Guest Opinion:

Rather Than Censor 'Archie,' Let's Face Facts

By Marianne M. Jennings
July 27, 2001

Freud was a loose cannon, no innuendo intended. However, today I rethink his sublimation theory.

Freud epiphany came when Meathead, a k a Rob Reiner, interviewed on Hardball, launched into the bigotry/Nazi/Hitler litany when discussing Archie's fears for his Queens neighborhood as its racial composition changed. Meatheads condemn those who dare express real, but verboten, concerns. Now, 30 years later, Queens is Archie's fears in everything from crime rates to the quality of schools.

We cannot utter our Archie thoughts for somewhere out there is a label of condemnation with our name on it: a scarlet "S" for sexist, "R" for racist, "H" for homophobe, or, the unkindest cut of all, "J" for judgmental. So, we quash our gut instincts. They are called "gut instincts" for a reason - humans survive by relying on them when full data are not available. When I worked for the U.S. Attorney's Office, we had a heck of a drunken driving caseload from the reservation. I have not since driven on any reservation at night. My gut tells me one thing while the enlightened accuse me of prejudice.

Actually, it's fear. My fear knows no racial, ethnic or religious bounds. If I had prosecuted Amish Ponzi schemes, I'd steer clear of Lancaster County investment opportunities.

Not permitted to voice concerns or even state the obvious aloud, our rage percolates within us until one day we snap. Constrained in our thoughts and discussion of life's big issues, we sublimate. The human psyche cannot reside in denial. Seemingly normal folks' ("He was a quiet man... ) pent-up Archieisms surface bizarrely. They end up hurling a fellow motorist's bichon frise across the 405, as 27-year-old Andrew Burnett did to Leo the dog after Leo's former master (Leo passed on) bumped Burnett's car. However, when choosing pooches to fling across traffic, avoid Chihuahuas because USA Today would claim racial bias if breeds with Spanish names were disproportionately road rage victims.

Air rage is sublimation at 31,000 feet. During a Southwest flight from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, Jonathan Burton snapped and kicked the cockpit door. They wrestled the 19-year-old to the ground and to his death.

Most social policy debates defy logic and truth. We remain reticent as circuitous reasoning dizzies us. For example, Fox News reports that a disproportionate number of minority children are disciplined at school. Could it be that a disproportionate number of minority children misbehave at school?

USA Today reports that there are disproportionate numbers of blacks on death row. Could it be that the murder rate among and by blacks is higher? Minority children have lower scores on standardized tests. Could it be that they don't know as much?

We censor Archieisms rather than face realities such as Queens' decline. Censorship precludes issue recognition, let alone resolution. If we don't talk about drunken drivers on the reservation, will we ever address the issue of alcoholism there? If we focus on accusing teachers of being racist in their discipline, do we ever learn why minority children misbehave and if we can help? Why is the murder rate among and by blacks higher? Perhaps the social fabric needs repair. Rather than address root cause, we condemn the judicial system and mandate sensitivity and diversity training for racism.

Rather than face failures in teaching minority children, we condemn tests as racist.

Censoring Archieisms gives us a seemingly tranquil world of flowery expression. But, Freud was right - it has to come out somewhere. So, buckle in your pups, load up the Smith & Wesson, and head for the airways and highways. The world need not fear Archie Bunker and his choice phrases of "dingbat," "moron" and "stifle." However, we should fret about us 800-pound gorillas restrained only by fragile silk strands spun into a cocoon of silence.

Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Her e-mail address is

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