Colbert takes Asian joke too far

Satire has always been a tricky art form to navigate. If done well and intelligently there can be a positive impact – one that sparks discussion. If done poorly and without hindsight, it can cause anger and confusion, emotions that notoriously do not mix well.

Think about the online satirical news website The Onion. Last year it came under fire for jokingly calling the young actress Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) a gender geared derogatory slur. It was an instance where despite the satirical intention the site came across badly.

The most recent instance of this falls on Stephen Colbert. After a segment about the Washington Redskins owner dodging the controversy surrounding the team’s name and its racially negative connotations, a tweet was aired from his show’s Twitter account that read:

“I am willing to show the #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching Chong Ding Dong    Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”

Obviously this is a play on the team’s owner Dan Snyder announcement made earlier in the week about making a donation to satisfy detractors.

In essence, pay them off – because bribery is always the solution, Snyder.

The outrage was immediate. The Twitter hashtag #CancelColbert trended for over 24 hours with people of all walks of life calling for the cancellation of his show. Almost as quickly, his defenders came to speak up for him.

There are two points worth mentioning right off the bat. One, I don’t think his show should be canceled, I do think he should apologize. The second being that we acknowledge that Stephen Colbert himself is not in charge of his Twitter account so he did not have final approval of the tweet being sent out.

However – it was still sent, people still read it, people were still hurt that their race was being marginalized once again in any manner as a punchline to a joke.

His defenders are using a multitude of excuses to rid him of any blame. They say that it is satire so there is no reason to be angry, that anyone who is angry either did not get it or did not have context of what happened.

Those arguments are simply making the play that the angry voices are ill-informed or ignorant and that is a far cry from what is happening.

Maybe Stephen Colbert is blameless – as a fan of his, I keep wishing for him to make amends with the ones he angered – but he did have a chance to apologize on a segment aired on last Monday night and he did not. He chose to turn it into another joke.

People are seemingly unable to see how this “joke” could possibly be harmful. We know that Stephen Colbert is playing a character – I would like to believe that we all do not think of him of being racist in his personal life-however, the joke was racist. There is a way to do satire, to try to prove a point through humor, without succumbing to racism as well. At the end of the day a group of people were used as the butt of a joke. Sure, it was to support an argument – but there were many ways in which the show could have accomplished this goal without doing so.

And amidst this mess what Colbert was saying about Snyder is being swept under the rug, one controversy for another.