Making queer Chicana experience comedic affirms our pains and glories – hijole, just the fact…
by Special Correspondent Thea Lim
A little over half a year ago, I wrote a fawning article about Russell Peters, trying to justify why I love him in spite of the fact that he could easily be criticised for making racist comedy.
I said that I loved Peters because his comedy is (unintentionally?) subversive: it highlights the relationships communities of colour have with each other instead of speaking to, or centering the experiences of white folks. And many commenters on my original piece pointed out, Peters often talks about his sibling communities of colour with fondness rather than ridicule. But then the other night I sat down and watched Red, White and Brown, Peters’ 2008 DVD.
Russell, you cut me deep.
So what’s wrong with Red, White and Brown? Last year Latoya posted an excerpt from a Kate Rigg interview, where Rigg explained very eloquently what makes racist comedy racist:
I’m offended when I see comics get onstage going “…and then I went to the Laundromat. Ching-chong, ching-chong, ching-chong!” Then I’m fucking offended. When someone tells a joke about Asian people and there’s no actual joke – the joke is the Asian people. The joke is [racist-comic voice] the funny way they talkie-talkie! “They don’t use proper diction! Only verb and noun! Verb and noun!” I just heard a comic that I respect doing that fucking joke the other night. An Asian comic. And I was like, “Dude! Write a punch line or you’re just being racist!”
Peters’ seems to have lost his punchline. There’s lots of different things you could criticise in Red, White and Brown. Peters throws in some shallow Michael Moore style criticism of the war in Iraq that still manages to be Arab/Islamophobic. Sepia Mutiny has an interesting analysis of Peters’ jabs at deaf people. Red, White and Brown gave me a lot to think about, and I’d like to address Peters’ “hatred” for deaf people and his comments about Indian authenticity in a later post. But right now I’m gonna focus on that stupid “Chinky” accent.
Peters opens Red, White and Brown with five minutes of his Chinese accent. And hey, I guess people love his Chinese accent. But where it once highlighted a very funny bit about the way Indian and Chinese people do business together, it’s now become the joke. When the only thing Peters is doing is talking Chinky, it’s not a joke anymore.
He starts by pointing to random Chinese-looking people in his audience, and talking in his Chinese voice. But chances are at least one (if not all) of the Chinese people in the front five rows of his New York audience are Chinese Americans. As in, they don’t talk like that. They’re Americans, you jerk.
But you know what? There is a Chinese American accent. Just like there is an African American accent. There’s a WASP accent: I think Dave Chappelle is famous for having perfected it. So why can’t Peters learn the Chinese American accent, and then do that? That would be bringing it back to the arena that Peters once did so well – giving us something in mainstream comedy that we can relate to.
by Latoya Peterson
Here we go again.
Angry Asian Man reports on the newest bit of racism masquerading as humor:
This is really unfortunate, but I’m not surprised in the slightest…. Soon after Dartmouth College announced that it had appointed Dr. Jim Yong Kim as the school’s next president — the Ivy League’s first Asian American president — the racist comments started flowing, including a widely-distributed email from the Generic Good Morning Message (GGMM), a student-written/edited “tongue-in-cheek” daily news update: E-mail on Kim stirs controversy. Here’s the email in question:
Date: March 3, 2009 11:06:39 AM EST
Subject: Good Morning
This is the Generic Good Morning Message for March 3, 2009.
Yesterday came the announcement that President of the College James Wright will be replaced by Chinaman Kim Jim Yong. And a little bit of me died inside.
It was a complete supplies.
On July 1, yet another hard-working American’s job will be taken by an immigrant willing to work in substandard conditions at near-subsistent wage, saving half his money and sending the rest home to his village in the form of traveler’s checks. Unless “Jim Yong Kim” means “I love Freedom” in Chinese, I don’t want anything to do with him. Dartmouth is America, not Panda Garden Rice Village Restaurant.
Y’all get ready for an Asianification under the guise of diversity under the actual Malaysian-invasion leadership instituted under the guise of diversity. It’s a slippery slope we are on. I for one want Democracy and apple pie, not Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen. I know I sure as shit won’t ever be eating my Hop dubs bubs with chopsticks. I like to use my own two American hands.
Okay, show of hands – who was able to read this as satire? What was the intended target of this email? Read the Post Open Thread: Of Racism, “Satire,” and Humor
by Latoya Peterson
Earlier this week, I received an email from a new reader:
My name is B and I live in Florida. In fact, the neighborhood where I reside is a very desirable, mostly residential area centrally located near downtown and only a few short minutes to our lovely beaches.
The reason I am writing is because I just received the current issue of our neighborhood newsletter. The publication is several pages long and is in a glossy magazine style format. It is widely read not only by the neighborhood residents but also by other neighborhoods because of a general curiosity of all the events that take place here year round.
Well, each month, a regular feature is written called “Mr. Trivia, things you need to know, things you wanted to know, things you would care less if you ever knew!” I read it regularly and consider it mildly entertaining. However, this month, I was left with distaste after reading its opening paragraph.
“Senor Trivia est en Mexico on vacacione. He has ad to muy tequila. He as me too rite de newleter fo viktor pak. I not god en Englsh. He sho me ow to copy on cumputr. I hop u lik me yob. Senor Mex trivia.”
The article then continues in its regular format citing various facts and then ends with:
“I ride burro now and bring this to u.
Senor Mex trivia.”
I mentioned my dissatisfaction about the article to a friend and she felt I was overreacting. I’d considered writing the editor of the newsletter stating that I thought it bordered on a negative racial stereotype, though I have held off from doing because of my friends comment about my “overreacting”.
What do you think?
by Guest Contributor Anonymous “Are Americans Ready for a Black President?” is a one of…
by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse, originally published at The Coup Magazine (blog)
I didn’t get a chance to see the entire episode of Saturday Night Live this weekend, but I came across a segment clip from NBC’s website that made my blood curdle. SNL’s guest this week was the young actress of Juno fame, Ellen Page, whose comedic timing proved powerful yet equally disturbing in a piece with Keenan Thompson, the only black member of the cast (Maya Rudolph, who is half black-American, half white Jewish, identifies as multiracial), entitled “Virginiaca Goes to Baby Gap.” You can see the full video of the sketch here, but I’ll give you a little re-cap:
An overweight black woman who, only for lack of a better term, would be characterized as “ghetto” stumbles out of breath into a Baby Gap store (as it’s on the second floor) with a pastry in hand. She practically sexually harasses the Baby Gap employee (played by Andy Samberg). Her step-daughter, played by Ellen Page, corn-rowed, permed, and wearing a tracksuit, enters the store, demanding to try on spandex pants she’d like to wear as booty shorts. Angered that the Baby Gap employee won’t allow her to try on the pants for fear that she’ll stretch out the merchandise (as it’s meant for BABIES), Page’s character and Virginiaca name drop (as Virginiaca’s new husband is a wealthy white aluminum tycoon, the daughter of whom she has clearly “corrupted”) in hopes of getting their way. After a slew of aural and visual stereotype guest appearances (including the “booty back and forth” dance and repeated overt and unwanted flirting with the sales guy), the segment ends with the sales person quitting and Virginiaca in all fours on a merchandise stand continuing her “booty back and forth” dance in the store.
While SNL has engaged in black/brownface before, including having light-skinned Latino Fred Armisen play presidential hopeful Barack Obama, and Darrell Hammond play Jesse Jackson and Geraldo Rivera,they were impressions, albeit good ones, and I never found offense in having the best cast members for the job portray important members of our society who happened to have darker skin than theirs. Yet when I saw the “Shopping with Virginiaca” sketch, which apparently is a regular segment on the show, I felt something different. Keenan Thompson, though black, was performing a blackface minstrelsy routine that went far beyond basic impressions of famous people. He was poking fun, sure, but in a way that ultimately cements what black women are and how we are viewed by the general public.
The routine was all the more significant in its meaning when I first saw it as I had just ended a conversation with a white colleague regarding how much I tire of the negative images of black women on tv that are so powerful that I can’t help but wonder whether or not people expect this behavior of me when they see me on the bus, on the subway, or in the street, no matter how I am dressed, how I speak, my job titles, or what school I went to. The stereotype precedes me. It walks 10 feet ahead, greeting those who pass by before I can say a word. And shame on you, Keenan Thompson, for making the stereotype strong enough to tackle me down before I can open my mouth to interrupt its first impressions. Read the Post Sumpin’ Turrrrble: SNL’s Keenan Thompson Performs Minstrel Act