It’s not racist, if it’s funny…

Yet again another racist rant when viral on YouTube. A kid from Indiana posted a video, Why I’d Hate to Be Asian. In the video, the guy gives his reasons of why he wouldn’t want to be Asian – the reasons are the old clichés and stereotypes about Asians that have been bandied about for years – Asians all look alike, Asian men are not well-endowed, Asians are good at math, Asian entertainers are only good for Kung Fu flicks, Asians are short; he even complains that getting high would be tough for him because he already gets “chink eyes” and fears that as an Asian, his eyes would close when smoking pot.

The guy’s defense on his Facebook page was that he was just kidding – that it was satire. The problem with satire is that it’s a really difficult task to take on – and hardly anyone can pull it off.

A comedienne that comes to mind immediately is Sarah Silverman, who has built a career on pushing taboos about what is politically correct; the think about Silverman’s schtick is that her comedic persona is that of the idiot. In the case of the racist Indiana kid, there is no satire, humor, or irony. Are we meant to laugh at this guy’s character? What is he bringing to the discussion about race?

What this kid’s video does is play to a gross demographic – the young, straight, white male who is resentful of having to be “politically correct.” This isn’t a slam against all young, straight, white males, or even most of them- I love you guys – but there is a segment of that population that won’t think twice about doing things like having ghetto parties, where guests are encouraged to wear black face and fake gold teeth; or calling gay guys fags, and insisting that all a lesbian needs is a “real” man to turn straight; these guys resent affirmative action, feminism, or the dismantling of white male privilege, because they see that the power and privilege that their dads and uncles naturally assumed is being severely challenged, and they don’t like it.

But here’s the kicker – it’s not just conservative kids from the Midwest who are cloaking their racism in jest – have you ever heard of hipster racism? Or as it Jezebel‘s Lindy West calls it, “racism?” Guys who live in developing urban areas like to pretend that they’re “down” with poor folks, or even worse – part of a different culture: think about it, everybody has that guy who only dates Japanese girls and thinks he is Japanese (SNL‘s got an awesome skit about two dippy white kids who think they’re Japanese – it spoofs the condescending and ridiculous way that ignorant people cherry pick disparate cultural artifacts and end up looking like asses).

What makes the racist Indiana kid video all the more distressing is that the reaction to his video has received quite a bit support – people who think we should all just laugh and lighten up.

But the problem is it’s not funny to dig up racist stereotypes, when they’re still being revived by bigots. The stuff that the kid on the video said was ugly because Asian folks hear that everyday. Comedy is about attacking points of power – not the underdog. When someone approaches comedy from a position of power and privilege, he needs to check his privilege at the door – you don’t get to be funny by embracing your privilege and then thumbing your nose at folks who chafe underneath it.

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Filed under Comedy, commentary, Nonfiction

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