I find satire far more informative and enlightening than many forms of communication. At it’s heart, satire is a form of social criticism that aptly ridicules that which is faulty–ergo, it is not only humorous, but it is informative and aims for social change and improvement. It’s incredibly effective communication. Per Wikipedia, “Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon and as a tool to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.” In my enjoyment of satire I am drawn to Stephen Colbert. His use of satire and wit convey current events in a far more entertaining (and frankly informative) matter than most major news networks. But recently Colbert’s satire has come under fire after an except from the recent “Sport Report” segment from the Colbert Report was tweeted out of context. As a stand alone, the quote seems incredulously racist. The issue is that this quote comes as a part of a satirical segment. The whole segment can be viewed here–skip to the 4:45 mark for the specific quotation. The tweet, though later removed, caused a cacophony. People responded with the trend #CancelColbert as he was accused of racism. But satire must always be taken in context, and in this context we must ask “what social criticism is Colbert making?” His criticism, of course, is against the Washington Football Franchise. Isn’t it ironic that the individual who is satirically highlighting the racism of the Washington Football Franchise is himself being accused of racism? Isn’t it ironic that this accusal fails to acknowledge the point Colbert was actually making against validated racism? Colbert’s point is that the use of the term “Redskins” is racist despite Dan Snyder’s foundation for “Original Americans.” In the segment Colbert argues that he cares about Asian Americans despite his mascot “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong” as defended by his fictions foundation in a similar fashion to the Washington Redskins claiming they care about “Original Americans” despite their mascot and racist name as defended by their actual foundation. The fictions joke gets the controversy but the actual foundation and racism is ignored. How ironic.
Editor’s Note: The “Original Americans” foundation may actually be a beneficial organization to help struggling tribes. However, it is important that the foundation’s leadership first comes as listeners rather than teachers, as servants rather than saviors. Actions taken by this organization need to be done humbly and gracefully, in each instance asking if they can help and how they can help prior to taking action. Given this notion, it is evidenced that Snyder and the foundation have only selectively listened to our Native Brethren as their is large tribal consensus on the necessity of a name change. In their refusal to consider a name change, the Washington Football Franchise actions have largely been accounted as a PR stunt and an attempt to “buy” their mascot.
Update: Colbert Responds In the March 31st broadcast of the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert responded to his critics in his opening segment. The segment can be viewed here. Let me leave with this quote from his segment which reinforce the entirety of my original post. “But the people have called for canceling Colbert and I am willing to meet them half way. Effective immediately…I am shutting down the worldwide operations of the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever. I have to…The saddest part is that because of all the attention we’ve raised a lot of money over the weekend, money that will now be donated to Dan Snyder’s Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation which Twitter seems to be fine with because I haven’t seen shit about that”