Follow by Email

Friday, March 28, 2014

#IStandWithColbert and #IStandwithSuey, but #IDon'tStandWithIgnorance

Slate has made an effort to discuss the intriguing controversy of Colbert's Wednesday, March 26 episode, wherein he made a joke about just how disingenuous the owner of the Washington Redskins' plan to downplay the racism of his team's name really is. Colbert decided to compare the stupidity of Dan Snyder's move to what it would be like if his character's character of "Ching-Chong Ding-Dong" were to create a foundation entitled "the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever." After the episode, Twitter sensation Suey Park decided to utilize Colbert's race to undermine his joke.

The "hash-tag activist" hopped to her computer screen and quickly attacked Colbert, because "when a white comedian like Colbert joked about racism by playing a racist, he was still telling his audience to laugh at a racist joke." (That is Slate's summary of the attack on the Colbert Report). An easier case can be made that Suey wanted the "Colbert bump" and found herself an excellent opportunity to take, while maintaining her image as a social media race-activist. There are a number of problems with the outrage over the joke, however, from a logical perspective.
Now, Suey is not the only person to be outraged about the segment, and her outrage has caused some really pathetic hate speech toward her, which is absolutely reprehensible. For the record, Suey, I totally respect your outrage, I think I understand why you have it, but I definitely think you're way off base. Not for personal reasons, but for logical reasons.

Again, TO BE CLEAR, the misogynist and racist remarks made against Suey and the folks who agree with her are beyond reprehensible. To a certain extent, I agree with her. Propagating images of racist stereotypes helps to perpetuate the racism behind them, and further entrenches the acceptability of truly racist statements in social life. Because I believe that all human beings are fundamentally equal as regards their rights and status on the planet, I find anything advocating the contrary to be absurd and unworthy of consideration, except for conversations regarding how to dispel such rhetoric.

However, my issues with Suey's attack on the Colbert Report are as follows:

A) It doesn't appear that Suey watched the show, but rather, took a Tweet out of context, saw that it used the word "Orientals" to describe those whose ancestry originates on the Asian continent, and took off on a full-blown, emotionally charged critique of orientalism, divided into ad-hominems and broken 140-character essays.
76 Characters to attack the show, without a reference to why, until two minutes later, where she repeats the tweet made by Comedy Central's Colbert Report Twitter account, from above. She couldn't have mentioned racism in the tweet? Perhaps provided a greater context?
Alright, there's something to work with.

But, let's watch the clip, shall we?

First, let's discuss Stephen Colbert's character, Stephen Colbert: A totally-privileged white, conservative, rich male pundit, modeled after the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. The character is designed to mock the absurdity of the positions taken by such people. He is a parody of the typical conservative pundit in America.

This is why Colbert did the Ching-Chong Ding Dong bit in the first place: to show how racist and absurd such characterizations of entire populations of people are, and how conservatives generally fall into that category of individuals. Colbert's motive was not to make people whose ancestry derives from the Asian continent into punchlines, but rather, to turn those who are "making Asian Americans into punchlines"into the punchlines themselves. Racism is not being laughed with, it is being laughed at. This is why Colbert does the whole "I'm color-blind, so I don't see race," thing - to show that there are lots of people who say that who blatantly do racist things.

Further, the Ching-Chong impersonation was not even the joke at hand on the episode. Here's an outline of the joke at hand:

1) The Washington Red Skins owner, in order to appear less racist despite his team's obviously racist name, has started a program called The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.
2) That's like if this guy doing the blatantly racist Asian impersonation were to start a foundation titled "The Ching-Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals."

In essence, he was calling himself out for the racism of the impression, while simultaneously pointing out the absurd nature of Dan Snyder's move.

Further, pointing out Stephen Colbert's race is a pretty hypocritical thing to do: White people cannot point out the absurdity of racism by making racism the butt of a joke. It will take a multi-racial effort to try to break down the paradigms of racism in America and across the globe. Excluding racial groups from tactics used to break down those paradigms is ridiculous, it reentrenches our perceived differences, and it sets the cause further back. We ought to be able to, in celebration of our differences, come together with the same tactics to break down a system which harms us all.

This is Progress?

No comments:

Post a Comment