Was it well-intentioned satire that people took the wrong way? Was it a failed attempt at a joke that fell flat on Twitter for legitimate reasons? No matter where you stand on #CancelColbert, this young Asian-American woman’s response to the infamous tweet will have you on your feet and clapping.
Josh Zepps of HuffPost Live interviewed 23-year-old comedian Suey Park about her perspective on the controversy. It starts off okay… and quickly turns condescending as all hell.
Zepps: It was meant to be satire. I mean, do you understand the point of satire? That you say something that’s intentionally absurd in order to ridicule not the people who are the target of what you’re saying, but other people who might say it?
Park: Of course I understand satire. I’m a writer. I think satire caters to the audience that you’re speaking to, so it says something about what the audience finds humorous or acceptable when you’re using those sort of jokes. Satire is supposed to punch up. Unfortunately, he’s not doing that when he draws parallels to orientalism to make a point about Native American mascots.
Right on. The issue with Colbert’s joke is that it relies on the assumption that the average American finds prejudice against Asian people absurd. Racism against Asian people is still alive and well in our culture– there’s nothing shocking about using the word “orientals” in a joke when people still use that word unironically.
Suey goes on to state her side rationally and logically… while Zepps goes on to smirk patronizingly and talk over her. When she gets the chance to actually speak, Park makes a really decent point:
Park: I’m glad that the white liberals feel like they’re less racist because they can joke about people who are less explicitly racist, but that actually does nothing to help people of color. … If white liberals cared about really getting rid of the mascot, there’s a lot they can do to help organize or get involved besides caring about a joke. For them, it’s not really about whether or not the Redskins exist, or whether or not racism is over– it’s really about them feeling like they can’t have fun anymore and feel entitled to be able to laugh at things that aren’t really funny.
And then the video dissolves into a sloppy mess of a white dude claiming that he doesn’t have power over an Asian-American woman while he refuses to let an Asian-American woman talk. She calls him out for his condescending BS, he explains that being a white man doesn’t prevent him from having first-person experience with racism (sigh), she calls him sexist, he calls her opinions stupid. Pretty much your typical internet debate, but at least this one gave us a new badass lady to follow on Twitter.
Satire is complicated, delicate, and hard. We may not all agree on whether or not Colbert’s joke accomplished what it set out to do, but we can certainly agree that Josh Zepps needs a lesson in how to disagree with someone without writing off their opinions as completely insane.