• Fri, Mar 28 - 10:10 am ET

The Colbert Report‘s Racist #Asian Tweet Incites Internet Fury All Over Twitter

Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Late Thursday afternoon, a tweet was posted to the official The Colbert Report Twitter account that upset a lot of people, as it was perceived as offensive to the Asian community. The post referenced a bit about Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder who has refused to change the name despite its blatant racist connotations and history, but created a foundation for Native Americans in order to prove he’s totally cool (except in every single way). While the tweet has been deleted, here’s a screengrab of it:

Screengrab via EW.

Screengrab via EW

As a result, tons of Twitter users started angrily tweeting at the account, hashtagging their outraged posts with #CancelColbert. Colbert himself responded, tweeting this:

The official Colbert Report Twitter account, which posted the original “racist” tweet, explained that Stephen Colbert himself does not run it and that it was actually from a bit:

 

Okay, so we should all be infuriated at whomever is running that Twitter account, right? Grab the pitchforks, find out their real name, and hound them until they weep with heavy shame for their mistakes! Not so fast.

Anybody who watches The Colbert Report knows that it is satire. Stephen Colbert plays a far right-wing character with extreme attitudes that are blatantly offensive to people of all sorts of backgrounds and common sense; really, he just plays an idiot. We all know that. And honestly, when I first started writing this piece, I was sort of erring on the side of “don’t you all understand satire?” which is sort of my least favorite kind of attitude. But then, I saw some of the angry tweets:

 

 

On the one hand, I do believe in satire. I do! I like it, and I do like Stephen Colbert. But I also think that, particularly when you are not actually part of a specific ethnic group, it’s not a good thing to tell those personally upset by comments made that they don’t deserve to feel upset.

I think sometimes, satire doesn’t work. For example, when The Onion called Quvenzhané Wallis the c-word–satire, yes, but so very unfunny. And while I wasn’t immediately offended by the Colbert tweet, I also tried to put it in perspective; for example, had he made a rape joke, I probably would not have liked that very much. While it would have clearly been satire and simply made fun of those awful humans who do believe rape jokes are hi-laaaarious, I undoubtedly would have made the point of saying, “But if he does it, other people will think it’s okay.”

So, I’m by no means shouting in some Bill O’Reilly voice, “Hypersensitivity! Everyone’s too whiny these days! Can’t you make a racist joke in ‘Merica anymore?” because I think if you are personally offended by this, you’re not wrong. I acknowledge that the tweet itself, especially outside of the context of the show, is offensive. And I do not disagree that it was rather stupid to tweet such a potentially inciting sentence without any real explanation. However, I don’t think it’s something that calls for canceling Colbert.

An apology is in order and I’m sure he’ll address it on his show. TCR should ensure that incidents like this don’t happen, yes, but we should also be encouraging programs with such a wide reach to actually have more guests of different backgrounds. That way, the Colbert breed of satire won’t be necessary to point out how outrageous racist television hosts actually are.

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  • http://sarahhollowell.com/ Sarah Hollowell

    The problem is this isn’t a one-time thing. This isn’t his first racist joke, and he’s made shitty transphobic jokes, too, and – well, a lot of really shitty, unfunny jokes disguised as “satire” but that actually just shit on the already-oppressed. And I HATE IT, because I loved him and used to watch his show all the time.

    Go visit @suey_park’s tweets (she basically started and kept the #CancelColbert hashtag going). She said and retweeted a lot of intelligent/important stuff about the issue – why it’s racist, why it’s a big deal, why it’s NOT satire – and she started getting incredibly racist comments, death threats, and rape threats from Colbert fans, mainly the ones who were saying, “It’s a joke! Lighten up!”

    • Samantha Escobar

      Thanks so much for the heads up. The fact that I searched suey_park on Twitter and the second thing to pop up as suggested was “suey_park kill” says a lot, holy shit.

    • http://sarahhollowell.com/ Sarah Hollowell

      Colbert is obviously like not in control of his fans but HOLY CRAP PEOPLE ARE SCARY

    • Samantha Escobar

      Agreed. Buuut I would say that just because people aren’t in control of their fans, if they DO notice that people who like them are going scary-nuts like that, they should tell them to stop. Lady Gaga’s fans threated Kelly Osbourne like crzy and IIRC she was basically like “lol oh well.”

    • http://sarahhollowell.com/ Sarah Hollowell

      YES, agreed. I really, really hope Colbert does step up and say something, because the response so far is not enough. It also doesn’t really speak well to the success of his “satire”. If your satire is just fueling racists…

    • toffee

      He’s getting better with trans issues. He had Janet Mock on his show recently.

  • Lindsey Conklin

    an apology is definitely in order and I don’t think it’s okay.

  • FemelleChevalier

    As an Asian, I am so tired of these jokes. Yes, I get the satire aspect, but Americans need to be courteous to other racial minorities living in the country. Those stereotypes are damaging to Asian-Americans, especially to the little kids.

    Getting sacked is too much, but he should definitely apologize. I mean, Ching-Chong Ding-Dong? Really? Not all of us are freakin’ Chinese. At least make the joke accurate.

    • Samantha Escobar

      At first, I didn’t find it offensive because I had the whole “duhhh satire can’t be offensive except to those it’s satirizing!” but then I saw so many tweets from Asian Twitter users who were really upset, irritable and frustrated by hearing the same jokes over and over, aaaand I re-thought my defense.

    • FemelleChevalier

      Yes! It’s not that we don’t get that it’s a satire. We just hate the ignorance that it perpetuates. Besides, we’ve encountered those “jokes” from people who took it at face value, and it’s annoying to hear it from them like it’s a fact.

    • k

      I have actually been _called_ Ching Chong Ding Dong (I’m Asian)… and I thought it was hilarious as satire. I guess I approached it from the point of view that while some people might not be able to recognize “Redskins” as something racially offensive, when the satirical comparison is made, one would for certain see how wrong both of these are, right?

      I see Satire’s job as taking something which might be possibly offensive, and demonstrating that there’s something about it that is absolutely offensive, and in this particular case I think it did its job.

    • FemelleChevalier

      Yes, it did it’s job. But does it negate the fact that by combating racism, it raised another racism that says it’s “okay” and “trendy” to make fun of Asians? Because by American definition, it is okay. It happens and deal with it. *sigh*

      Satire or not, some Americans at large are now laughing at the racist comment itself, and not at the ridiculousness of naming a team as “Redskins”.

      If he wants to make a satirical piece, it should not be on the expense of another minority group. It’s like saying that “Blackface United Foundation for N***er Sensitivity or Whatever” is okay, because I know people will definitely find that offensive.

      You, as an Asian, might find it hilarious. I respect that. But that doesn’t mean that those Asians and Asian-Americans who are irked are wrong or ignorant about their indignation. This shit is happening everywhere in America to the point of bullying (in school) and discrimination (at work) and it’s NOT okay. Time to tell the Americans that they can’t just make fun of other minorities just because they’re fighting for another.

    • Brian

      It is a tv show, for comedic purposes. If you don’t like it, don’t watch

      Do you honestly realize how ridiculous you sound? A comedian is capable of offending anyone about anything…suggesting that people who find this kind of humor are evil, is ridiculously misguided…and suggesting that Colbert is wrong for offending you during a COMEDY sketch is yet the latest example of people taking their political insecurities & obsession on race & everything else…and insisting that you be offended too.

      A scary and toothless world we’ll live in when everyone can be offended by anything and it’s legitimate because they’re offended. At some point comedians will only be able to tell knock knock jokes, because everyone has their own personal standard on what is offensive

    • FemelleChevalier

      Oh, I understand. I like the guy and I think he’s a funny bloke. Getting him sacked is too much in my opinion. What I dislike is the comments of those who vehemently defend him.

      Usually, we’ll just dismiss these kinds of jokes done in the media. I mean, the Asian stereotype is that we’re hard-working people, successful, and smart. What RIGHTS do we have to be offended, right?

      See, that’s the problem RIGHT THERE. It was never about Colbert, but the media at large perpetuating the idea that it is always “okay” to make fun of Asians. I’ve seen and heard comments to jokes and stereotypes such as “How dare those successful Asians be offended! Lighten the fuck up!”, “Don’t you understand that it’s a joke? I told the same to another Asian and he/she didn’t get angry”, “Asians are fair game”, and “Hahaha, butthurt [insert stereotype here] Asians”.

      Asian culture calls for hospitality, and that includes being polite to the host country. BUT just because we don’t usually give a damn doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt us. So people shouldn’t assume that just because we don’t whine at every little jokes that it means that it is okay.

    • Sheilah

      Except the joke here wasn’t “it’s okay to make fun of Asians” — the joke was “Oh look at this privileged asshole who is being ENTIRELY CLUELESS and UTTERLY OFFENSIVE about asians” Just like Dan Snyder was with American Indians. I didn’t think that the joke was funny making fun of Asians. I thought it was pointing out what a massive A-hole Snyder was for thinking that his charity (containing a racial slur) would make using a racial slur every day okay. That was the satire and that was the joke.

      And to me, I think the fact that Asians are so upset about a comedian making a one-off joke about a charity should be tell-tale — IMAGINE IF YOU WERE AMERICAN INDIAN and someone was mocking you every day doing the same thing as in this joke?? And then imagine that when you got upset about it, so upset that you got everyone together to put out an ad even… that your race was so obliterated from genocide that no one noticed or cared. I guess that’s the real issue here — Asians Americans actually still have a voice to express outrage about a joke. American Indians get no support whatsoever. If people actually took the time to support them? Something might actually change.

    • FemelleChevalier

      I have a satire for you: The Japan hasn’t given a proper apology for their atrocities during WW2, and the neighboring countries are still miffed about that. They raped, murdered, and tortured our ancestors and those raped victims (“comfort” women) are still rallying outside the Embassy in the name of justice.

      How about this: China is starting to be a super-power in Asia. Wouldn’t it be funny if one of the neighboring countries satirize the North Korean dictator in a comedy show? He’ll try to ally with a Chinese leader and scheme that to make the other Asian countries allies, then make Japan the enemy by demanding an apology and compensation. And if Japan still refused, how about rape, murder, and torture of the Japanese immigrants just like what Imperial Japan did? Then maybe add some slapstick humor for the lulz.

      Well, that was inappropriate, wasn’t it? But it’s okay, since it’s comedy, right? It makes a difference. And no one will actually think that it’s okay to do that, right?

      Except, people are still mad about the Japanese, especially elder Chinese and elder Koreans. People ARE thinking about that, and they will celebrate that joke as if it’s a good idea. And if the Japanese says “Hey! That’s not right!”, some people might say “It’s a joke!”. Yes, it is a joke, but it is still inappropriate and it will affect the Japanese no matter how the satire is for the victims of WW2 and their families.

      Yes, that comparison went off the tangent a bit. But my point is, no matter how the intent is, the subject will feel irritation. It’s inevitable. We get the point, yes. Save the Native Americans, yes. But don’t tell us to calm down and dismiss our indignation. It’s not like we’re going to do something about it, anyways. We’re just speaking out that it’s not always okay to be a subject of mockery EVERY TIME.

  • Mila

    Colbert is funny & I love his show, no reason to take it so seriously – no matter who posted the tweet it was not meant to offend but make people laugh…if it did not, fair enough, but CancelColbert is taking it way to far.

    • LM

      #CancelColbert isn’t necessarily meant to cancel his show, but like one comment above stated, Colbert and co should a least denounce the rape and death threats to those supporting #CancelColbert. If not that, at least this #trend is to start an intelligent social debate on why it’s NOT okay in this day and age to continually perpetuate racially offensive stereotypes that incites hate and violence against an already oppressed group of people.

      Assuming you’re white –isn’t it nice that the second you were born into this world, you’ve had never been constantly bullied for being a white kid when going out in public by non-whites? Getting verbally attacked w/all of the most offensive, derogatory racial slurs under the sun w/out provocations? Such as walking and minding one’s own business, did any non-whites from inside their cars hurled racial expletives and screamed at you to go back to Germany, Europe, or wherever the fuck you came from?? Did you ever get physically harassed and threatened for being white? No, I didn’t think so.

      Even now, I’m sure you’ll never ever know how it feels and thus, never have to worry about your everyday physical safety and fear about being randomly attacked verbally by bigoted/racist whites when going out in public in this supposed progressive society.

  • Brian

    You can criticize violent TV shows, Scandal..Real World..Reality shows…you can look at virtually everything on television and claim it offends you. At some point, you should no longer be taken seriously. The notion that just because something offends you…that means you “should” be offended, that you have a right to be heard because you have a loud voice, is absurd. Sometimes, some things should be dismissed for being utterly ridiculous and this is one such example. Comedy Central has a whole host of shows, with a variety of sketches & materials on race & society in general. The same goes for any comedy content. Anyone can be offended, should they so choose

    The funny part is…the people offended by this…would probably find it ridiculous if someone was offended by something THEY found funny(doesn’t have to be about race). We all laugh about some things right? Imagine if everything you found funny…any joke that makes fun of a country, a culture, any little thing(because a joke is almost always an attack on something) was taken to mean you’re a disgusting, evil person. It’s ridiculous. This whole debacle is

    • EmpressQ

      The problem is not the twitter. It’s the unnecessary singling out of Asians to make a point. The question is this: why Asians? Why not Blacks or Jewish?

      The answer is simple: because most Asians, especially FOBs, don’t understand racism the way Americans do. We’re too focused with our lives to be bothered, honestly. But we’ve experienced it, so we DO get affected but chose to not say anything because it’s ultimately unimportant and asinine.

      Because we just shrug it off, Americans now took it as a sign that it is automatically okay to always mock Asians without the repercussion of backlash. It has been a problem for years and apparent in mainstream media, and the racist defense towards Colbert is just showing us how unimportant our indignation are in comparison to other minorities.

      But we’re Asians, right? We should just shut up like we always do and be submissive and nice.

  • EmpressQ

    Personally, I just shrug these off. I have exams and such to be bothered by a cringe-worthy and uncreative remark towards Asians. Besides, it’s for a good cause, no?

    But what I can’t let go is those who, by defending Colbert, are being racist themselves. Also, people keep saying that those who got offended are too dense to comprehend the nature of satire. They can’t accept the fact that, maybe, it’s not about Colbert. Maybe, it’s the mainstream trend that’s been happening all over America — for decades, in fact — that it’s socially fine to make fun of Asians.

    Maybe, some just got fed up with it and found it unpleasant that by protecting one minority, the show mocked another. Personally, I just find it strange simply because singling out Asians is a tad out-of-context to the whole satire. For one, there are two minorities who can’t be socially mocked in America, regardless of the intent: Blacks and Native Americans.

    So why Asians? Why not Blacks? Won’t that make a bigger impact, seeing that the president is half-Black?

    Is the reason because Americans think that Asians are alright with being mocked? Because that’s a bit presumptuous, yeah?

    I admit that canceling his show is too far. I wouldn’t want that; I like the guy. I do admit that Ms. Park overreacted, but does that justify the continuous racist remarks in his defense? I say his show should own up to this fiasco and apologize in behalf of the racism that it perpetuated.

    • toffee

      Native Americans are mocked everyday by the sheer fact that Redskins is still a socially accepted term. Are you offended by the tweet or the segment? If you saw the segment you would see that the joke is on privileged white males being insensitive to minorities.

  • Sum Ting Wong

    Stop telling us how to be offended, white people. Saying that, stop telling us how to NOT be offended. If an Asian found it uncomfortable, then fucking respect it because we know racism. We’ve experienced it, not you.

    And yes, #CancelColbert is ridiculous IF the intent is to literally cancel the show. We know we’re not special snowflakes. But STOP telling us to fucking calm down, because you whiteys aren’t the one being bullied and discriminated.

    Sue Park is a moron, but her feelings are justified. Any minorities will feel the same if they’re being mocked. We have been putting up with these shit for so-fucking-long without batting an eye so don’t tell us to shut up. If you want a satire, then fucking leave us out of it. You can joke about tentacle porn, our eyes, our dicks, and our “nerd” status. You can joke about the Asian fetishization, fine. It’s fucking alright according to AMERICANS, so sure. We get it, it’s funny. But don’t use us a fucking crutch to make a fucking point, because that’s double standard and counter-productive: don’t you people realize that racism is happening towards Asians NOW?