When Racism Is Acceptable

I was scrolling through CNN’s opinion page when I saw an article by Rebecca Wanzo about why an episode of the Golden Girls is a problem…because of blackface. Being the Golden Girls fan that I am, I can’t help but respond.

Why remove a brilliant episode of “The Golden Girls” about racism? In “Mixed Blessings,” Dorothy’s son Michael comes to her with the news that he is marrying a Black woman, Lorraine. Dorothy clearly harbors some discriminatory beliefs about interracial marriage.”

Now, you’re not being fair to Dorothy here. Not at all. She did not show any discriminatory beliefs about their marriage. She hadn’t seen or heard from her son in probably months. He arrives, drops big bomb after big bomb on his mom. “Sorry I haven’t been in touch. I’m getting married. And she’s black. You don’t have a problem with this, do you?”

“No, of course not. It’s just all so….so sudden. It’s all so at once. First you surprise me, then the engagement…and then Lorraine???”

“I really love her, ma.”

“Well, that’s all that matters. And I really mean it. I’m very happy for you.”

And that is the LAST we hear Dorothy mention race. When she finds out how old Lorraine is it does bother her. Lorraine is twice Michael’s age.

But we then learn that Michael’s fiancé is twice his age, something that is much more upsetting to Dorothy. Both families object to the marriage but come to accept it over the course of the episode.

WHAT???? WHAT?????

You left out who the other family even is! TOTALLY left the important dynamics of Lorraine’s family. You also left out what exactly Lorraine’s family objected to. They didn’t want Lorraine to marry Michael because he was WHITE!!!

What kind of educator are you, glossing over important facts like that. You’re not an educator, you’re an indoctrinater, and like so many who are good at brain washing you leave out anything that goes against your message.

Lorraine’s family is three black faced Golden Girls. Yes, I chose those words on purpose. They’re all about the same height, stature, and even hair style as their counter figures. There is a black Rose, a black Blanche, and most importantly to this story of irony, the black Dorothy, a miss Greta Wagner, who is being BLATANTLY racist.

The first thing she says to Dorothy is that her house is cleaner than hers so, “she’d hire her anytime.” Which you can glean as a really nasty jab at what a white woman would say to the black woman in a script for the same tv show 20 years before. But, not in this episode. Racism has been reversed to show its lunacy.

When you expect the white woman to have a problem with race, she doesn’t. NO! The black woman is objecting to it. And we laugh! Because it shows the hilarity of what racism really is.

Greta Wagner, the black woman, says, “Yes, you said he was younger, but you never said he was white. No, daughter of mine is marrying some skinny white boy.” And she turns up her nose.

Yes, the lunacy of racism can infect anyone. Not just white people. ANYONE. Anyone can be a lunatic….

Then Dorothy says the funniest thing, which you automatically assumed to be racist.

“Well, I’m not fond of my son marrying your daughter.” To which the black woman says, “Why, you got something against black people?” Bullying her, pressuring her, saying and suggesting with rigid tone that if Dorothy has a problem with her daughter the only reason can be because of her race, not because of her age. (Ironically, this is probably when Hulu caved to bullying pressure and removed the episode forever).

Ms. Wanzo….you wickedly and deceptively left so much out of this episode. But, it was the “blackface” moment in this episode that compelled you to write “Taking down an episode of the Golden Girls won’t fix the real problem…” (of blackface in media, I’m sure).

The “blackface” scene in question depicts Dorothy’s friends Rose and Blanche walking in on the visiting families with mud masks on for facials; the comic timing and discomfort aroused by the scene demonstrate the awareness among the show’s writers and audience that it would be offensive and inappropriate if they were actually in blackface. The object of the joke is the situation — not Black people.

What other reason would they have for them to be in blackface? I’m hoping with your own statement that you see the hilarity of the awkwardness when these two women walk out in mud masks. This scene shows that unease that happens when you suddenly, culturally say or do the wrong thing without even knowing it, without it being intentional. “We’ve got on mud masks, walking into our own living rooms. What could possibly happen? Damn, now we’re racists.”

I’ve encountered a few white women with mud masks in spas over the course of my life, but unless they began speaking in stereotypical Black dialect and singing “Camptown races,” I wouldn’t see it as offensive.

Part of what makes this episode work as an anti-racist episode is that it does not treat Dorothy’s racism as acceptable. 

“….it does not treat Dorothy’s racism as acceptable.” But, by omission of the confrontations between Dorothy and Greta, you avoided the real problem we are facing right now: when racism is considered acceptable, and when it is not.

Your article breaks my heart. Or maybe I should feel sorry for you, I’m not quite sure which way I feel. It breaks my heart because your article perpetuates this hunger to destroy everything at first glance. It perpetuates the desire to look for evil when it isn’t there. It perpetuates this rotten suspicion you want us to feel for each other.

The other part of me feels sorry for you because you’ve obviously never really watched a lot of the Golden Girls. If you had, you wouldn’t have written this article….

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9 comments

  1. God bless you for saying the words, there is no thinking anymore, only reacting and I love that you try to model actual thinking!!! This is why I read your work….it may be Madmanknitting but I would suggest madman thinking!!!

  2. I think you need to reread the article…. she stated quite clearly that the episode was anti-racial and should not have been pulled.

    “Most disturbingly, why remove a brilliant episode of “The Golden Girls” about racism? In “Mixed Blessings,” Dorothy’s son Michael comes to her with the news that he is marrying a Black woman, Lorraine. Dorothy clearly harbors some discriminatory beliefs about interracial marriage. But we then learn that Michael’s fiancé is twice his age, something that is much more upsetting to Dorothy. Both families object to the marriage but come to accept it over the course of the episode.”

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