Here’s a link to get you up to speed.
The #We’reGivingYoutheSideEye edition. With my commentary, since I still have a lot to say.
Colbert’s satire isn’t particularly funny or clever, even within its “context.” Although he says in an interview that he never “punches up,” using racism against Asian Americans as part of the humor violates the general unspoken rule of satire.
However, where The Colbert Report‘s satire fails is that a significant portion of The Colbert Report‘s audience does not intuitively or instinctively believe in their guts that saying “Ching Chong Ding Dong” or using the term “Orientals” is necessarily racist. Not everybody who laughs at “Ching Chong Ding Dong” is laughing because Colbert the character is so stupidly racist, but they are laughing at Asians. I believe this to be the case because this kind of anti-Asian dialog is still common in our society and is not immediately countered by most of society for being racist.
I told a white friend this joke as it was relayed on the Colbert Report, and he laughed. I felt pissed off about it, so I went on to discuss some other parts of Colbert’s “humor” that I find problematic.
Then I went back and asked, “Why did you laugh?” He paused and said, “Well, because it sounded funny and ridiculous, and then I thought about it and I thought, ‘Uh oh.'”
He went on to elaborate that he thinks that most people in U.S. society are socialized to find this funny and that they don’t connect it to racism.
I believe this is true because I’ve talked to teachers, principals and parents about this issue, and they nearly always brush it off. And increasingly I’ve heard about Asian American teachers who have been the recipient of this kind of racism from their students.
So yeah, I think Colbert’s joke was a big fat fail. And it’s just the type of societal normalizing of racism that you see everyday. (See, e.g., Racism in Thoroughly Modern Millie at I Love Newton.) Because dehumanizing others is part and parcel of oppression and hatred.
It means you’re not fully human, and as such you shouldn’t have an opinion. There was an immediate strong response shouting down the voices of Asian Americans. Because white supremacy America knows better about our lives than we do.
Two Brown Girls wrote about about perspective and dismissing the concerns of others:
The experience of an Asian woman is beyond my realm of understanding. So what did I do? I read, and I learned, and I unlearned the racist and anti-Asian thinking that we are all susceptible to, whites and POC alike, when we live in a racist society. I may not understand fully, but if there’s one thing I’m not going to do, I’m not going to ridicule or diminish anyone’s right to feel angry, to turn that anger into a joke.
I’d note that for those who thought #CancelColbert was ridiculous, there sure was a lot of pushback. Which suggests to me that the issue was important to them in a way that wasn’t articulated beyond “ridiculous” or “dumb” or “stupid.” 999,999,999,997 tweets and blogs against #CancelColbert demonstrated a raw, exposed nerve for such a “dumb” issue.
My thought is that is fucking scary for people to be confronted with their racism and that they will fight to deny it. Because privilege means never having to listen.
Hearing a voice that previously you could purposefully ignore is scary.
Who’s afraid of Suey Park? (by Julia Carrie Wong)
I hope that all the writers who took to their platforms to condemn #CancelColbert and Suey Park ask themselves what they had to lose by supporting her, or at least by remaining silent. From where I stand, the distinction between the internet trolls who want Park to be quiet and the media commenters who want Park to be quiet is narrower than the media commenters would want to admit. Park’s influence challenges the traditional power structure of a mainstream media born of and endlessly reinforcing a system of white supremacy. The sheer volume of her detractors says more about their fear of losing influence than it does about anything else.
Another way people routinely react to perceived loss of power is with harassment and abuse (by Joy Messinger):
From there, the responses got uglier. Twitter users started the hashtag #CancelSueyPark, which taken by itself might seem like a sarcastic play on words, but when accompanied with the rape and death threats she was receiving in real time was anything but clever.
I couldn’t bring myself to read through the full barrage of hatred in Suey’s mentions, and that the perceived anonymity of Twitter gives people the license to express sentiments they wouldn’t dare to in a face-to-face interaction.
However personal the attacks though, this is not just about the cyberbullying that Suey or other Asian women (as a fellow Tweeter points out) experienced last night or abuse they continued to receive today. It’s how enforced “harmlessness” of a culture of bullying and marginalization creates an environment in which people feel free to enact and institutionalize this abuse without fear of being held accountable.
Asian Twitter has been labeled as “overly sensitive” and is being told to laugh along with everyone else when in fact, but what gets lost when people are told to simply find the humor achieved at their expense is the fact that one “joke” labeled “satire” is part of a larger cultural acceptance of casual racism and xenophobia. When we decide as a culture that something as “innocuous” as othering Asian people and communities through humor is okay, then we perpetuate a social and political environment where lawmakers can pass policies that use anti-Asian rhetoric as a primary motivation.
Go read the whole damn thing while you’re at it. Messinger really nails it, especially when she ties racism to the way it supports institutionalized racism.
So no, this kind of shit is not just a joke. Because we are talking about our lives.