Governor Spitzer, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and other local leaders are up in arms about a German military-training video that makes an offhand racist reference to the Bronx: An instructor orders his charge to imagine something along the lines of “You’re in the Bronx. Three black guys come out of a van and insult your mother.” The recruit responds with a bleeped-out curse and a furious machine-gun volley and is instructed to yell louder. A German TV station got hold of the video and broadcast it disapprovingly; naturally it’s made its way to YouTube. Now Carrion is demanding an apology and Sharpton is trying to get Bush involved.
It’s ugly stuff, sure. But, really, Mr. Borough President, is German racism your top concern? Is it even within your jurisdiction? Post-Imus, we know, everyone’s spoiling for a racism fight: Who else can be forced to apologize? (Rush? Rosie?) But this anti-Germany zeal is a little unsavory. Indeed, it puts us in the strange position of defending the German military. The video in question was made for internal consumption by, well, Germans. If we knew, or indeed bothered to find out, to what extent minstrelsy and outright racism permeate other nations’ media, it would begin to seem mild by comparison. (Part of us grew up in Russia, so trust us on this.) We can’t force one sovereign nation to tweak its sensibilities any more than we can invade another to spread democracy.
One culprit here is YouTube, which is successfully globalizing all formerly local media products. But, still, so what? Look at the comments posted to the YouTube video — “Who cares? Fuck niggers!” — and you’ll realize Carrion has no need to cross the Atlantic. There’s plenty of work to be done on these shores; picking on Germans, while always fun, just helps us delude ourselves that the racist is someone else.