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A Bad Joke Made Worse in Retelling

July 04, 1993

Times staff writer David Myers quotes David Geffen, in commenting about the potential loss of $10 million on the resale of his mansion, as saying to the New York Times recently: "A staggeringly stupid thing to buy. Do you know an Arab sheik who wants it?" ("A Sad Westside Story: Home Prices Have Declined Up to 50% Since Late 1980s," May 28.)

Mr. Geffen undoubtedly intends that his comment should be construed as a joke, but this joke's connotation and implication derive entirely from the negative stereotyping of Arabs, and therefore, is repugnant to Arab-Americans and to any American who opposes bigotry and racism.

That Mr. Geffen had the insolence and the effrontery to make this comment to the New York Times and that that paper had temerity to publish it is bad enough. The Los Angeles Times only compounds the offense by reprinting the insult.

By printing the quotation, both papers insinuate and subtly reinforce the prejudice that it is socially acceptable and permissible to negatively stereotype Arabs, and through extrapolation, Arab-Americans.

ARCH MILLER

Arcadia

Miller is a former board member of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Los Angeles chapter.

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