Political correctness isn't an exact science. Congressman Doug Lamborn has been pilloried in some quarters for saying that being associated with Barack Obama is like touching a tar baby -- a term previously used by Westword writers, albeit in a non-racial context. But did Westword commit a similar sin by supplementing Mayor Michael Hancock's new DIA greeting with the sound of a cracking whip?
Mayoral announcements welcoming airport train riders to Denver have gotten a lot of attention over the years, from the bossy one in which John Hickenlooper didn't initially identify himself (it was later rerecorded) to Bill Vidal's bilingual variation.
As for Hancock's newly recorded version, Westword staff writer Joel Warner thought it risked "going off the rails." He wrote:
Hancock's greeting starts off in safe territory, but quickly takes a turn for the worse when the new mayor says -- or rather hollers -- "Welcome to the MILE HIIIGH CITY!" with the twang of a rodeo announcer. Last weekend, the message caught several people riding the trains by surprise, with each of them looking like somebody had just poked them in the ear. All that's missing was a token "Yee-haw!" and the sound of cracking whip.
To give readers a better idea of what Warner meant by this last line, Westword web editor Nick Lucchesi created a clip that combined Hancock's greeting with said whip -- the kind employed by the One-Armed Bandit, who performs at Denver's National Western Stock Show each year.
But the result struck Denver Post political writer Lynn Bartels as less hilarious than rude. In a piece headlined, "Do you hear what I hear? Tone of Hancock's airport greeting disputed," Bartels noted that she picked up Southern or soulful stylings in Hancock's delivery, but nothing that recalled the rodeo. She added:
I'm no fan of the PC world (my god, you couldn't make the movie "Blazing Saddles" these days) but I'm not sure it's a good thing to show a picture of a black politician with a whip sound in the background.
Echoing this opinion was former speaker of the Colorado House Terrance Carroll, who told Bartels, "It sounds like a slave master's whip," adding, "And American cowboys don't use whips. Australian cowboys do."
Post readers haven't flooded its website with angry invective. As of now, there's just one comment on the item, which doesn't really take a stand one way or the other. And on Westword's original post, published yesterday, only two of six comments were critical -- and neither mentioned race:
Cookie Steen wrote:
Wow. Joel -- that was a stretch. Must be a slow news day. Perhaps you should check out Summerfest at GVR this weekend.
Did I miss something here? Mayor Hancock's greeting sounded great to me. The ridicule in the article simply isn't supported at all by listening to the audio clip.
As someone else said, must be a slow news day at Westword.
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What's your opinion? Was the addition of the whip sound racially offensive? To help you decide, we offer two clips -- the first of Hancock's greeting without any additions, the second as heard in yesterday's item. Let us know what you think.
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