April 04, 2014

#CancelColbert stymied "Redskins" protest?

Snyder Wins: How 'CancelColbert' Drowned Out the Native VoiceTwitter activist Suey Park, who became known for her hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick and helped Native Tweeters publicize tags including #NotYourTonto and #NotYourMascot, reacted to the Tweet swiftly, calling for Colbert's firing with the #CancelColbert hashtag, which became a ubiquitous news story. Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert could only watch it unfold: he'd already taped his Thursday episode and his show does not air on Fridays, so he would not be able to address the controversy on his show until Monday.

This he did, last night, in a long segment, punctuated by sips of a Bud Light Lime, that began with the context of the joke--Dan Snyder and the Redskins, remember--and ran through many of the details above. (You can watch the whole thing at Comedy Central's website.) He also called for the attacks on Park, which had become quite vicious, to stop. In his closing words, he said that he would be donating the money raised by his offensive faux charity to the offensive real-life charity that inspired the joke that caused the kerfluffle: The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.

"...which Twitter seems to be fine with," he said, "because I haven't seen shit about that."

And that's the bottom line for the Native activists on Twitter who saw a real opportunity to open some eyes when Snyder announced his bizarrely named charity: The momentum building for their campaign--#Not4Sale--was stymied by #CancelColbert. In an interview with The New Yorker that only briefly mentioned Dan Snyder and his foundation, Suey Park admitted she likes Colbert Report and didn't actually want to see it canceled. Yet a single Tweet connected to a satirist--whose well-known shtick is to parody arrogant conservatives--made more waves than a campaign against a racist team name that has been with us for decades.

As Jackie Keeler of Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry tweeted from her @jfkeeler feed: "Issue is not critique of skit but disproportional outrage vis a vis Actual racist foundation--Snyder wins."

#CancelColbert Collateral Damage to EONM (Eradicating Offensive NativeMascotry)

By Jennie StockleThe reason this plays in what happened in the aftermath of #CancelColbert is that it was those same people, and I believe Suey Park herself either believing them or encouraging them, that would come back at us with a catastrophic effect to Native Americans.

During #CancelColbert several EONM members/supporters noticed several of us tweeting under the hashtag. So they jumped in thinking this was about Native Mascotry. I myself thought that Colbert had actually done something to support Dan Snyder. I hadn't seen the skit. I stopped early on believing that I needed to get back to addressing the very real problems with Snyder's organization. Also, after I watched the skit and became aware that many, many Native Americans were feeling betrayed. After those events, EONM released two brief tweets stating that we would be supportive, but keeping our focus on #Not4Sale.

"Why is she sidelining what happened to us? Did she know about #Not4Sale? Is she dumb? I thought she was a friend, but this isn't supportive? Does she work for Snyder now? This is childish, if twitter users want to address satirical organization over a real racist organization what has the world come to." are just some of the things I heard and got direct messaged about. This was followed by so many stunned that Suey Park was on Native Trailblazers instead of not one of all the Native Americans angered by "OAF"! Jaw-dropping was a pretty common theme. Was that how far Native Rights activists had been eclipsed, that they weren't even on a Native show?

A tweet Jackie Keeler had made was featured in a Wall Street Journal article by Jeff Yang. It was not making light of Suey Park's actions. Her tweet was only expressing the disparity and proportionality of the response to #CancelColbert vs "OAF" and other Native American rights hashtags. Suey Park attacked the criticism a fair and balanced take on what happened. She called for Jeff Yang to be fired.
#CancelColbert accomplished nothing: Why social change movements must be inclusive

A draining debate has left the fight for awareness and understanding in a worse place. So where do we go from here?

By Anoosh Jorjorian
People of good conscience can disagree about how we get there and what are the right tools. I don’t know a sure path from my past to a future free of anti-Asian prejudice. But at this moment, I can say that the weekend of #CancelColbert did not bring us closer to that future.

By Monday morning, I was left wondering, what have we accomplished? How much coal have we burned by keeping our modems alight and charging the batteries on our laptops and smartphones? At this cost, how many minds have we changed, and how many alliances have we forged to make a better future?

Here’s what I “saw” over social media: A lot of people expend a lot of energy, emotion and time because of a single comedy sketch (one that, for the record, did not offend me personally). I saw long-standing members of Asian American communities who have been working for decades toward that future get blisteringly insulted and attacked. I saw Native Americans wondering how Colbert’s valid point about Dan Snyder doubling down on the 80-year-old football team’s name in service of some cheap P.R. got buried in an avalanche of outraged pro- and anti-AAPI tweets. I saw, predictable as a turning tide, an outpouring of white anger, defensiveness and ridicule. I saw racial epithets explode and hurl around like corn kernels in an air popper.

And I have a bitter, bitter taste in my mouth. Colbert’s satirical Ching-Chong Ding-Dong joke references familiar ground, the kind of belittling and insults that Asian Americans are accustomed to hearing from white folks. But an internecine fight of this scale cuts deep, and the wound to Asian American communities will take far longer to heal than it took Park to initiate it. (The first efforts toward healing have centered around the #BuildDontBurn hashtag.)

Jeff Yang wrote a smart, thoughtful article on the limits of Hashtag Activism. For this, Suey Park tweeted that he was less of a friend to her than Fox commentator Michelle Malkin, notorious conservative and defender of the Japanese internment. Park has certainly borne the brunt of the storm generated by her campaign, however. The crest of the Twitter backlash featured the now-routine gendered discipline: death and rape threats.
I'm Not Your Disappearing Indian

By Jacqueline Keeler[L]ast Thursday, it happened again, this time it was the folks on social media trending #CancelColbert and completely forgetting about Dan Snyder and the real foundation to promote the racial slur Redsk*ns. Once again, ostensibly about us, but of the issue garnered no real attention until it fell in someone else’s hands and then they, once again, forgot about us.

No, it wasn’t Stephen Colbert who forgot about us, nor was is "Stephen Colbert," a character played by comedian Stephen Colbert, to satirize the extreme insensitivity of Republican conservatism. His show, The Colbert Report did a whole skit skewering Dan Snyder, billionaire owner of the Washington Redsk*ns, and Snyder's new Original Americans Foundation (OAF), exposing it--through satire--as a blatant attempt to use charity to provide cover for his NFL team’s racist name. It was the hashtaggers, PoC (People of Color) and progressives, our own allies on Twitter who trended the hashtag #CancelColbert in response to the fictional foundation’s name featured in the skit. And yet, Dan Snyder’s real foundation promoting an ethnic slur against us, a foundation that actually exists, failed to garner even a tiny fraction of outrage by the same group. In fact, in her Time Magazine article that followed the enormous success of #CancelColbert, hashtag originator Suey Park failed to mention Snyder’s foundation at all. She certainly did not mention the Native hashtag protesting it #Not4Sale, despite it being covered by Mike Wise at the Washington Post and Al Jazeera America’s The Stream just days before. Only one reporter, Jeff Yang of the Wall Street Journal included any mention of Native responses to it.

Could you imagine national coverage of #CancelColbert or the previous trending hashtag promoted by the Asian American community #‎NotYourAsianSidekick without interviewing any Asian Americans? Or without any mention of the creators of the hashtag like Suey Park?

Obviously, #CancelColbert did not lead to the canceling of The Colbert Report, and in a New Yorker interview Ms. Park claimed she never intended for the show to be cancelled; furthermore, she had never even viewed the actual skit, and had reacted to a tweet (since deleted) without understanding the original joke to which it referred. What’s most frustrating to me is that a deleted tweet garnered more outrage than the actual existence of a foundation to promote a slur against Native Americans. A foundation announced just days after the U.S. Patent Office, reasoning that the word is a racist epithet, refused to grant a trademark to "Washington Redsk*ns Potatoes"! A potato has more rights than Native people do! (And yes, there is a Native hashtag for it--#NotYourPotato--and no, our allies on Twitter have not trended it.)

How #NotYourMascot Passed Me By, and How I was Wrong For Letting It

By ReappropriateAs an Asian American, and as a person who is dedicated to anti-racist activism, I am always at danger of focusing too much onto my own work; it is my duty to remember that I share a mutual goal with other people of colour in wanting to see an end to racism and racial discrimination in our world. And while our specific foci, angles and tactics might differ (as well it should), it is essential that we push back against our own tendencies to become too specialized, too factionalized and too isolated from one another. Instead we must reach out to one another, work together, form alliances and recognize our common goals. We must allow our individual efforts to integrate with one another rather than to interfere with one another; only by doing so can we hope to achieve a critical mass of anti-racist work that can challenge institutionalized racism and white supremacy.

That it took me this long to say something about #NotYourMascot is my fault, and for that I apologize.

#NotYourMascot is a common sense fight, one that by itself deserved primacy over the last two weeks; one that did not deserve to be distracted from. #NotYourMascot is a fight for anyone who wants to see the world less racist, a world where we don’t treat people of colour like mascots, where we respect Native people in particular and all people of colour, in general.

In short, #NotYourMascot is not just “a Native issue” and doesn’t deserve to be treated like one; #NotYourMascot is an issue that deserves full and vocal support from all of us—particularly every person of colour, as well as anyone else who has dedicated ourselves to challenging racism as it manifests around us.
The Real Reason Why Stephen Colbert’s Brand of Racism Should Be Making You Angry #CancelRedskinsThe Stephen Colbert character, in his usual style, has taken the offenses done by others and made them that much more offensive. The show dismantled the offense moniker of Daniel Snyder’s foundation, and rebuilt it with a more visible ethnic group as its target. The result—outrage. At the end of the skit, Stephen Colbert, as a kind of nod to the offensive nature of the skit, makes a request of his audience. “I owe all this sensitivity to Redskin’s owner, Daniel Snyder. So Asians, send your thank you letters to him, not me.”

If you are angry, welcome to the club. Be angry at Stephen Colbert and his show, a show that mirrors and perpetuates the prevalence of racism, classism, and oppression in order to get a laugh. But be more angry at the reality that the Colbert Report mocks. Be angry at Daniel Snyder, the owner of that offensively named Washington team. Be angry that corporate interests (and there are many) continue to make money on histories of genocide and oppression.
I think the final sentiment is one we can all agree on.

My take on #CancelColbert

A lot of people didn't come off well in this conflict. Colbert, for his ill-considered "ching-chong" joke. Suey Park and other activists, for hijacking the debate without addressing the offensive "Redskins." The media, for focusing too much on #CancelColbert and not enough on the underlying cause. Anyone, including liberals, who threatened Park for daring to challenge Colbert and the white status quo.

Nevertheless, I'm not as bothered by the #CancelColbert flap as some Native activists are. Some reasons:

1) From my vantage point as a media observer, I didn't get the sense that the #Not4Sale protest was taking off the way previous Twitter protests had.

2) Even if the #Not4Sale protest did take off, it didn't seem that effective to me. #Not4Sale was too generic; it could've been about almost any cause. Without an explanation, most people wouldn't get the connection between brown-skinned people with dollars on their mouths and the Redskins foundation (OAF).

3) It's not clear to me that the Native activists lost out on anything. Without an event like the Super Bowl or the Oscars to tweet about, the protest was always going to be relatively small. We're talking about a small "Redskins" protest on its own vs. a big #CancelColbert protest with a small "Redskins" protest included. Either way, the "Redskins" portion is small.

In other words...yes, the #CancelColbert coverage may have decreased the coverage the Redskins protest got. But it may have increased the coverage too. There's no way to know.

4) Reappropriate addressed the issue of "intersectionality" above. It's the idea that prejudice against one group affects and should concern everyone. It's something we all need to remember. Yes, Suey Park's #CancelColbert protest derailed Colbert's critique of the Redskins--but her argument about the liberal tolerance of racism has merit.

More to the point, it's relevant to mascot protests. Names and mascots such as "Redskins" don't persist because a small number of conservative racists keep them alive. They persist because many Americans, including liberals, have a broad tolerance for prejudice against minorities, women, and gays. We see this constantly in debates about welfare, immigration, law enforcement, income inequality, and so forth and so on.

Even the tolerance of minor things such as "jokes"--aka microaggressions--is widespread. And that's a problem. Colbert or hipsters or anyone can put on a headdress and say they're being "ironic," and people will give them a pass.

The #CancelColbert protest tried to expose this problem. It tried to show that minorities aren't going to roll over for conservative or liberal white privilege anymore. Until people get that people like Dan Snyder and Stephen Colbert shouldn't be the arbiters of what's offensive, I doubt anything will change.

5) As some people noted, a Twitter campaign is a tactic, not a goal. It helps to raise awareness of an issue, but it rarely causes change by itself. That's especially true when dealing with a major corporation like Disney (#NotYourTonto) or the Washington Redskins.

The best outcome of #Not4Sale would've been an increased awareness of Snyder's PR ploy in creating the Redskins foundation. But the foundation is only a small part of the Redskins brand. In the unlikely event that activists shamed Snyder into ending the foundation, it would've had no effect on the brand overall. Snyder still would've been committed to keeping the name and logo forever.

I'm sure "Redskins" will go away someday, but not because people have criticized the foundation. So nothing was "lost" except a minor opportunity to mock Snyder's tactics. With or without Colbert's input and the #Not4Sale hashtag, the protests will continue until the name is gone.

For more on the subject, see Debating #CancelColbert and Suey Park's Activism.

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