Did Stephen Colbert say something racist last night? Or, rather, did Stephen Colbert, the character, say somethingso unusually racist that it should blow back on Stephen Colbert, the man? Can racism ever be framed away? And whither Twitter?
Heady questions for a Friday morning, I know. But that's why I came to you guys. You've got what it takes. Here are the details: Thursday night, in the course of a faux-sympathetic look at the Washington Redskins' attempt to rehabilitate their image with a charity benefiting Native Americans, Colbert claimed to identify with the Redskins' plight because he, too, had a racist mascot, an Asian character named Ching-Chong Ding-Dong.
In the context of the show, it was clear that Colbert was satirizing the Redskins' refusal to address the real problem, as you can see from the video above. The trouble began when some enterprising Comedy Central social media manager decided to tweet, sans context, the following: "I am willing to show sensitivity to Asian community by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or whatever."
The internet responded to that blatant racism with its most withering of hashtags. #CancelColbert was soon trending, and found a surprising supporter.
#CancelColbert - I agree! Just saw @ColbertReport tweet. I share your rage. Who is that, though? I'm @StephenAtHome http://t.co/e0Pqz7U7i9
— Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) March 28, 2014
But is the racial slur really any better in context? Some tweeters didn't think so. Suey Park, a writer and activist on race and gender, spoke out.
.@StephenAtHome @ColbertReport Wait. How are you a comedian? That wasn't funny. #CancelColbert
— Suey Park (@suey_park) March 28, 2014
I don't know where I stand on this, but I do feel like someone should have thought harder about a five-minute segment with jokes about triangle hats and opium pipes.