Wednesday, September 10, 2008

ABC 20-20: Privileged in America: They're Not Like Us

Well, Donald Trump would always tell his proto-Apprentices, “Life’s not fair, is it.” Tonight, ABC 20/20 aired “They’re Not Like Us: Privilege in America” with John Stossel and Elizabeth Vargas. In Washington, it had to be watched on Cable News Channel 8, as station WJLA was airing the 3-hour “Cinderella Man.”

The program started with a discussion of race in America. After showing a spot from a motivational speech bu Chris Rock (who came to a high school where I subbed in 2005 in order to give an anti-drug speech) Stossel spoke to Tim Wise (“White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son”) and, with an opposing view, Shelby Steele (“White Guilt: How Whites and Blacks Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era”). They went over the practical problems that African Americans are used to encountering: people with “black-sounding names” or voices are less likely to get calls for jobs or even be offered apartments. One mixed-race young man had passed as white his whole life.

They also went over diplomatic immunity, which is often abused. In one case, a diplomat from a middle Eastern country essentially held domestic workers (without papers) as household slaves in Manhattan.

But the main part of the show dealt with “lookism”, which gets mixed up with “celebrity,” which, in Hollywood, seems to come with an expiration date. The most disturbing example seem to be the screening of people to get into discos. Older or less “desirable”-looking people don’t get in.

I haven’t seen this done in any of the gay clubs in cities that I am most familiar with (Washington, Baltimore, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Dallas). I would think it would get a strong reaction from the community and the gay press if done. Legally, I would wonder if a disco is a "public accommodation" and whether normal civil rights laws would trump over their own property rights; I can understand their freedom to admit who they want, but if carried too far, it can encourage some very destructive social trends (compare to the issue of race and country clubs). I would appreciate a comment from anyone who has experienced seeing discos turn people away!

This issue had been covered in a 2-hour special in Nov. 2006 (see Nov 3 on this blog) when it was called "Privileged in America: Who's Shutting You Out." There are details from the earlier show there.

ABC 20/20 today has a report by John Stossel and Frank Mastropolo, "Bigger Bling for the Beautiful: Just How Far Can Beauty Take You?," link here, dated Sept 9, 2008. There is a related story by John Stossel and Gina Binkley, "Is Your Skin Color an Advantage? Scholars Debate Whether Society Overlooks Minorities" date Sept. 10, 2008.

Update: Sept. 12

Dr. Phil today had a related show, on "The N-Word Debate", with Sheryl Underwood, Hill Harper and Michael Graham. Rev. Al Sharpton appeared by remote and said that the First Amendment has been over-extended, allowing people to call each other any names they like. The link is here.

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