Picture it: Twitter 2014. The Colbert Report sends off a tweet that launches a war of misplaced and accurately placed aggressions, spearheaded by AsAm Activist Suey Park. Suey Park, known for her work with the #NotYourAsianSidekick social media initiative, ignites another movement in response to the Colbert Report's tweet, titled #cancelcolbert. And surprise: all hell breaks loose.
Since last night, Twitter, social media, and the media in general has been ablaze about the #cancelcolbert movement. Groups who used to embolden one another's claims are now at each other's throats. Suey Park is receiving death, rape, and other disgusting threats, which is heartbreaking, and those participating in such reprehensible behavior need to be reported, banned, and possibly arrested. Colbert is being called a racist, which is wrong. White Libs have suddenly embraced the "race baiter" and "pc police" phrases after years of criticizing NeoCons for using the exact same phrase, which is hilarious as fuck. Native Americans who understand Colbert's gag are getting attacked, which is sad. It's become a Grade A shit show worthy of all the popcorn in the world, but it's the shit show we need.
I do feel, as an observer of the situation, that the #cancelcolbert movement is doing a little too much against Colbert and the Colbert Report (a show which I, admittedly, do not watch often). I also believe that the root of the issue, Dan Snyder and U.S. Society's perpetual defecation on the existence of Native Americans, is being glossed over. It is important that we criticize both Colbert and the treatment of Native Americans within U.S. institutions, but our efforts are a bit unproductive if we focus the majority of our passion and anger towards the figure who made a genuine mistake (Colbert) and not the person who gives absolutely no fucks about Native Americans (Dan Snyder).
However, we need to respect when marginalized communities are outraged, especially if you are not part of the damn community that's being marginalized. (see: NinjaCate's awesome breakdown of Tone Policing). Hardly anyone, myself included, should assert their opinions over Asian-Americans in this issue.
But I will say this:
1) Colbert should not be exempt from any criticism just because he's Colbert. He does have a history of problematic jokes, particularly toward members of the Trans community. He should be held accountable for previous and current gags that, while satirical, are still "punching down" and offensive to marginalized peoples.
2) The root of the Colbert backlash: People of Color are tired of being the butt of the joke. Intent has no bearing on the racism and racial ignorance, because intent doesn't make the embarrassment from being used as a punchline because of your race go away. Intent doesn't enter the minds of those who laugh at Colbert not because of his satirization of people like Dan Snyder, but because "OMG HE'S MAKING FUN OF ASIANS AHAHAHAHA". Gatekeepers of satirical liberal comedy like Colbert, Stewart, and Maher should be held accountable for when they implicitly promote the same systems of racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, and classism they are attempting to criticize by constantly making oppressed demographics punchlines.
3) We should take this moment to analyze how we interpret comedy in relation to oppressed communities. Satire of Colbert's nature is difficult to perform without being offensive. Does satire matter if your audience takes only a superficial understanding of your message? Does it matter whether or not the satire is coming from an altruistic source? Comedians like Dave Chappelle left millions of dollars on the table over questions like these.
4) It's funny how allies get more
privilege respect than the people with whom these allies are supposedly fighting along side. Why give Colbert the benefit of the doubt because of his political leanings and previous reputation, but fail to provide Suey Park, a member of the AsAm community who lives through oppression everyday and knows micro-aggressions like the back of her hand, that same respect when she is saying, "Hey, this is offensive to Asian-Americans?" A large faction of Colbert's defenders feel that Suey Park is being "too righteous", but in the same discussion choose to defend Colbert on the basis on him being "one of us" – the bleeding heart liberal who will always be on the right side of history. I'll let you all decide who is being overly righteous here.
This endorsement of Colbert's offensive satirization of Dan Snyder while disrespectfully dismissing ACTUAL PERSON OF COLOR Suey Park's viewpoint is yet another case of White Cis Male privilege at work, where the opinions of the oppressed are ignored and attacked and discredited, while the actions of the privileged party are held up as status quo. Ultimately, Colbert and Comedy Central should apologize to the Asian American community, and learn to consider the feelings of PoC the next time they choose to wear their paternal capes and play Captain Ally. Colbert's lack of adequate remorse is the origin point of derailment regarding the conversation about the racism towards Native Americans, which is similar to how Buzzfeed's apathy toward protecting the privacy and discretion of sexual assault victims completely derailed a poignant dialogue about the pervasiveness of rape culture. As a woman of color who is witnessing the numerous attacks against other WoC this week alone, I have no issue standing in solidarity with Suey Park.