April 7, 2014

THOMAS | The “R” Word

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I’m writing about race again. I cannot help it; it’s simply my dirty little obsession. I wish I could stop but I have become quite involved in my commitment to battle ignorance tooth and nail until it has been vanquished. It is an increasingly difficult battle to fight, especially when those that seem to be fighting alongside me are hurting the cause as much as they are helping it.

This column has been encouraged and inspired by a chain of events, which began with a man with whom I vehemently disagree. This man is Daniel Snyder, who made headlines once again, not for his stellar leadership but with his fight for bigot.  Snyder has recently been combating those who have decried the name of the Washington Redskins, the NFL team that he owns. The word “redskin” in my opinion is undeniably offensive. The Redskins organization has attempted to survey the surrounding population as well as Native Americans on whether or not “redskin” is an offensive word. To nobody’s surprise they have somehow came to the conclusion that the majority of people do not find the word provocative. I’d also like to see the survey the Ku Klux Klan did on whether or not the N-word is offensive.

Nonetheless, we are well into the twenty-first century and this multi-million dollar business and broadcasted sports team still carries the name of a racial epithet. It is a fact that since 1898 dictionaries have defined the word redskin as contemptuous. To have it as a team name; that is unacceptable! We should be outraged as a nation because this is an irrefutable threat to the respect our society is willing to pay not only to Native Americans, but also to every other minority group.

The latest news of Daniel Snyder’s racist quest is quite ridiculous in nature. He has announced the creation of a foundation entitled the “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.” As Slate.com writer Josh Levin pointed out, “This is perhaps the most uncharitable name ever conceived for a charitable group, something akin to calling your organization ‘Kikes United Against Anti-Semitism.’” Surprisingly enough the word redskin is not the “R” word that I am referencing in the title of this column. There is another “R” word that is being used far too often. This word came into play with The Colbert Report’s debut with this situation.

Situation: An employee of The Colbert Report decided to tweet a joke about Daniel Snyder’s foundation that was made on the show that day. Problem: He didn’t reference what was being parodied or the fact that it was a continuation of the show. The tweet read: “I am willing to show the Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong, Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” This joke in no way differs from the racial pokes that comedians make in nearly all of their material.  However, without the necessary context the joke can obviously be seen as incendiary.  After spotting the tweet, 23-year-old Asian-American activist, Suey Park, instantly began a Twitter hashtag campaign attempting to get #CancelColbert trending worldwide. This campaign was extremely successful and was immediately picked up by every major news outlet. Colbert was quickly and, in my opinion, unfairly ostracized as the popularity of the campaign soared.

Now, there is one thing I value about myself. There is an innate ability we all have as human beings that we are able to use this little thing called reason. Reason, sometimes called common sense, is something I find incredibly useful. When I first saw the Colbert Report tweet, I used my “common sense” to ascertain that this parody show’s tweet was most likely a parody of something else. Low and behold I was correct! If one probed a little further they could find that The Colbert Report was actually attempting to out Daniel Snyder and not the entire Asian-American community! With this in mind one couldn’t possibly want a show cancelled for such a reason and also would have to reason that there is not enough evidence to prove that Stephen Colbert is a racist. Darn! We even found out a little later that Colbert didn’t even send the tweet.

Crying “racist” is very similar to crying “wolf.” If you decide to label everything and everyone as racist, it loses its power. For example, because Suey Park decided to go after Colbert, Snyder was able to get away unscathed. Native American activists have complained that the #CancelColbert campaign stole the winds out from under the Redskins issue. Also when the next television host is called out, people will simply discard the issue because the last instance seemed to be nothing more than a hoax. Lastly, one of the main reasons racism is so harmful is because of its ability to label those that it harms. Qualities that individuals do not possess are awarded to them due to their race. For example, because I am African-American many may see me as dangerous, however I happen to be a 5’8” peacekeeper! When someone is called racist they are instantly labeled. Just because of a single instance of a tweet, Colbert was assigned many qualities that he doesn’t actually exhibit, which is extremely unfair to him. It also is of immense irony when those that have been victims of racism inflict that same damage on others. If we continue to make victims of men like Colbert and refuse to vilify men like Snyder, these problems will continue to persist and will probably worsen. If you decide to live in such a world and attempt to lament your very existence, please keep in mind that it’s not me, it’s you.