By Tracy Dingmann
Is there really any question about whether the “joke” that Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Wiener emailed to his buddies involving President Obama, black people, sex in the shower and prison was actually funny or appropriate?
Not to me. And not to anyone I know. The “joke,” which Wiener sent to the county manager and the director of the county jail, was distasteful at best and racist at worst, and the fact that Wiener – an elected official – blithely sent it to colleagues at their public accounts raises serious questions about his judgment, not to mention his views about black people.
So that’s why I am having a hard time understanding Journal “UpFront” columnist Thom Cole’s treatment of Wiener’s vile “joke” in his front page column Saturday titled “Commissioner Never Should Have Hit ‘Send.’”
“It’s supposed to be a joke. You be the judge. Here goes,” is how Cole begins his story. Then he goes on to repeat the offensive story Wiener circulated.
What I don’t get is why, exactly, does Cole feel he has to ask his readers to judge? Does he really think he needs to give Journal readers space to debate the “joke” on its merits?
Those UpFront things Cole writes are opinion columns, right – so why doesn’t he tell us what he thinks? It’s obvious from the rest of his column that Cole judges Wiener as stupid for sending the email – but why? There’s no need to hide behind objectivity here, old-school reporter guy – just come out and tell us! Read any of Cole’s other columns and you’ll find he seldom has any problem telling us exactly what he thinks about the actions of any other public officials!
I find it troubling that there’s no such statement here, because for me and for many people of color, these kinds of jokes from a public official are not something we can easily shrug off or have the luxury to view as some kind of abstract question to puzzle over.
When “jokes” are this hateful, there’s a real bright line. Something like this is racist and wrong – and I would expect an Albuquerque Journal columnist like Cole to come out and say so.