Roseanne Barr posted a racist tweet about former President Obama‘s aide Valerie Jarrett. This has resulted in ABS cancelling the increasingly popular reboot of ‘Roseanne’. Yet, people associated with the show have spent most of the day pleading their ignorance of Barr’s true nature and denouncing her comments. However, anyone who has ever had a work colleague whether it is in an office or production company will know, you end up knowing your ‘work friends’ as well as you know your real friends; if not better sometimes.
You know their views, even if they haven’t implicitly stated them in an ‘abhorrent’ tweet. However, most people choose not to act on that knowledge because we have bills to pay and don’t wish to be made a pariah in the place we spend most of our time.
Most people who work in an office or company will end up spending the majority of their week with and talking to a collection of people they may not have chosen to be their friends, but eventually become their ‘work friends’ whether they like it or not.
This work friendship results in a never-ending cycle of small talk, personal revelations, gossip and filtered but revealing chats about politics, race, religion and whatever social issue is trending enough to add some flavour to the standard ‘how was your weekend?’ chat.
This is why Roseanne Barr’s work colleagues would have been fully aware of the nature of her thoughts, comedy and beliefs. Roseanne’s character was merely a TV-friendly version of Barr’s real-life persona. No one decided to start the path down the racist or ignorant highway in the latter stages of their life whilst being on social media. Barr’s ignorance predated today and her colleagues would have known.
For instance, Barr’s ex-husband and former show star, Tom Arnold reacted to the news of the cancellation and spoke about calling Barr out for her other tweets:
“Ton of respect for Bob Iger. Tough decision with financial consequences for his company but right for America….umm..now don’t bug Bob but maybe someone else find out if I’m still banned from all of @ABCNetwork for calling Roseanne Barr out first on her racist conspiracy tweets?” Arnold wrote.
FYI this tweet includes Barr’s recent tweet but also an older equally troubling tweet
Roseanne Barr, 2018: I apologize for comparing Valerie Jarrett, a black woman, to an ape. I should have known better. Forgive me—my joke was in bad taste
Roseanne Barr, 2013: I apologize for comparing Susan Rice, a black woman, to an ape. I should have known be pic.twitter.com/P10YtYH9Sc
— Jeff Yang (@originalspin) May 29, 2018
I recently worked in an office for the first time in a long time. Even though it was a start-up i.e supposed to be the new millennial, don’t wear formal clothes and free drinks on a Friday type of office, it still followed the standardized rules of interactions between humans voluntarily connected for a prolonged period of time in order to pay their debts. Every office will follow these rules:
- People gossip about who is sleeping, disliking and arguing with whom.
- People talk about what they did or will do on the weekend.
- People will fill the mind-numbingly repetitive cycle of small talk with discussions about whatever is trending in the news or social media.
- People end up masking their true opinions on politics, race, sex, gender and religion as ‘jokes’ or questions that are actually probing statements. The act of asking a question such as “have you seen this YouTube video or speaker?” really means “hey I agree with this opinion, I am trying to find out if you do too, so I can speak freely about why they/it is so right”
- People will ignore their co-workers racist, sexist, bigoted or simply ignorant statements in order to just have a peaceful day or continue to keep paying their bills
With that said, only Wanda Sykes can explain why she agreed to be a ‘Consulting Producer’ on the show. Roseanne already had a history of ignorant statements made in public. I doubt very little that Sykes or any of her co-workers were unaware of her politics, beliefs and ignorance before they agreed to relaunch the show.
Yet, the question is, are we responsible for our co-workers? Do we have a duty to call them out or correct their ignorance? I can understand some people simply not wanting to create an ‘atmosphere’ in the office. However, ignorance is like cancer, if you do not treat it early it starts to spread and in this case it gets false confidence. This false confidence makes a person think they should start tweeting the comments statements and ‘jokes’ they have been saying with their co-workers, without receiving any backlash. Thus, Barr’s tweets are the culmination of all the times no one said ‘hey that’s not right!’.
On the other hand, being the person to call out another person’s ignorance at work can often leave a person alienated or even result in his or her own dismissal for ‘not being a right fit’. It is the fear of isolation and losing their job that stops some people from speaking out against their racist, sexist or ignorant co-workers.
However, most of us will never be in a situation where a co-workers tweet can result in us losing our job. However, the words of Martin Luther King Jr seem to answer whether we should call someone out for their ignorance or not.
‘In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends’
It is easy to speak out in public when you are trying to disassociate yourself from bad press. However, It is harder to call out a co-worker in private. Thus, I cannot applaud Sykes or anyone else from the Roseanne show for tweeting their disapproval. They should never have knowingly let Barr’s ignorance get this far!
What are your thoughts?
Do you think Roseanne should have been cancelled?
Would you speak to a racist co-worker?