There’s probably some way that Roseanne Barr could have atoned for her odious Twitter slur against former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett. Perhaps offering to meet with Jarrett, charity work, speaking about the perniciousness of racism, etc. She would have to wear the hair-shirt of atonement for a long time, granted. But the journey of a thousand miles back from cultural ignominy begins with a single step, and now would have been a good time for Roseanne to start it.
I can’t say for certain how such a journey would have started. I can tell you how it wouldn’t have started, however: a viral video in which Barr says of Jarrett, quote, “I thought the b—- was white! God d—it, I thought the b—- was white! F—!”
If you haven’t heard already, you can probably still guess which path Roseanne chose.
In what easily constitutes the worst asterisked excuse for wrongdoing since former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry’s infamous “b—- set me up” upon his arrest for crack possession, a disheveled, cigarette-smoking Barr managed to further torpedo her career in just one minute on YouTube Thursday.
Barr, just in case you forgot, lost the successful reboot of her ABC sitcom — as well as any cultural credibility — after implying on Twitter that Jarrett was like if the “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby.”
Charming. Roseanne later tried to explain the racist tweet away by saying she was under the influence of Ambien. I’ve had Ambien once when I had problems sleeping thanks to an injury. I can tell you firsthand that it makes your body do weird things. You know what it doesn’t make you? Racist.
Well, whatever. Ambien maxima culpa didn’t exactly do the trick, and we haven’t heard much of Barr these past few months. And then she returned with her newest justification for her bigotry.
At one point toward the beginning, Barr actually has to ask “are you filming?” When someone off camera launches into some bizarre, inchoate spiel about a president getting busted for killing a hooker or something (Say, what’s in the “cigarette,” Roseanne?), Barr cuts him off with yelling.
“I’m trying to talk about Iran!” she says. “I’m trying to talk about Valerie Jarrett wrote the Iran deal. That’s what my tweet was about.”
“I know, but you’ve told me this 300 times,” the president/hooker man off camera can be heard saying.
“That’s what my tweet was about!” Roseanne screams after sweeping her hair back for something like the 36th time in less than 60 seconds.
“I know, you’ve explained this literally 300 times,” president/hooker yet again interjects.
Suddenly, Roseanne’s face turns into a rictus of pure rage: “I thought the b—- was white!” she screams.
“God d—it, I thought the b—- was white! F—!”
Well then. Arthur Janov apparently not being present, I’m going to assume this isn’t some form of primal scream therapy, although it certainly sounds like that — a very racist, very primal version of it. Whatever the case, it’s a window into the emotional domicile of someone who’s clearly very troubled.
The video is here, if you want to see it. We’re not going to embed it for obvious reasons.
Firstly, I try to urge journalists to observe the “Goldwater rule” when it comes to “diagnosing” public figures with mental illness in most cases, particularly since the vast majority of them aren’t mental health professionals. That said, let me point out one of two patently obvious takeaways from the video: This is an individual who is unwell and/or intoxicated. Barr herself has been public about the fact that she’s dealt with serious mental illness before, and this certainly looks something like that.
That still doesn’t explain away the second patently obvious takeaway, which is that Barr is a hideous racist. If you “thought the b—-” was white,” what was that “Planet of the Apes” reference about? Was Dr. Honorious involved in writing up the legal niceties for the Iran deal? Come to think of it, please don’t answer that, Roseanne; given the fabulism of your self-acquittal thus far, I can only imagine what your excuse for that will be. Mental illness may exacerbate one’s bigoted tendencies. It doesn’t excuse them. It isn’t the genesis of them.
Roseanne is, among many other things, a terrible liar. The idea that she thought Jarrett was white is prima facie absurd; if she knew so much about the Iran deal, how come she didn’t know the race of one the Obama administration’s principal figures? Like so many media figures who say cretinous things these days, Barr was sorry until she wasn’t, using some flimsy excuse to cover their verbal detritus. When Peter Fonda and Samantha Bee have used pathetic excuses to explicate away their awful behavior, we excoriated them. This is no different, no matter how we feel about Valerie Jarrett. (And trust me, I’ve written enough articles about her various perfidies to fill a book.) Cultural sickness is cultural sickness, no matter who or what the target is.
I hope Barr gets the help she needs, both emotionally and spiritually. I get the feeling she’s suffering deeply in both departments. Perhaps she can resume some semblance of a career one day. First, however, she has to start the journey of a thousand miles — and this YouTube video was a huge step in the wrong direction.
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