Last week, The Colbert Report inadvertently invited criticism from Suey Park, a 23 year-old Twitter activist. Her fervent tweeting and the resulting trend, #CancelColbert, attracted national attention and confirmed that tweeting and twerking are the ticket to fame for our generation.
The episode of The Colbert Report under scrutiny responded to Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, who created a foundation to support Native Americans instead of changing the infamous name of his 82 year-old team. Snyder established the “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation” as a scrambled attempt to recognize the history of injustice, discrimination and racism toward Native Americans. He claimed this marked the beginning of an effort to value and celebrate the heritage and history of Native Americans. It remains to be seen whether or not Snyder’s actions will overpower the effect of the offensive team name. While we wait, Stephen Colbert has taken matters into his own hands.
To the writers of The Colbert Report, Snyder’s NFL peace treaty was another opportunity to exploit a feeble attempt at diplomacy. As Colbert stated, “[It’s OK] because Redskins is not offensive if you only use it once in your name.” With that, Snyder became a whole new level of laughable.
Snyder’s foundation inspired Colbert to reexamine his own hypocrisies humorously. Colbert’s on-camera persona has an old friend and comedy bit named “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong.” Ching-Chong Ding-Dong epitomizes several Asian-American stereotypes, and his presence leads to many jokes about karate, rice or broken English.
Colbert decided that Ching-Chong Ding-Dong, like his racial slur counterpart the Redskin, needed his own foundation. “The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever” was created to shine a light on the irony of using a racial epithet in the name of a foundation meant to assist those put down by that epithet.
Things were taken to a whole new level, however, when The Colbert Report‘s Twitter account ran the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong joke without any giving context about Dan Snyder or the new Washington Redskins foundation. Note: Colbert does not operate from this Twitter account, and the Tweet in question has since been taken down.
Park, inventor of the #notyourAsiansidekick hashtag, saw the out of context tweet and called to #CancelColbert after the previously mentioned episode. “Asian Media Watch” also called to #CancelColbert because of the racist characterization of Ching-Chong Ding-Dong. Park’s hashtag went viral, and the American news media went wild.
Park has received little tangible support for her #CancelColbert campaign. With her political power atrophying by the minute, Park has subsequently stepped back her campaign. When Jay Caspian King interviewed Park, she admitted that her hashtag was not a tunnel-visioned mission to cancel The Colbert Report, but rather a defense against “well-intentioned racial humor … [that] doesn’t actually do anything to end racism.”
Park’s tweets have inspired American journalists to reexamine shows like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show to determine whether satire and sarcasm veil genuine American racism or if equal opportunity prejudice really makes it all OK.
The best part of comedy is that when it bends, it’s funny, but when it breaks, it’s not. But have Americans been so desensitized to bending jokes that they can no longer recognize when it breaks?
Colbert’s loyal followers believe that offensive stingers are all part of the shtick of political comedy. After all, Colbert is no stranger to pushing the boundaries of politics and humor. Every Monday through Thursday when the clock strikes 11:30 p.m., someone will probably get offended. If not, Colbert just wouldn’t be Colbert.
Update: Colbert has since responded to the #CancelColbert madness. Check out his response.
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