you’re wrong for feeling whatever way you want. You are never wrong for having feelings about anything.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Avitable on March 11, 2011
  7. WEll, that’s the point, really, here.

    I saw the video. Felt weird about it…but decided to shrug my feeling off.

    UNTIL I SAW HER COMMENT SECTION.

    and she seemed totally 100% okay with the shvartz comment.

    And that’s when I got angry.

    [Reply]

    Comment by ali on March 11, 2011
  8. I guess it’s only fair to comment here since I also weighed in on twitter too. first, thanks for the post, it gives us a better venue to discuss/comment.
    OK, here is my opinion:
    I watched the video. I did not think it was funny BUT I am also not sure I found it offensive either.
    The video was posted on a personal page, not a FAN page so I am not even sure it is fair to comment on it, I saw the video but without proper context, y’know?
    I can HONESTLY say I had NO IDEA that shvartz was THAT derogatory a word. I don’t use it but am now glad I understand it’s intent is to hurt and be malicious, I never will. In fact, it opened up a great conversation with my kids yesterday, so thanks for that.
    I am not sure I would have called the twitter convos *drama* though. Obvioulsy I did not see every comment, but enough that MY impression was that, it was in fact , an awesome, honest, frank open discussion about some really awkward topics. And it was refreshing to able to tackle crap like that so openly WITHOUT drama. To me, *drama* kind of belittles the whole conversation, implying that emotions & theatrics overruled good sense and well thought out opinions.
    Ali, I love that you are willing to talk about these things though – ignorance is no excuse and I was given a pretty good education last night. THANKS!!!

    [Reply]

    Comment by marci o'connor on March 11, 2011
  9. I guess it’s only fair to comment here since I also weighed in on twitter too. first, thanks for the post, it gives us a better venue to discuss/comment.
    OK, here is my opinion:
    I watched the video. I did not think it was funny BUT I am also not sure I found it offensive either.
    The video was posted on a personal page, not a FAN page so I am not even sure it is fair to comment on it, I saw the video but without proper context, y’know?
    I can HONESTLY say I had NO IDEA that shvartz was THAT derogatory a word. I don’t use it but am now glad I understand it’s intent is to hurt and be malicious, I never will. In fact, it opened up a great conversation with my kids yesterday, so thanks for that.
    I am not sure I would have called the twitter convos *drama* though. Obvioulsy I did not see every comment, but enough that MY impression was that, it was in fact , an awesome, honest, frank open discussion about some really awkward topics. And it was refreshing to able to tackle crap like that so openly WITHOUT drama. To me, *drama* kind of belittles the whole conversation, implying that emotions & theatrics overruled good sense and well thought out opinions.
    Ali, I love that you are willing to talk about these things though – ignorance is no excuse and I was given a pretty good education last night. THANKS!!!

    [Reply]

    Comment by marci o'connor on March 11, 2011
  10. You and I chatted about this last night… and I agree with some of what you say here – she might have even intended to be offensive (and her friends are TOTAL asshats, by way of their comments) but I believe it’s the whole package that’s bad, over the clip itself.

    If she was a comedienne submitting this as a tape of her talents, I’d say she does funny impressions – if I hadn’t read her name or the comments that followed. I didn’t find her impression to be hateful at all, though given all the stuff around it, it’s possible she meant it to be. I don’t know her, so I can’t say for sure.

    I didn’t even realise she was impersonating a black person in her clip. I just thought it was nail-culture. Or Southern-ish. And that girl? She could have been half black, by the look of her.

    I didn’t get “derogatory” or “hateful” from the actual clip. From the surrounding stuff? Well, sure – that can be seen now, but she didn’t offend me from the onset.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Grumble Girl on March 11, 2011
  11. Wow. This is a tough one.
    I did watch the video in question.
    I didn’t find it funny.
    I also didn’t find it offensive. I’m also not attached to the history of the word.
    I guess it comes down to semantics? What’s in a word?
    I am in no way comparing the 2 – but I know ALOT of people who are very specific about how to talk about our special needs kids. I am not. I don’t care about autism vs autistic. The word retarded doesn’t offend me – I just choose not to use it. What offends some doesn’t mean a lick to others.
    I dunno…it’s a personal perception on an issue. You are absolutely more than 100% entitled to be offended. You just can’t be more offended if others don’t feel the same way.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Christine on March 11, 2011
  12. I’m like you, in that I avoid controversy at all costs. I know that this really upset you and for good reason. I can only assume that your understanding of the connotation of the word used is better than those who took it so lightly. Lost in translation, if you will. Maybe this will better explain that for them.

    [Reply]

    Comment by tena on March 11, 2011
  13. And of course, no one should tell you what you should or shouldn’t be upset about, Ali. We feel what we feel, and we’re all entitled… it’s good that you’re talking about it here. Great post!!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Grumble Girl on March 11, 2011
  14. Christine…I am sorry. BUt I do have to REALLY stress to you that calling someone a SHVARTZA is HUGELY OFFENSIVE. It’s not a black and white issue. There’s no grey area here.

    It’s OFFENSIVE.

    [Reply]

    Comment by ali on March 11, 2011
  15. I’ve never heard that word before Ali, but anyone telling you that you are wrong to be offended by it, can suckit.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Karen Sugarpants on March 11, 2011
  16. If I can say this in a non-condescending way, I’m proud of you for standing your ground and posting about it instead of just ignoring it.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Avitable on March 11, 2011
  17. I watched the video and the first thing I thought was that it wasn’t funny. As it went on I started to feel like not only was it not funny, but it had racist undertones. THEN I read the comments, where people openly discussed that she wasn’t doing a “nail-person” imitation (as some speculated on Twitter) – in fact, a family member confirmed she was doing a “black person” impression and proceeded to use a horrible word, and the person in the video LAUGHED at the comment.

    Which means the video wasn’t made to do “nail lady” impressions, it was made to do “black people” impressions and in a derrogatory way. Which means the intent was there. And she had enough good sense to know that it was in poor taste and offensive by lamenting the video’s “reposting.”
    If she thought it was just lowbrow comedy, she would most likely be thrilled her funny clip was being shared with the world…which means the video is just as bad as you are saying it is.

    Good for you for speaking up.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Daisy on March 11, 2011
  18. Were you offended by her portrayal of Chasidic women as ignorant, pregnant and shallow?

    [Reply]

    Comment by Guest on March 11, 2011
  19. I’ve never heard that word before in my life, but if that’s what it means, then… yeah. That’s pretty awful.

    And I didn’t think the video was funny, but I also tend to think that people doing impressions of racial/ethnic stereotypes is never funny. Maybe that’s just me.

    [Reply]

    Comment by cindy w on March 11, 2011
  20. Hi Guest…I actually *WAS* offended by that video as well…because you know what sucks?

    JEWS HATING ON OTHER JEWS.

    I have felt enough of that myself… because I am not orthodox, but many people I know are. Let me tell you how AWESOME they make me feel….

    [Reply]

    Comment by ali on March 11, 2011
  21. I was one of the people on Twitter, Ali, and I don’t think that is what people were saying AT ALL. It was about being reactionary. AND it was NOT personal. No one was telling you, specifically, how to feel or think. We were sharing OUR perspectives and opinions. And yes, they differed from yours.

    Let me clarify, I didn’t find the video very funny either. I am neither Jewish nor black so it wasn’t personal but it just wasn’t that funny.

    However, my point on Twitter was to take a step back and try to see the whole picture. I don’t think this woman is an evil racist out to cause harm. Was she ignorant? Yes. Was her intention to make people laugh? It seems like it. Did the comments reveal something ugly? Obviously. But if YOUR intention was to help people see your perspective getting up in arms and reacting by pointing fingers and shouting racism is not productive. It will only cause more reaction and anger and defensiveness. It certainly won’t help her see your point of view. And it was, in my opinion, over the top under the circumstances.

    We should be able to have discussions and differing opinions or interpretations of what we see. And we should be prepared to listen should someone interpret things differently.

    Did this go too far? Likely. Does she need to be enlightened as to how it was seen as offensive by others? Sure. But I have to go back to her intention and I just don’t think it warrants this reaction.

    That was all I was trying to say. I guess I don’t think every ignorant comment or person should be tarred with the same racist brush (is that racist?). Some people are evil but there is a big difference between THAT and this.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jen Maier on March 11, 2011
  22. I think many people are like me and have no idea the strength that words carries with it.
    I’m sorry you got flamed and I thank you for educating me.
    <3

    [Reply]

    Comment by Christine on March 11, 2011
  23. I haven’t seen the video so I don’t want to weigh in on whether or not it was offensive vs. funny. But as someone who writes for a living, I constantly hold in the back of my mind the weight words carry. I can put positive words into the world, or I can put negative hateful words into the world.

    I see you as a person with integrity and passion – I’m glad you wrote about this :)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Sharon on March 11, 2011
  24. I must have totally missed the boat on this one, because I haven’t seen it anywhere. But, I also have no intention of clicking on the link. I’ve also never heard of the word “SHVARTZ” and would have no idea what it meant.

    I totally agree with you though. 100%. NOT COOL.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Mrs. Wilson on March 11, 2011
  25. Jen. I am NOT saying that she’s an evil person. I never said that ANYWHERE. I am, however, shocked that she and her cousin use the word AS IF IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL…and it bothered me that the video is going viral within my Jewish Facebook network.

    Maybe I RTd something because I was angry…but you know what? I was angry. And I am still angry.

    As a Jew, I am appalled that anyone would use that word, or not be alarmed by it showing up casually on in her comment section.

    So, I spoke up.

    AND you and Marci are only seeing a fraction of what was going down on MY twitter stream last night and you are not seeing what was in my DMs…so I’m not saying that YOU are telling me how to feel, but when I tell you that there were people telling me..THERE WERE.

    I am ALL for open discussion and listening to what other people have to say…and of course I did. Some people found it funny. I’m okay with that. Some people found it non-offensive. I’m okay with that.

    I am NOT okay with anyone using the word shvartz. AT ALL. NEVER EVER EVER. And I’m allowed to say that and feel that.

    [Reply]

    Comment by ali on March 11, 2011
  26. I’ve never heard the word before this post and honestly am not going to waste my time watching that video, but if it means what Ali says then she is absolutely right- there is no gray area here- it’s 100% nasty and offensive and there’s no justification of it’s use in the comments section of that video.

    [Reply]

    Comment by rkmama on March 11, 2011
  27. Oh my gosh, Ali, thank you for this! I had a similar situation with my husband’s family (who are Jewish) referring to African Americans as “schvartz.” Now, I know what the word means, but am not Jewish, so I was a little confused by their usage of it and thought, though I would NEVER, EVER use it, that maybe it was a cultural “thing” on which I shouldn’t comment. (Lord knows, I’ve inadvertently stepped into those minefields before) I was also genuinely puzzled because as you pointed out, OMG, if the roles were reversed, there would (and should) be outrage. So, thank you for speaking up and out.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Leslie on March 11, 2011
  28. I didn’t watch the video. I’m not on twitter. Yet, I’m going to comment anyway. As a Jew with Yiddish speaking grandparents and parents, I agree that Shvartz is a mean, horrible word that is never ok. Period. The end.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jen on March 11, 2011
  29. Oh, Ali. I missed all of this until this post.

    I’ve never even heard that word until today I grew up (and live in) areas where the Jewish culture is pretty much non-existent. Heck, you are the first Jewish friend I’ve ever had, and you live across the country.

    As for people telling you not to feel offended, based on what you’ve explained, I can’t see how you could NOT be offended.

    Backing you up here, sister. Love you.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Angella on March 11, 2011
  30. I missed most of this yesterday but I just wanted to say that standing up for something is huge and will make a lot of people uncomfortable. Educating people is a good thing, not everyone will see it that way but if you feel you did the right thing by speaking out and people are learning from it, then you’ve done well. Racism is taught, whether it is intentional or ignorant, it should be brought to light. If we stay silent, then no one learns.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Pampered Patty on March 11, 2011
  31. This is really interesting.
    I see it happening repeatedly on twitter. One person’s idea of humour is hurtful and offensive to someone else.
    I think we all have to be aware that we come from different backgrounds, cultures, belief systems, families and perspectives.
    What’s okay for person A is not remotely okay for person B. Sometimes humour can cross the line — or be perceived to cross the line – from funny to offensive bigotry.
    Passive aggression, racism, misogyny, hate ++ are sometimes couched in “jokes.”
    In our household we call some jokes “happy teasing” but they too can go too far — when they’re at somebody else’s expense.
    If you’re offended, you have a right to your feelings.

    Just my two cents.
    Pam @writewrds

    [Reply]

    Comment by Pam @writewrds on March 11, 2011
  32. What is a troll?

    [Reply]

    Comment by Laura on March 11, 2011
  33. >Hi Guest…I actually *WAS* offended by that video as well…because you know what sucks?

    >JEWS HATING ON OTHER JEWS.

    >I have felt enough of that myself… because I am not orthodox, but many people I know are. Let me tell you how AWESOME they make me feel….

    Great. I’m glad it too my comment to remind you to mention it. A shame the way you felt didn’t merit an entire post.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Guest on March 11, 2011
  34. I didn’t participate in the conversation on Twitter because I usually avoid topics like this when limited to 140 characters.

    First of all, implication trumps intention any day for me. Well-meaning comments, videos, etc can cause just as must damage as anything intentionally offensive or racist. And, from the comments on that video, I’m not convinced it was well-meaning or indifferent.

    Stereotypes are common in comedy. In my opinion, that doesn’t make it right. The perpetuation of stereotypes support and justify systemic racism. Racism isn’t just acts of meanness by evil people. It is pervasive and prevalent on so many levels in our society.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Sarah on March 11, 2011
  35. I didn’t see the twitter conversation.

    You are totally justified to feel the way you do. You found the video offensive and no one should make you feel bad for that.

    Ever.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jennifer Gilbert on March 11, 2011
  36. Great post. I’m not Jewish, didn’t see the video or your tweet but I love your blog and how you don’t evoke drama. I’m sure if you are this passionate about that word then it’s for very good reason. Thank you for being bold enough to speak out about it.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Katy on March 11, 2011
  37. What Katy said, my words exactly. Good for you.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Linda on March 11, 2011
  38. The lady in the video wasn’t funny at all. The lady who posted the video to her FB page–clearly has no life. The end.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Kami on March 12, 2011
  39. Ali, you’re going to feel how you want to feel about it and you are ENTITLED to that.

    I watched it, also failed to see the humor in it overall, however didn’t find it (the video) offensive as for the comment section, well perhaps they were trying to be “polite” and using a word that isn’t common to most people? I had NO clue what it meant until 2 mins ago. Not that I’m defending them, just speculating.
    In any case, if someone get’s their panties in a knot over how YOU feel about it, I would just kindly remind them that you’re entitled to your opinions as are they. Then maybe punch them in the face if they get too douchy.
    Good for you for staying true to you and how you feel!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Steph on March 13, 2011
  40. [...] nobody ever sees it, is it still offensive? By Becky, on March 13th, 2011 Ali Martel wrote a blog post about a new hot topic floating around the interwebs this week.  Let me state a few important to remember facts [...]

    Pingback by If nobody ever sees it, is it still offensive? | Welcome to my life on March 13, 2011
  41. Thank you for this post! It is up to those of us who know to educate those who do not. It IS an offensive word.

    I find it rather stupid when people use Yiddish words in ordinary conversation when they have absolutely no idea of their origin or meaning.

    [Reply]

    Comment by LizP on March 14, 2011
  42. I have come across your blog a few times and find it interesting that you are so quick to judge others for being offensive. Though you may not realize it, you are offensive on a regular basis. Maybe not through racism against minorities, but offensive, nonetheless. Do you think that bashing and deeply hating Fergie for her “puffy face”, Adam’s apple, etc. is not offensive to anyone who has any one? Those are all symtoms of thyroid dysfunction. Those are also features that a person cannot control or change no matter how much they try. You also have done your fair share of mocking things about Judaism. It seems to me that you think that “offensive” only applies to things that offend you.

    [Reply]

    Comment by jen on March 14, 2011
  43. Um. I never claim to be perfect. I never claim to not ever be offensive. But, again, my space, my place…I’m ALLOWED to feel offended. And I’m allowed to talk about it.

    If you feel offended by anything I write about…I encourage you to either

    a) pipe up here. Leave me comment. Call me out on it. EDUCATE me.

    or

    b) don’t come back.

    Obviously, I wasn’t offensive enough to keep you from coming back to my site…um..at least 106 times, at least according to my statcounter.

    [Reply]

    Comment by ali on March 14, 2011
  44. Ali,

    Thank you for this post. I do think it is appropriate to call out people for offensive remarks and I think it is great that you have done so. Especially since so many people don’t seem to know that it is a derogatory term.

    It wouldn’t have been obvious to me on the surface that it was an offensive term, because it is a literal translation of the word “black”. But obviously understanding the context/historical use is critical to the interpretation.

    Interestingly, I used to be called a Shiksa on a daily basis by people who insisted they used it as a term of endearment despite the very disparaging literal meaning of the word. Should I have been insulted?

    [Reply]

    Comment by Annie@PhDinParenting on March 16, 2011
  45. I definitely think you should stand up for what you believe and call things out when you believe they are wrong or hateful. I wish there were more people like you that would stand up for what they believe and call things like this out into the light and actually say, “Hey, this is not ok.” That is the exact reason I wrote the Let’s Start a Movement post.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jennifer on March 18, 2011
-

Allowed tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

css.php