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A Series of Unfortunate Comments: Author Lemony Snicket sorry for racist remarks

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Author Daniel Handler — who writes under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket — is getting slammed for remarks he jokingly made Wednesday night at the annual National Book Award dinner.

According to Salon.com, Handler was ostensibly celebrating this year’s National Book Award winner for young adult writing; author Jacqueline Woodson, a woman of color, who won for her novel Brown Girl Dreaming.

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The National Book Award is one of the most prestigious prizes in American letters. However, when Handler took the stage, his remarks veered into wildly inappropriate — and patently unfunny — territory.

“I told you! I told Jackie she was going to win,” said Handler. “And I said that if she won, I would tell all of you something I learned this summer, which is that Jackie Woodson is allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your mind.

Handler was referring to an outdated racist myth that black people find watermelon irresistible, a belief that formed the basis of one of the viler and more tasteless scenes in the 1915 film Birth of a Nation, a propaganda film about the dawn of the Ku Klux Klan.

Theodore Johnson wrote at Huffington Post in 2013, “(W)atermelon is associated with historic African-American stereotypes…Just as the undesirable leftovers of farm animals, such as pig intestines and feet, are linked to the slave diet, watermelon is the food most associated with the 19th and 20th century depictions of blacks as lazy simpletons.”

Nonetheless, on Wednesday night, Handler plowed onward, “And I said you have to put that in a book. And she said, ‘You put that in a book.’ And I said I am only writing a book about a black girl who is allergic to watermelon if I get a blurb from you, Cornell West, Toni Morrison, and Barack Obama saying, ‘This guy’s okay. This guy’s fine.’”

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The reaction against Handler — who is the author of the wildly popular A Series of Unfortunate Events series — has been swift and intense.

Author Roxane Gay spent Thursday morning tweeting her outrage, saying, “Daniel Handler’s racist ‘humor’ at the NBAs last night is not okay and I am shocked that so few people are talking about it.”

She also wrote, “And like, how many people even realized how fucked up that was? In her career highlight, she has to be reminded, ‘we can still joke,'” and “And you know, I’m sure he’s a good guy. But we can still say, ‘This was a mistake, try and be better.'”

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Blogger David Perry wrote, “For a powerful white author to make a watermelon joke when handing out an award to a black author, the message is: No matter what you write, no matter what you do, no matter what you accomplish, you will always be a BLACK author, not just an author.”

Handler issued an apology, writing on Twitter, “My job at last night’s National Book Awards #NBAwards was to shine a light on tremendous writers, including Jacqueline Woodson and not to overshadow their achievements with my own ill-conceived attempts at humor. I clearly failed, and I’m sorry.”

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Former right-wing presidential candidate scamming Americans with toxic bleach cure

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Former diplomat and Reagan adviser Alan Keyes is a well-known gadfly who has run multiple times for president and for Senate, most famously against future President Barack Obama in 2004.

But lately, according to The Daily Beast, he has been involved in a different pursuit: the promotion of a dangerous pseudoscience scam known as the "Miracle Mineral Solution," or MMS.

The substance, which is actually just the powerful bleach chlorine dioxide, is supposedly a cure for everything from viral infections to infertility, and there was even a cultlike church known as the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, that promoted it as a gift from God. MMS has particularly taken root in developing countries like Uganda, but it also has a following in the United States, and many autistic children have been forced to drink it. Versions of this scam have even been promoted on Amazon.

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American exceptionalism is killing the planet

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Ever since 2007, when I first started writing for TomDispatch, I’ve been arguing against America’s forever wars, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere. Unfortunately, it’s no surprise that, despite my more than 60 articles, American blood is still being spilled in war after war across the Greater Middle East and Africa, even as foreign peoples pay a far higher price in lives lost and cities ruined. And I keep asking myself: Why, in this century, is the distinctive feature of America's wars that they never end? Why do our leaders persist in such repetitive folly and the seemingly eternal disasters that go with it?

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Joni Ernst accused of involvement in ‘dark money’ re-election scheme: report

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According to a report from the Associated Press, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) has been accused of illegally working with an outside group to help her re-election prospects in a tough 2020 fight with Donald Trump on the ballot.

According to AP: "An outside group founded by top political aides to Sen. Joni Ernst has worked closely with the Iowa Republican to raise money and boost her reelection prospects, a degree of overlap that potentially violates the law."

"Iowa Values, a political nonprofit that is supposed to be run independently, was co-founded in 2017 by Ernst’s longtime consultant, Jon Kohan. It shares a fundraiser, Claire Holloway Avella, with the Ernst campaign," the report continued. "And a condo owned by a former aide — who was recently hired to lead the group — was used as Iowa Values’ address at a time when he worked for her."

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