Today I walked in on a conversation where a man and a woman (co-workers) were talking about a superior that they were frustrated with. The woman was adding suger to her coffee and said, “Can you believe that?” The guy lightly chuckled and said, “haha, yea…it’s kind of ridiculous.” And the woman stopped stirring her coffee, tilted her head, and in a very serious facial expression and tone, said, “Like seriously…That’s not ok to be doing that.” I looked up at the man and I saw this O-wow-this-just-became-way-more-serious-than-I-thought-it-was face. That was followed by a hesitant laugh and a weak acknowledgement.
When you misjudge someone’s emotions in a situation, or you realize you may be walking into/just walked into a trap, it’s real awkward. It’s like opening a door and you immediately regretting walking inside. Once you realize you’re in it, you try to figure out how you’re going to get out of it. I’ve opened plenty of wrong doors in my life, especially in relationships. If you give a girl you’re dating a compliment on her looks, and she responds with, “So do I not look good on other days?” you typically put on your O-wow-this-just-became-way-more-serious-than-I-thought-it-was face. To offer some advice…do not open that door. Run away to the nearest bathroom and pretend you had to poop for 20 minutes. That’s honestly going to be less uncomfortable than trying to dig yourself out of a ridiculous response.
Semi-segue (enough not to use a “Bieber-on-a-Segway” segue), I recently got sucked into the #cancelcolbert movement. It was last Friday morning when I saw it as a “Trending Topic” on Facebook (which I think is a great feature on Facebook). Since I like Colbert, I clicked on it to see what the heck was going on. Quick overview: Dan Snyder, owner of the NFL Washington Redskins, created a Native Americans charity to show that he is making an attempt to ease racist tensions around the team’s name. The charity is called the “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.” The problem is, by trying extra hard to show he’s racially sensitive, he kind of stomps all over the issue with the charity’s name. Colbert riffs on this failed attempt by creating his own charity inspired by the backlash of one of his characters he made up in 2005: Ching Chong Ding Dong. He calls his charity the “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” Everyone laughs.
The Twitter account called @TheColbertReport tweeted the following statement:
“I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” The tweet did not include a link to the segment at all, and this tweet was not actually sent out by Colbert himself. He is actually @ColbertAtHome, and @TheColberReport is admin-ed by individuals at Comedy Central. The only way you would be able to understand what this meant was by watching the show, or searching for this charity name. That did not happen.
A 23-year-old Asian activist named Suey Park noticed the tweet during her dinner and decided to respond with a tweet saying, “White people–please keep #CancelColbert trending until there’s an apology. This is Not the burden of people of color. Fix it. Do something.”
Suey Park has 22 thousand twitter followers, and is a fairly seasoned “hashtag activist”, which is apparently a thing. I guess it’s where you gain movement on a subject with a hashtag.
I’m not a big twitter user. I have a twitter account, but it a public megaphone to say “HERE I AM” and tweet out past articles. However, I know that there are a couple of ways to trend a hashtag, and one of them is organically. Suey Park didn’t trend the hashtag #cancelcolbert: her followers trended that hashtag. The crazy thing is, users who weighed in on how stupid the “movement” was only made the hashtag trend longer.
Speaking of stupid, Suey gained some momentum with this and was asked to be a guest on Huffington Post Live. And that’s when I feel like any credibility that the movement actually had flew right out of the window. Josh Zepp, who works for HuffPost Live, is a white guy who asked Suey Park to join him to discuss the reason behind the hashtag. He starts off the conversation by asking her “Why #cancelcolbert?”
Suey Park: “It’s sad, but unfortunately, a lot of times our demands aren’t really met unless we have really serious asks to generate these larger conversations. Unfortunately, people usually don’t listen to us when we’re being reasonable, so I think it’s really going to make a statement that this sort of thing happens weekly, that Asian Americans are always punchlines, and so we’re just trying to make a point that people will be held accountable the next time they do these sort of things.”
…What. That was your intention behind “#cancelcolbert”? Did other people know that? Suey Park admits that she did not want to cancel the show. Instead, she tried to start a conversation around white liberals’ use of racial humor to mock other forms of obvious racism by picking on a culture that is not likely to protest. In other words, she wanted to spark a conversation around the use of Asians as a punchline. Zepp goes on to ask what I think are very good questions:
“But isn’t his point that there are lots of stupid, racist people, who, even in their attempt to be conciliatory on race end up putting their foot in it and saying something dumb?”
“Why attack a satirical attack on Dan Snyder’s racism instead of just attacking Dan Snyder’s racism?”
After a series of questions, Suey Park issues the following statements:
“I feel like it’s incredibly patronizing for you to paint these questions these way, especially as a white man, I don’t expect you to be able to understand what people of color are actually saying with regards to #cancelcolbert…”
“While white men definitely feel like they are entitled to talk over me they definitely feel like they are entitled to kind of minimalize my experiences, and they definitely feel like they are somehow exempt and so logical compared to women who are painted as emotional, right?”
Whoa…derail. Zepp goes on to call her opinion stupid, and the whole interview turns into a shitshow that ends with her not wanting to talk to him.
Hang in there. I know this one is long, but I just wanted to provide some background that I thought was important before I got to my point. You’re almost finished, I promise.
There are 3 major problems I have here.
1). The goal was never clearly communicated
Twitter is such a unique instrument of communication. I’m not sure if there has ever been a forum like this in history that allows a single individual to voice their opinion on an issue and actually be heard. The problem is, with 140-character limit, it is very easy to misconstrue someone’s intent. And I think that happened here. Suey intended for this tweet to start a conversation around the use of racist jokes, directed at minorities that may not put up much of a fight since everyone else is laughing. I’m not sure if everyone who help trend the conversation was fighting for the same cause. Without a clear explanation of what she’s trying to obtain, and the fact that the hashtag was kept alive by the support of people who thought it was stupid, turns this “movement” into a well-intention-ed catastrophe.
2). She blows her opportunity
I’m not sure when this tweet really caught on, but it did. She was invited on to HuffPost Live and asked to talk about what she was trying to accomplish, and I feel like she made a fool of herself. She says that women are often painted as emotional, and when the host attacks her opinion, she takes it personally and shuts down. She had the opportunity to rise above that and REALLY kick-start the conversation by justifying her point in a calm and constructive manner. But she misses that opportunity by snapping (granted, Zepp was in the wrong for calling her opinion “stupid”). And now she just looks like she’s someone who just makes noise when she feels personally attacked, and not someone who is trying to make a difference on this issue.
3). To be honest…she’s Asian
I know this might sound jacked up, but the fact that she’s Asian and she feels like she’s representing Asians in this instance, is frustrating. If you have one voice, and her’s is the one that gets noticed, you’re embarrassed that your voice sounds like that. Not sure if that makes sense.
To sum it up, if you’re going to make a stink, make sure everyone knows why you’re doing it and what you’re trying to accomplish by doing it. If I learned anything from Spiderman, it’s “with great power comes great responsibility.” And if I learned anything from Blink-182, it’s that “nobody likes you when you’re 23.”
Thanks for reading. I always want to hear opinions, but if there is a post that I would like to hear your opinions on, this would be it.
– The OWTJBWMSTITIW Face