By Robyn Doolittle
Editor in Chief
This week The Eyeopener is taking a look at diversity on campus and in the city. While some stories may push some people’s buttons, those same people are probably doubled over with Borat laughter.
If you — like me — were one of the unfortunate moviegoers who waited in line for four hours to see Borat on its opening weekend, there’s no need to quote the astronomical box office figures this film is garnering.
Across North America, people waited in lines worthy of Star Wars to watch Sacha Baron Cohen say all the things no one is supposed to say — some because they’re legitimately offensive, others because society has become far too politically correct. And on top of that, through his vulgar comments and occasionally (naked) slapstick comedy, Cohen delivered biting social commentary on unspoken cultural biases.
But, are they really that unspoken?
After an extremely unofficial poll taken of masthead members and students walking by the office, many people — varying in background — said they frequently make playful ethnic jabs at their close friends. In the office a promotional book entilted “Yes, but is it good for the Jews?” has become a favourite punchline. At the same time, we recognize the paper-thin line between good-intentioned irreverence and flat out discrimination. I, especially being in a position of power, choose my words carefully — even with my colleagues I consider good friends.
After all, there is no room in newspapers for ethnic jokes. And in fact, in 1992, an arts and entertainment editor decided to push a few buttons while writing the weekly editorial nicknames, seen below on the masthead list. Benson Lee gave every person a nickname based on a racial stereotype. He became Benson “politically incorrect Chink” Lee, whose editor in chief Tom Kluger was dubbed the “red-neck honky.”
The letters poured in for weeks, almost with as much enthusiasm as audiences showed for Borat. But the difference, of course, is that Borat isn’t real. We know Cohen’s not anti-Semitic, he’s Jewish. So we’re allowed to laugh at the “Running of the Jew” scene. The same as we’re allowed to laugh at Peter’s jokes on Family Guy — they’re cartoons. And David Chappelle’s digs at all races are excepted because he equally distributes the racial humour. (Still, as we all know, Chappelle had trouble walking the fine line and walked away from the show midway through its third season.)
This week, The Eyeopener, is taking a look at diversity. Ryerson is such a multicultural community, it seemed an obvious thing to examine. What we found is that despite this diversity, groups have become polarized. Sarah Boesveld’s piece — page 9 — takes a controversial look at the Muslim Student’s Association sudden political influence in the school, while other Muslim groups across the country struggle to have a voice. On page 8, Stacey Askew and Lia Van Baalen’s look at the problems associated with classifying yourself to a particular cultural group. And Lauren McKeon’s story — pages 10-11 — examines how transsexuals are being shut out of health care. Each could be considered controversial, perhaps offensive, to some.
But being uncomfortable with a topic isn’t a reason to avoid it.