Tag Archives: NPR

WNYC Presents: Funny Or Racist?

by Kendra James

There was a lot of good discussion on racial comedy at last night’s panel featuring Arun Venugopal, Desus NiceCrissle West, Jeff Yang and Guy Branum and we’ve summed a good deal of that up in our Livetweet Storify below. The panel was broken up into sections with each new topic introduced by a different video or comedic soundbite, and everything was going along swimmingly with very thought provoking (and hilarious) banter tossed back and forth between the participants.

It was during the Q&A that things got, as one might say, quite real after a discussion about Sarah Silverman’s use of blackface on her Comedy Central show.  A realness which made for the highlight of the evening as West was forced to keep it all the way 100 with an audience member who really did try it. The exchange can be found around 1hr 19min in in the livestream link, but also transcribed in part below:

Audience Member: My name is Alan Rich, I’m a discrimination lawyer … Crissle, one thing that you said about Sarah Silverman– I get the impression that you take her work at face value.  And I think that so many comedians who are really funny — I don’t think that she’s making fun of black people in any way shape or form about black people when she does blackface. Because those of us who know the history of blackface is that not only white people did blackface, black entertainers had to do black face to get jobs.

Crissle: Wow, so you have to be really white to make that statement. That is just the whitest thing–

Audience Member: It’s a comment about how ridiculous we as a society can be.

Crissle: Can we not? I’m really not about to do this.

Audience Member: I’ve never walked out on Paul Mooney, so you have to give me a pass.

Crissle: And you’re a discrimination lawyer? Holy God. Sooo… I’m  gonna go ahead and address that by saying first of all that I can absolutely say that you’re racist for being a white woman in 2014 or whenever it was that she did this to put in blackface and go on television. Yes I can absolutely call you racist for that. you know the history behind it and you did it anyway. That is racist. I can say that. I’m a black woman, I’m gonna just go ahead and take my word over yours on that. That’s racist. And I don’t like her for it.

Audience Member: [Sic] Tell her! But you don’t know her. You don’t know what’s in her mind.

Crissle: Where is my access to Sarah Silverman? I don’t have to know her– I don’t have to know what’s inside Sarah Silverman’s head. I’m looking at her actions because her actions are what she’s presented to me. She didn’t put put a book called Sarah Silverman’s Diary here read my innermost thoughts and see how I came to these fuck ass conclusions that I have here today. She got on TV in blackface and decided that that was funny and it was not. And you as a white man trying to tell me that my feelings are invalid because I don’t know her is a crock of shit … and that’s why I get on my show every week and say what I need to say because white people like you feel like you have a goddamn point.

Panel Q&A sessions can be difficult for anyone with Acute Second Hand Embarrassment Syndrome (ASHES, in my opinion the worst kind of ashiness a Black person can get), so I really appreciated how the situation was handled. Plus, having only just started listening to West’s podcast The Read (which she records alongside Kid Fury) about a week ago, I felt particularly privileged to be able to hear her give a Read live and in public.

It is a nonnegotiable fact in  my life that white people in blackface constitutes a racist act.  Context, intent, the word ‘subversive’, and the names Tina Fey and Sarah Silverman do nothing to change my mind in that regard. Context and intent don’t change the fact that there comes a time in every Black parent’s life where, for instance, they have to do something like sit down and explain to their children why there are radically different pictures of Black celebrities such as this,why one image is better and more appropriate to imitate and aspire to, and why such a beautiful woman was forced to allow herself to be treated as such.

Josephine Baker

Hi.Lar.I.Ous. (Images of Josephine Baker)

I suppose things are funnier when you have the luxury of skipping conversations like that altogether.

Colour commentary aside, WNYC and The Greene Space hosted a great night for us and all in attendance for their continuing Micropolis series. Readers of The R can look forward to another livetweet from the space next week when we head back to cover a live recording of Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu’s podcast “Another Round,” which will also feature The Butter editor Roxane Gay.

On South Korean “Superficiality”: We Are Deeper Than You Want To Know

By Guest Contributor Esther Choi

Image by Byoung Wook via Flickr Creative Commons.

Existing in very distinct manifestations of Korean American diaspora, but occupying similar spaces, we the American-born Koreans defined “fobs” (Fresh Off the Boat, more recently immigrated Koreans) by their cutesy antics, superficial looks, plastic surgery craze, and love of K-pop. We may have considered it all in good humor, but ultimately it assured us we were morally superior, a higher art form.

When I finally grew up a bit and began challenging my own internalized racism, I began to realize my judgments of “fob culture” were more about my desire to raise myself above it rather than any attempt to understand their world. Perhaps we thought that by defining ourselves against the less assimilated, we could stamp out our own sense of foreignness.

I am now living in South Korea, the place I was never from but to which my life has always been bound. Centering this society, I find a renewed appreciation for the ways that the Korean side of my bi-cultural divide has always challenged and deepened my perspectives. As I learn more about the connections between Korean society today and its incredible history of struggle and endurance, which echoes throughout the next generations and across diasporas, my identity takes new roots.
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The Science Of Racism: Radiolab’s Treatment Of Hmong Experience

By Guest Contributor Kao Kalia Yang, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine

Kao Kalia Yang. Photo courtesy of the author.

On September 24, NPR show Radiolab aired a 25-minute segment on Yellow Rain. In the 1960s, most Hmong had sided with America in a secret war against the Pathet Lao and its allies. More than 100,000 Hmong died in this conflict, and when American troops pulled out, the rest were left to face brutal repercussions. Those who survived the perilous journey to Thailand carried horrific stories of an ongoing genocide, among them accounts of chemical warfare. Their stories provoked a scientific controversy that still hasn’t been resolved. In its podcast, Radiolab set out to find the “fact of the matter.”

Yet its relentless badgering of Hmong refugee Eng Yang and his niece, award-winning author and activist Kao Kalia Yang, provoked an outcry among its listeners, and its ongoing callous, racist handling of the issue has since been criticized in several places, including Hyphen. When Hyphen’s R.J. Lozada reached out to Kao Kalia Yang, she graciously agreed to share her side of the story for the first time. What follows are her words, and those of her uncle.

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Open Thread: On Mona Eltahawy And #MuslimRage

By Arturo R. García

Journalist Mona Eltahawy was arrested in New York City Tuesday for defacing one of several Islamophobic posters paid for by right-wing radio Patricia Geller. Though the arresting officer never answered her question, Eltahawy was indeed charged–she revealed on Twitter that she was booked for criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

Geller, who helped popularize the “Ground Zero Mosque” myth, has been shown by at least one study to be part of the dog-whistle playlists that make up much of the conservative airwaves.

And if you thought photographer Patricia Hall’s attempt to block Eltahawy in the name of “free speech” was dubious, you’re not wrong: Reuters columnist Anthony De Rosa pointed out that last month, Hall posted a bizarre photo essay trailing Muslims in Times Square asking, “Is Sharia coming to America?”

You might also recall Eltahawy gaining attention earlier this year for “Why Do They Hate Us?,” her cover story for Foreign Policy magazine:

Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt–including my mother and all but one of her six sisters–have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme.

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Asians Are Stealing Our Boyfriends On This American Life

By Guest Contributor Elisha Lim

(Please note, the above image has been Photoshopped from its original text.)

I am a reluctant fan of This American Life. The NPR storytellers can be such refreshing and endearing alternatives to mainstream radio. But you have to tolerate a strictly white, middle class point of view, a flaw that has been pointed out and ridiculed before. A case in point is a recent January episode–the first segment was in solidarity with “illegal” immigrant Latin@s of Alabama, but it was ironically followed by a white stand up comedian mocking the Spanish language.

The Valentine’s Day show, however, pushed me to new levels of downright rage. It’s a series of stories all about the mishaps of love, and in the last, 12-minute segment, writer Jeanne Darst describes her outrage when she discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her.

She reserves a special anger for the fact that he’s cheating on her exclusively with Asian women. That makes her furious. Not, as we might hope, because she is disturbed and angry to discover that not only is her boyfriend unfaithful, he also has a grotesque racial fetish–but because it offends her own whiteness. She reads his journal in slow dramatic tones:

And then I read that he did not have an attraction to… white women. White women like me. I knew he dated some Asian women and his ex-wife was Asian, he had Asian assistants, but I didn’t think too much about it… Maybe it was my fault. I should have said, right at the start of the relationship I’m. Not. Asian. Before anyone got hurt. Me. Before I got hurt.

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Voices: Remembering Don Cornelius [Culturelicious]

When I looked at “Soul Train” host Don Cornelius back in the ‘70s, I didn’t see a pro-black entrepreneur who would become the “African American” Dick Clark.

I saw my dad. And his entire generation.
– Eric Deggans, Tampa Bay Times

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The Truth Hurts The Wrong Side: NPR Acquiesces to The ACORN Hitman

By Arturo R. García

Another week, another politically damaging phone con. This time, National Public Radio was the mark, and it got hit hard.

NPR CEO and President Vivian Schiller was forced to resign Wednesday after a fellow executive, Ron Schiller (no relation) was caught on tape describing the Tea Party as not just “Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic. I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

Now, what could ever have given Mr. Schiller that impression?

Photos and video are under the cut. Warning: photos contain racist language/imagery.

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All Things Inconsiderate?: Issues Arise With New NPR Book

By Arturo R. García

Like any good journalistic outlet, NPR prides itself on thorough coverage and accuracy. Which makes the errors in its’ 40th-anniversary retrospective, This Is NPR, stand out even more.

(Note: As mentioned in the past, Racialicious Editrix Latoya Peterson is a consultant for NPR, and has contributed a piece to one of their blogs.)

First, as St. Petersburg Times columnist Eric Deggans reported Friday, there’s no mention in the book at all of All Things Considered host Michele Norris, the first black woman to earn a regular hosting slot on the network. From the story:

Norris was asked to contribute a chapter, along with other staffers or people who appear regularly on NPR for the book, which weaves the stories into a chronological history. Other contributors include Cokie Roberts, Nina Totenberg, P. J. O’Rourke and Paula Poundstone. But because she was writing her own book, The Grace of Silence: A Memoir, Norris couldn’t contribute an essay and was not included anywhere else, said NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm.

It was an inexcusable mistake,” Rehm added. “She should have been in the book.”

Deggans also notes the book’s omission of the recently-released Juan Williams, who had been a news analyst with the network for more than a decade before his firing last month; and of the African-American Public Radio Consortium, the group that helped NPR develop The Tavis Smiley Show, which first aired on the network before Smiley and NPR parted ways in 2004. Smiley doesn’t have an essay in the book, either, though he is referenced three times.

The only POC mentioned in the book who contributes an essay is Tell Me More host Michel Martin, who writes about covering the inauguration of President Obama in 2009. Oddly enough, though, the picture running alongside the story is of reporter Audie Cornish, who isn’t mentioned at all otherwise.