Friday, November 12, 2010

Perhaps I'll Laugh

It’s interesting how people will laugh when someone makes racist remarks but may angered by another person who could be making the same racist remarks. The difference in our reaction to racist comments has to do with the position they hold in the public arena more than it has to do with their tone.

A politician has a serious job. We vote them into office to represent us and speak for us. When they make a racist remark it shouldn’t be taken lightly even if it’s just a comment on how Hispanics may look Asian. Racist remarks have a sort of connection to ignorance, and it’s not funny when politicians make racist comments because we don’t want an ignorant person representing us and making appalling comments that may pertain to us personally. In the video below a teen directly asked her about the racist depiction of Mexicans in her ads and she doesn't even bother to deny it, but simply said that she may not immediately identify them as criminal Mexicans at first glance. We know that Asian-looking Mexicans exist but it’s sad because it seems like she can’t control her racism.

A comedian may sound serious when making racist comments as Stephen Colbert usually does, but his job is to make people laugh and he uses a humorous tone all throughout his racist statements. He doesn’t laugh while he makes his statements but he sort of smirks…altogether we know that he is saying them with the purpose of making us laugh. Sometimes he presents very racist arguments only to prove that the racism is debauched as he does in the video below.


  1. It's sad because most people can't control their racism and in no way am I going to try to justify that BUT isn't it possible that society has in a sense made racism acceptable in certain ways to the extent that racial remarks are hard to shed from our minds. I grew up in a really white town and I have no quams with other races but because of how I was raised I feel it's easier for me to slip up. Doesn't necessarily mean she is ignorant ( even though she shouldn't be setting that kind of example as a public figure ). I don't really know what my point was but racism has become so engrained in our society that someone doesn't need to be racist or ignorant when what they say can be assumed as racist I guess. Our ignorance is in not recognizing how society has affected us in that way and makig an extra effort to avoid those slippages.

    Ashley Russell

  2. Really interesting! And I totally agree that the way we perceive racism differs so much based on context - we talked about this in our first few weeks of class as well, I believe, when we discussed how it's not only *who* says something, but the intent with which they say something.

    And I think the politician v. comedian thing fits in with that. Politicians make our laws and represent the voice of the people, as you said. So when they make racist comments, as Shannon Angle does in that video, it really terrifies me, because how on earth is she supposed to represent a state with a 20% Latino population when she has such skewed perceptions about the people? How would she help to enact legislation that would not be biased against Latinos when she herself is making ignorant comments like this? Politicians know all of their words are being scrutinized and dissected, so when they are the ones making racist comments, I think it worries people even more because it indicates that politicians feel that their racist comments are somehow acceptable and will stand up in face of heavy scrutiny.

    But with comedians, the intent behind the words is so different. When a politician makes a racist comment, it perpetuates and intensifies racism because the comment is said in what's supposed to be a neutral space. But when a comedian makes racist comments, it can be used as a tool with which to call light to racism and discrimination, and a tool to make people realize what kinds of stereotypes are present in society. In the Stephen Colbert video, he says a lot of things that have basically already been said by a lot of racist politicians about America being for Americans, not for illegal aliens, etc., but it's so clear it's meant as satire and to call attention to the actual racism presented by people like Angle, that it becomes funny and acceptable for him to say it.

    So yeah, I think the spaces in which these comments are made are so different, which is very often reflected in the different ways people react to these kinds of statements.