How rude! Sonic Manners Movement video offends

Sonic Manners Movement GigCity EdmontonA worthy quest to bring good manners back into public discourse has ironically backfired for one local radio station – to judge from at least one complaint.

Who, you ask, could possibly be offended by Sonic 102.9 FM radio’s video to promote the “Manners Movement?” It’s a harmless parody of 1980s gangsta rappers wherein a posse of white dudes decked out like NWA rhymes about politeness: “If you want some stuff, say please! If you got some stuff, say thank you! You done goofed? I’m sorry!” And so on. It’s good advice. Even the Mayor got into the act. What’s the problem?

“It’s rude and racist. It’s like a step away from blackface,” says Edmonton musician Brett Miles, son of Eskimos football hero Rollie Miles in a large and prominent local African-American family.

Brett Miles GigCity EdmontonAsked if he’s just being too sensitive, Brett replies, “Maybe, but I’m a 55 year old black man, and you get tired of it after a while. Whenever a person of colour sees something they consider off-putting, the corporate people in charge go, ‘Oh, we’re just joking.’ Everybody says that. Whenever they get caught, they just say they’re just joking. They’re just joking, but I’ve been black my entire life.”

Mari Sasano, a writer and social critic who’s considered a local expert in such matters, seems to agree: “Oh man. Yeah, this is another one of those things where it’s like, ‘black people are brutish and unrefined and ‘ghetto,’ so when white people do black people things the contrast creates funny.’ Same thing with those awful Thug Kitchen videos.”

Rogers Radio, owners of Sonic, has officially declined interview requests to talk about this.

How rude.

So – if you please – here is an imagining of their side of the story. It would be perfectly in character for Garner Andrews, who came up with this idea in the first place, to utter the words, “This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!” But he can’t. Corporate has spoken.

First of all, this is a parody. It’s amusing seeing white dudes from Edmonton in 2015 aping black dudes from Compton circa 1986. Yes, it creates funny. Not all black people are “ghetto,” but NWA was, and kids of all races bought into that shtick in a big way. Making fun of it has become a cliché.

Garner Andrews GigCity Edmonton

Garner Andrews

Second, it’s a good cause. People do seem to have forgotten their manners. Driven in Edmonton lately? Gone to a hockey game? Some people are very impolite – so this campaign is a good way to bring some civility back into our miserable, hardscrabble lives. To show your support for the Manners Movement, you can go down to the Sonic studio to pick up your free Manners Movement ribbons – which have the added bonus of being a radio station promotion. And yet despite what some consider such an uncouth ulterior marketing motive, it’s clear the campaign’s goal is genuine. Garner Andrews has been ranting about bad manners for quite some time.

It’s also clear the Sonic team meant no harm.

“I don’t think they intended to be racist,” Sasano says. “It’s probably something they haven’t really thought about. Being sensitive to other people’s experiences is a good thing. I hope they hear that.”

Cultural appropriation is such a juicy topic. Folk fest fans were in flinders over a ban on native headdresses – even though no one recalls ever seeing anybody wear one here. There was a minor brouhaha on social media over the Calgary band Viet Cong for appropriating the name of an army that isn’t active anymore – considered offensive to Vietnamese people. The band is changing its name. Let’s not even talk about Avril Lavigne’s brief flirtation with Japanese culture, or the Wayans in whiteface. So confusing.

Can’t we all get along? Can’t we learn laugh at ourselves? At each other? On one side, maybe privileged white people could be more sensitive to negative cultural stereotypes so ingrained that most people aren’t even aware they exist. And on the other side, maybe we could all lighten up. Just a suggestion.

Please and thank you. Also … sorry.

THE MANNERS MOVEMENT IS HERE!!!!!!Be part of the revolution and stop by Sonic (5915 Gateway Blvd) and get some real life Manners ribbons. All details here: THE WORLD! MANNERS ARE COOL AGAIN!!! #mannersmovement- Bryce Kelley

Posted by The Official SONiC 102.9 Page on Thursday, September 17, 2015