In a recent episode of the Colbert Report on Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert aired a segment that addressed the controversy surrounding Washington’s NFL franchise owner, Dan Snyder. Snyder, who has already been under fire for refusing to change his team’s name despite protests from the Native American community to stop his use of a racial slur, exacerbated his offense by creating a new foundation for Native Americans that continues to use the derogatory term. Colbert, like many others, chose to poke fun at the tone-deaf nature of Snyder’s gesture.
In his segment, Colbert reprised a stereotypical Asian character he has used in past shows to announce the creation of the “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” Colbert’s depiction of this “mascot” of his show was an amalgam of various offensive Asian American stereotypes.
On Monday, Colbert responded to the backlash generated by his segment from the Asian American community. Colbert touted his sensitivity towards the Asian American community, citing the knowledge he gained from Michelle Malkin’s In Defense of Internment, a work that has been widely discredited for its historical distortions and specious conclusions that justified the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans.
Much of The Colbert Report’s humor is based on the premise of the outrageous character played by Stephen Colbert, a caricature of a racist, sexist, over-the-top right-wing conservative media personality. Yet too often, the guise of humor and satire are used to absolve individuals of all responsibility when their humor misses its mark and becomes offensive.
JACL objects to Colbert’s use of racist jokes to make a larger point about bigotry and ignorance. There is much to criticize around Dan Snyder’s racial insensitivity and the enormous amount of privilege he wields in actively perpetuating the use of a racial slur. However, there is nothing clever or humorous about resorting to tired, racist stereotypes that target another marginalized group in order to make this point.