All you fashionistas out there would have known that earlier this week, British fashion designer, John Galliano, was fired as the head designer of Dior because of his anti-Semitic rant that was caught on video and released on the Internet. The video showed Galliano hurling insults to a group of Italian women at a Paris cafe, and saying “I love Hitler”. The designer formally denied the accusations that were made against him but after this video, this might seem a little bit hard, no? The designer has since apologised for his behaviour, stating that “Anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society”, and is now facing trial in Paris on charges of “public insults based on the origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity” against three people. If found guilty, Galliano could face “up to six months in prison and $31,000 in fines”.
This incident follows the star of Two and A Half Men, Charlie Sheen’s comments on the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre. Sheen verbally attacked Lorre, and referred to Lorre repeatedly as “Chaim Levine”, which is the Hebrew version of Lorre’s real name, Charles Michael Levine. The executives at CBS and Warner Bros considered this as anti-Semitic.
These two incidents show that prejudices still exist in this day and age, in this case, anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a “prejudice against or hostility towards Jews often rooted in hatred of their ethnic background, culture, and/or religion.” Prejudice refers to “a negative social attitude held by members of one group toward members of another group”. It is one example of an attitudinal barrier to intercultural communication.
Now, all of you might be disgusted by the comments that Galliano and Sheen made but let’s face it, all of us are prejudiced in one way or another. For example, in Singapore, some people might be prejudiced against ah lians and ah bengs, mats and minahs. If people see them hanging out at void decks, people automatically assume that they are up to no good, even if that’s all they’re doing, hanging out. Others interpret their actions negatively and cognitive biases such as this allow us to maintain our prejudices even though our assumptions are unwarranted.
Another cognitive bias used to maintain prejudices is fundamental attribution bias, whereby people interpret “another’s negative behaviour as internal rather than external”. Going back to the Galliano incident, other fashion bigwigs have given their own opinions regarding the incident. Diane Von Furstenberg, who said that she was disgusted by the British designer’s offensive remarks, also said that Galliano was probably provoked, causing him to lash out at the people in the cafe. Hilary Alexander, the Fashion Director of The Daily Telegraph attributed Galliano’s behaviour to the stress and pressures of the fashion industry.
Galliano himself said that he was “subjected to verbal harassment and an unprovoked assault when an individual tried to hit me with a chair having taken violent exception to my look and my clothing” at a Paris cafe last week.
Think about this though. If someone who was not in the fashion industry hurled anti-Semitic comments, or any kind of offensive comments for that matter, against other people, would these people who defended Galliano have said the same thing?
Both John Galliano’s and Charlie Sheen’s anti-Semitic comments show that prejudice is still prevalent today. Although it is impossible to eradicate all prejudices completely, people should make an effort to understand others who are from a different culture and see things from their perspectives.