As a woman and an Asian, I believe that it is important and almost necessary to have a sense of humor. I have gone through quite a few stances of discrimination based on those two criteria, as if they were the only ones to define who I am, and no doubt, I will still have more to face. Sometimes I’m consumed with frustration, and I will voice how I feel, because it is important to let others know that some things are just wrong. But many other times, I think it’s necessary to have the power and the self-confidence to laugh at them, brush them off, and continue on, because there is more to care in life than the hopeless stupidity and callousness of some people. And quite frankly, some things are just too funny not to laugh at.
That is why, when a news anchor at KTVU said the ‘wrong names’ during a news broadcast, I didn’t think it was a big deal. Sure, when I saw the Korean article that dealt with the issue, I was somewhat a bit offended, but I thought the joke was rather on the broadcasting company than on the Asians. For one thing, who the hell ‘confirmed’ these names? The act of ‘confirming’ something is to verify something you already know is right. Secondly, blaming it on the ‘intern who ‘acted outside of his scope of authority’ and hence got fired is a lame excuse. I don’t care if it’s the US, we all know that interns in any country don’t hold responsibilities important enough to confirm such sensitive information (my milder version of saying ‘they are considered as shit’). Finally, didn’t anybody, literally, anybody, any one person, have the decency to check the script just once, before it went on air? The viewers knew the moment they heard it and saw it, so unless everybody at KTVU is blind AND deaf, I don’t see how this kind of ‘accident’ could have happened.
On the other hand, in their defense, KTVU is a FOX affiliate, so… well, ’nuff said. The joke is on THEIR incompetency.
But after reading some other reactions and especially the comments on the news articles, where everybody seemed to think it was just a stupid joke and thus not cause enough to get mad at, discomfort slowly sipped in. Where do you draw the line between ‘making a joke’ and ‘being offensive and plain racist’?
I think at the base of all kind of discrimination lies a structure of power and dominance (doh), the unspoken, yet underlying feeling that one is superior to the other. The one who has the power is often unaware of his position (for the sake of easier writing and reading, I will use the pronoun ‘he’) because it has been so throughout history and he has never actually and actively thought he was superior to his neighbor. The one on whom power is exercised may also be unaware of his submissive status, for the same reasons. But such case is less common than the former one; the one who has had to live under the unchallenged coercive authority of the dominating class is often quite aware of the inferiority that has been imposed on him. The dominating class may thus engage into activities that it deems worthy and supporting equality, but said activities may not be perceived the same way from the dominated class.
Sure, this may all sound very communist and old school, reminiscent of imperialism and colonialism, but it doesn’t take much to see that the same still applies to the current and unfortunately, diverse kinds of discrimination a vast majority of people have to go through in their lives.
Whether or not it was, objectively, funny, is not the question anymore when the group of people the joke involves or is directed at has taken offense. Sure, there will always be people who are going to be discontent (haters gonna be haters), no matter what. But I’m not talking about extreme cases or such people. When offense has been made, maybe it’s a sign that things have gone too far and maybe the right thing to do is to give it a second thought, to see the underlying issues and differences we often overlook because we’re trying too hard to ‘have a laugh at things’ and take things lightly.
It’s tiring to always look for things to criticize in everything, but that doesn’t mean we always have to have our critical switch turned off.
Laugh at Bill Burr, Russell Peters or Louis C.K., but when a TV news ‘makes a mistake’, maybe you’re not simply looking at a ‘mistake’ but at the tip of the iceberg that is called ‘why some things are still wrong in this world’. Haha.