The Bad Samaritan: Are We Hyper-sensitive To Racism?

August 4th, 2011

racoon trap photoRecently I heard about a man who was fired from his job — a job he’d had for over 20 years — at a farm supply store because a “concerned citizen” had taken offense over the way two items had been placed side by side. This concerned citizen took a picture of the offending items and sent it to the corporate headquarters. From there it came down through channels until the man responsible for stocking the shelves was let go.

So what were the offending items? Niger food and raccoon traps.

A little language history…

Now, to those who aren’t aware of the etymology of the N-word, it is a derivative of the word negro, meaning black. Niger also means black.

Raccoon, or coon as it’s more often used (as in “once in a coon’s age“), has been used as a racial slur for a very long time.

Some basic information about farm supply stores

In a farm supply store you’ll often find Niger food for birds, squirrels, ducks, geese, chipmunks and other outdoor pets — including raccoons. As for the raccoon traps, that’s rather obvious. They are humane traps for capturing raccoons.

Putting Niger food next to raccoon traps makes sense if you trying to help someone humanely trap a pesky raccoon. This is exactly what the man stocking the shelves was trying to do.

Enter the “bad samaritan”

It’s good to be alert to racism and to do our part to head it off, but sometimes it seems we’re too sensitive, seeing racism where it isn’t. The man responsible for sending the picture of the Niger food and raccoon traps thought he was doing a good deed. Unfortunately what he did was get someone fired for doing his job.

I think there are two reasons this happened: 1) a concerned citizen was ignorant of the realities of the situation and 2) society has become hyper-sensitive to the issue of racism.

As I said, being alert to racism is necessary and we must do what we can to stop it, but we also must consider that our perceptions are skewed because of this.

For instance, Mike Duran, a Christian horror author, rarely designates ethnicity to his characters. However, in a review of his book The Resurrection Katherine Coble stated there was a racist undercurrent simply because the antagonist had an afro. Mike addresses his own questions regarding society’s hyper-sensitivity to racism in his post White Men, Black Women, and Fictional Stereotypes.

Before reading Mike’s post I hadn’t considered the ethnicity of characters as a big deal, except in the case where the character is obviously used in a derogatory way (like Coble’s assertions of Mike’s antagonist being an “ignorant colored person”). After reading it I began questioning my use of characters and the question of whether ethnicity matter.

Now, after learning about the farm supply employee losing his job over a customer’s ignorance, I’m questioning our push toward educating “white people” about race and racism. And, in case you’re wondering, both men were white.

It’s good to know about racism. It’s good to stand up against it. It’s bad to see it where it isn’t.

What do you think? Was the concerned citizen doing the right thing by sending a picture straight to corporate or should he have checked his facts first? Are knee-jerk reactions ever a good thing, especially when considering race? How can we keep something like this from happening again?

Photo by blakeemrys

Christian… Horror?

April 6th, 2011

My husband thinks I’m a bit weird. I suppose he could be right, but then the feeling is mutual. You see, I enjoy watching ghost stories and reading about things that go bump in the night. I used to be a huge Stephen King fan until I figured out the increase in the number of nightmares I was having was directly related to his books. Go figure. My husband, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with “that stuff,” so his reaction to my latest discovery wasn’t surprising at all.

There is such a thing as Christian Horror.

Now, before anyone leaps to the comments section to say I’m out of my mind, please keep reading. Mike Duran, a writer in this genre, has some excellent things to say in The Argument Against “Christian Horror” (a Response) by Mike Duran, which was featured on Sarah Sawyer’s blog. The following is an excerpt from that post:

The Argument Against “Christian Horror” (a Response) by Mike Duran

March 2011 Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour

Is the horror genre incompatible with the Christian faith? Many would say so. But a closer inspection of the arguments reveals flaws.

What are those arguments? Perhaps the most common is the one that centers around this verse:

Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

The argument goes like this: Stories that involve ghosts, demons, gore, and occultism draw our minds away from the things we should be dwelling upon. The Christian who spends too much time contemplating evil will be corrupted by it. We are commanded to focus upon “good” things, which is why Christian fiction has no business flirting with “horror.”

At first glance, this argument sounds reasonable. There should be a qualitative difference between what Christians write and the mindless splatter and occultism that defines much of today’s horror. Furthermore, Christians who “dwell” upon what is untrue, dishonorable, and impure are indeed setting themselves up for problems. But does this verse actually say what the “Christian horror” objectors intend? Does Philippians 4:8 teach that believers should “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”? I don’t think so. Let me offer two responses.

Read the rest of the post here.

So, now, what do you think? Is there a place for the thrills and chills of horror in Christian fiction?