When the Colbert Report twitter account posted that ‘joke’, “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever”, I understood exactly what he was talking about: that kind of remark was exactly what you’d hear said by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, in complete seriousness, and since Colbert is in the business of lampooning that kind of crap, I saw it as satire against casual racism.
But at the same time, it really bugged me. It was a lazy ass joke — it relied on a racist stereotype for laughs. And don’t talk to me about context; if you’ve got a joke that thoroughly depends on context, don’t put it on twitter, the worst possible medium for a lengthy build up. It also greatly put me off that Colbert doubled down afterwards. He’s a comedian. Are you going to tell me that comedians don’t understand that sometimes jokes fall flat? Is it a common response for comedians who tell a dud joke to then blame the audience for not appreciating it enough?
Maybe we should ask a comedian. Keith Lowell Jensen has some thoughts on Suey Park and the Colbert Report.
While many people of color defended Colbert, there were enough condemning the joke, even after the context was clear, that I had the choice to either consider the complaint further or assume that THAT large a number of people of color either didn’t understand satire and/or were hysterical and knee jerk and completely irrational. This seemed a poor assumption to make.
And while I considered Colbert’s joke, I don’t mean that I considered whether or not he should be cancelled (never Park’s real goal) or whether he was intentionally being racist (I have no doubt his intent was the opposite) but rather it was a good joke or not, whether this particular joke might have been a miss.
This discussion went on in my brain. I may have talked with a few friends about it, but I did so privately. What I didn’t do, was to immediately publicly condemn Suey Park and everyone else supporting #CancelColbert.
It seems to me that if an Asian woman finds a joke about racism against Asians (and about racism against Native Americans once context is added) offensive, the white guy should probably listen to her carefully and give her argument a lot of thought. The white guy should maybe not be SO quick to assume he knows more about racism than she does and should not be so quick to assume that she doesn’t comprehend or that she is hysterical and irrational. When many other people of color feel the same, this is magnified. I feel like a white guy navigating discussion of racism might want to be slower to respond, more eager to listen, less cocky.
That says it perfectly.