"burn baby burn" - poll
Mood: curious
Posted on 2006-05-17 09:07:00
Tags: poll
Words: 117

Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani appeared to renounce a fatwa calling for the killing of homosexuals "in the most severe way"...um, yay!

So Austin Police Chief Stan Knee is resigning to work with police in Afghanistan. He's had a good tenure here, although there were a few incidents that reflected poorly on the department. One such incident that happened a year or two ago was that a group of police officers, watching the Midtown Club burn down, text messaged another police officer "burn baby burn". People protested because of the other messages which seemed to celebrate the burning, and this one in particular, because of the racial undertones. That leads us to this week's poll:



Comment from cifarelli:

I don't get the "burn baby burn" thing at all. Was the club that burned a primarily black hangout? Where does the reference come from that it has negative connotations? If I filled out the poll right now, my answer would be the third option. But I wonder if I'm missing some information -- either some kind of cultural reference, or some incident I'd know about if I lived in Austin?

Comment from gregstoll:

Hmm, it sounds like it was a primarily black club or something. Ah, and it was a "key institution in Austin's black community, apparently.

But here's what confuses me - the person who coined the phrase "Burn, baby, burn!" was a black DJ, and the cry was first heard during the Watts Riots, which was rioting started in a black neighborhood. So it seems like it should be offensive when applied to violence done to whites by blacks.

Even more confusing is the fact that searching for "burn baby burn" on Google turns up many uses that are unrelated in popular culture, songs, magazines, etc. And those aren't seen as offensive, at least my guess would be.

It's entirely possible I'm being insensitive here, and if so I apologize, and it would be nice if someone set me straight :-)

Comment from cifarelli:

Maybe the black community was offended because the phrase was used by white police officers (mind you, I'm making an assumption that the police officers might have been white...but I don't know)? Sorta the way a black person can call another black person "nigger" and no one gets upset, but if a white person uses that term, it's offensive.

Comment from onefishclappin:

I think the phrase "Burn baby, burn" itself wasn't offensive, but the use of it reflected the white officers' enjoyment of a noted troublespot & black hangout burning down. The club often had police calls out to it for fighting, disturbing of peace, etc.

Basically, there was the impression that the city services weren't as sympathetic to the owners/occupents or as interested in protecting this building as they would have otherwise been.

Comment from gregstoll:

Ah, ok, both of those seem reasonable.

I learn so much from y'all :-)

Comment from amorphousplasma:

I answered the poll out of context because it wasn't asked in context. Out of context, I don't find the phrase offensive and don't understand why people would be offended by it in and of itself.

In this particular situation I can understand how it would be offensive. However, I don't think of it as particularly racially tinged- although I am aware that that's probably part of the problem. I think any officer or person of responsibility who shows disrespect for something which they are supposed to be protecting is committing a breach of character. That behavior is not something we look for in public figures. I guess the underlying factor is whether you can really trust him to do his job if he mocks the places he is supposed to be helping.

Comment from onefishclappin:

From News8Austin.com

"The fire quickly sparked controversy after people saw computer messages on police car computer terminals expressing happiness that the club was burning."

I think this supports the fact that the phrase isn't offensive, but the context in which it was used was.

Comment from cifarelli:

That makes more sense to me. I can certainly see the sentiment being offensive; Greg was more focused on the phrase in his post, though, which is where I got confused.

Comment from gregstoll:

Ah, there's the rub. For some reason I had it pictured in my head as a sort of ironic sentiment, but you (and others) hit the nail on the head there. Now all is clear. Thanks!

Comment from wildrice13:

I think any phrase by authority figures expressing pleasure at any sort of tragedy is offensive. The fact that that particular phrase was used does not offend me more than any other phrase would have, which is why I gave the 3rd response.

I liked the "The Word"-like swoosh you had there...

Comment from gregstoll:

Heh, that swoosh was exactly what I was going for :-)

Comment from llemma:

I don't think the phrase itself is offensive; I think what's offensive is that a police officer would gleefully cheer on the destruction of property and serious danger to the many people inside.

The racial undertones stem from the fact that these were white police officers cheering on the immolation of a black nightclub; clearly they might have had a different reaction if it had been their own favorite hangout, though how much of their attitude has to do with race (versus with the shady history of the place versus with general callousness) is of course up to debate.

Comment from djedi:

The phrase itself is actually racially tinged, something that "whites" often aren't aware of, especially our group of friends I expect. It does originally reference the racially charged 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles. However, since then, the phrase has been somewhat appropriated by white supremacists in a "KKK cross burning" sort of way.

Most people wouldn't get, out of context, the inherent racial flavor that it can carry and so most of the outrage was simply over mostly white officers glorifying in the burning of a mostly black hangout.

This backup was done by LJBackup.