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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Columnist supported racial stereotypes

An article in last month’s issue of Vanity Fair magazine angered many Hispanics and Latinos across the United States and incited Texas A&M’s Committee for the Awareness of Mexican-American Culture to host a two-day program in response to it earlier this month. CAMAC concluded its program with a panel that addressed the negative images of Latinos in the media, how these stereotypes are created and how to deal with them. The article in question was in poor taste and only furthered stereotypes of Hispanics.
In the issue, columnist Dame Edna Everage replied to a reader’s letter asking her opinion of the Spanish language and its use in the real world.
The Sacramento Bee reported that her response included the statement, “Forget Spanish… As for everyone’s speaking it, what twaddle! Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to? The help? Your leaf blower?”
According to, an antiracist resource, an apology issued by the editors of Conde Nast Publications stated, “Dame Edna Everage is a fictitious character created and portrayed by the Australian entertainer and author Barry Humphries. Edna is a caricature of a certain type of small-minded, socially ambitious, vaguely upper-class person… Our intent, in short, was to mock the very ethnic stereotypes that some have accused us of reinforcing.”
The apology goes on to say, “We are asking those who feel offended by this piece to forgive us for our insensitivity. We also ask them to consider the context — the fact that these statements were meant to be read ironically –and to take into account the fact that it was never, ever our goal to disparage or insult any ethnic group.”
While Dame Edna may be an imaginary person and her advice was meant to be taken satirically and not at face value, as The Bee puts it, “The point is, intentionally or not, Dame Edna snubbed the nation’s huge Spanish-speaking population — and they aren’t laughing.”
Those familiar with Dame Edna may have understood the true intentions of the article as a satire against racial stereotypes, but obviously, they are not the majority of readers. The formal apology says her advice is not meant to be taken seriously, but it was easily misconstrued by a number of people who took offense, including A&M’s CAMAC. Issac Faz, co-founder of Vida Social, a network for young professional Latinos in Dallas, told The Dallas Morning News, “I think you can be funny about race and things in general. But when I got to the bottom of the article… and they were being very specific, that’s when I got offended. You don’t want to reinforce stereotypes.”
Many people continue to hold negative stereotypes of other cultures, religions and races based on ignorance. While Dame Edna may have been attempting to show the ridiculousness of these attitudes, the article unwittingly projected them to millions of readers. According to, “Satire is a deadly weapon. In the hands of the semi-skilled, it has a tendency to misfire. And when that happens, there’s often a lot of damage. That’s what the editors of Vanity Fair magazine discovered….”
Satire, irony and sarcasm are literary techniques that are often difficult to implement so that their purpose is clear to readers. Many people just do not get it and quickly take offense. As states, “Successful satire is aimed at powerful individuals or social attitudes. It is understood by its audience for what it is and its literary merit. Vanity Fair’s item failed on all three counts: It was hurtful, bound to be misunderstood, and, obviously, lacked literary value.”
If Vanity Fair and its writers want to help erase racism and stereotypes, it should go about it in a different way. Articles featuring a variety of cultures and the influential figures who are a part of them would be a positive way to inform readers about the colorful and diverse world in which we live, and how all different cultures make great contributions to it. Humor and satire are obviously not successful methods for ridding people’s minds of racism, as they often backfire when they are misunderstood.
Journalists must be extremely careful in choosing the way in which they write about such touchy topics. The apology from Vanity Fair is a start, but such situations need to be prevented from occurring in the first place.

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