Leonard Pitts: This time, the joke’s on Roseanne

Published 6:27 pm Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I told you so.

I’m sorry, maybe that’s petty, but I can’t help it. For over a month now, I’ve felt like a man caught in a feedback loop, doomed to joust till the end of time with readers upset with me for writing that I would boycott the hit reboot of Roseanne Barr’s eponymous sitcom because of her support for that sentient sack of racism and misogyny who serves as president. People who don’t value equality, I wrote “— and I’m sorry, but if you support [Donald] Trump, then no, you do not — have nothing to say to me.”

That stand brought rebuke from a number of Trump voters, including a certain Florida senator. It also drew reproof from non-Trump voters, who lectured me about cutting off an avenue of understanding and for acting as if a vote for Trump was a de facto vote for racism and misogyny. (Which, by the way, it was.)

So maybe you’ll forgive me for feeling vindicated by news that Barr’s show was just canceled by ABC. The reason? She tweeted the following racist and Islamophobic abuse at former Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett, an African-American born in Iran: “muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”

For Barr you see, Americans born in Iran are terrorists. And African-Americans are talking apes.

These are old canards by which no Muslim or black person is likely to be surprised. That’s not to say one becomes inured to it, only that we have our patriotism and humanity derided on a daily basis, so it’s hardly new. The only difference here is that the offender is a celebrity who supports the mistake in the White House.

My folks used to say that when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. That’s a truism ABC sought to flout, gambling that it could reap the riches “Roseanne” represented without being touched by the star’s propensity for Trump-centric conspiracies and bigoted sentiments. That gamble just blew up in the network’s face.

The moral of the story is glaringly clear: Stop trying to normalize this stuff. That’s what hiring Barr amounted to. But ABC is hardly alone.

Consider all the plaintive laments clogging my email queue talking about the need to “understand” Trump voters. Consider all the tortured think pieces on how smug liberals are overlooking the “forgotten people.” And almost two years after the election, how many more Trump voter panels do we need to see on cable news?

There is no mystery here. Trump is president because Obama was, and because there were many people for whom that fact was apocalyptic. It’s no coincidence David Duke loves this man, white people chant his name to taunt black ones, and hate crimes spiked during the campaign.

Yet some seek to flatten that barbed truth into a harmless TV fiction that will forgive us our original American sin. We are asked to treat intolerance as just another color on the diversity rainbow. It is not.

And the chasm between Trump voters and the rest of us will not be bridged, cannot be bridged, because it is the gap between being treated like a human being — and not. These bizarre times will not tolerate mealy-mouthed platitudes and weaselly equivocation on that point. These times demand to know who you are and what you believe. You can’t run from that. You can’t split the difference. As ABC just learned to its chagrin, when you fail to make that choice, you make that choice.

Now “Roseanne” returns to the TV boneyard as its star apologizes for a “joke” of ostracization and dehumanization. Oh, and it turns out she’s a supporter of Donald Trump?

Don’t you dare act surprised.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Email him at lpitts@miamiherald.com.