Tag Archives: racism

#KeepColbert Because A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Reality Go Down

As you may have heard, comedian Stephen Colbert has come under fire in the past week after making what was perceived as a racist remark towards the Asian community. But what was the nature of the comment? Let us investigate.

It appears that this is all based on a tweet released by the official twitter account of the television show, “The Colbert Report.” The tweets, as we learned, were  not written by Colbert himself. The tweet was made in response to the Washington Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder’s Original Americans Foundation established to support Native Americans. This situation is rife with absurdity in regards to names; the name of the MLB foundation intensifies the political incorrectness of the team name, both of which are less-than-respectful ways to name Native Americans.

Comedy Central, the real administrators of the Twitter account, wanted to call attention to this, and used Colbert’s character “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong” as a base for their fictional and comical “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever”. The tweet itself — “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever” — is evidently a mockery of Snyder’s unfortunate naming, but the question remains: is it at all ok that Asian Americans still bear the brunt of humor?

Yes, it is true that Asian Americans bore the expense of this jab, but that is what the satirical tweet aimed to highlight: even when you are trying to “help” and support someone, they somehow seem to suffer thanks to racist undertones. That is how deeply rooted the issue is; by reaching out to support people, the supporters are inherently claiming superiority over those they are attempting to help. For if they were truly trying to establish equality, this hierarchical dynamic would not exist.

The thing is, these jokes remind people like me, who do not really experience overt racism or even an unwelcomed awareness of my race, that there are mindsets of ignorance, hatred, and simple stupidity. But I wonder if this became a conversation, or if the #CancelColbert movement was more about silencing people than letting them marinate in and discuss ideas.

For people who consistently experience racism and ignorance, this joke is a frustration or even a nightmare, projected onto the world’s big screen for all to join in on. It is also a chance to call out the greater problem publicly, to try to catch racism and ignorance by the horns and halt them before they fester any more than they already have.

But silencing comedians will not make the problem go away, because comedians are not the source of hatred. I truly believe that they bring the less palatable truths of society to light, and even if we ask them not to do so, the ideas will still exist. We should not be cancelling Colbert — we should be questioning the ideas he sheds light on. Sure, there are other, less entertaining ways to discuss these issues, but if we cancel comedy, we will effectively cancel many important conversations surrounding race and its reality. We need the spoonful of sugar to make the oftentimes sour medicine of reality go down, for these issues are anything but savory.


Staff Editorial: How Do We Know Our Halloween Costume Has Gone Too Far?

 One word: Blackface.

Let there be no doubt that we at the Foghorn believe in the spirit of Halloween. Yet recently, the media has covered many, including celebrities’, Halloween costumes that have pushed many tacit societal boundaries and we feel the need to put our foot down.

In the 1830s, blackface minstrelsy was a form of popular entertainment in the United States. It was suggested that performers donning blackface — literally painting their faces charcoal black — was a way to allow audiences work out cultural anxieties and race prejudices. These performers would then begin to entertain their fans in “black bodies” while being crude, acting promiscuous and using extremely racist slurs. There is also the fact that blackface tends to perpetuate physical stereotypes portrayed by 1800s cartoons made to isolate black Americans as the “other,” as well as ridicule them.

Once you try make their color a focal point of the costume, you take away from the person you are trying to embody.

In light of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, many college students this past weekend have circulated pictures of them on social media donning Trayvon Martin “costumes”, sometimes coupled with a friend dressed as George Zimmerman. Those acting as Trayvon Martin painted their face black, wore a large grey sweatshirt and held bags of Skittles and Arizona cans; while having their friends pointed plastic guns at their head wearing neighborhood watch shirts.

Beyond this being just, as many call it, “college students having fun”, actress Julianne Hough dressed as “Orange Is The New Black” character, “Crazy Eyes”, also painting her face black. She has since then apologized on Twitter due to public backlash at pictures of her that surfaced the internet, citing that “it certainly was never [her] intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way” and that she “realized [her] costume hurt and offended people…”

We would love to say that the aforementioned incidents of blackface that caused so much controversy this past weekend are isolated incidents made by a handful of people who obviously do not understand the racial implications of what they did, but college students every year are making this woefully ignorant mistake. And it seems that many do not understand that this just adds insult to injury in today’s society — a society that some people would like to label as a “post-racial America.” Yet it is obvious that race is still in the forefront of our country’s issues. The question is, is this because many are not versed in the history of blackface or is it because people really do not care about how racially insensitive they are?

The fact is you can tribute a favorite character or icon without having to bring their race into the matter. Once you try make their color a focal point of the costume, you take away from the person you are trying to embody. There is no need for “whiteface,” “redface,” “yellowface,” or “blackface” to make it clear that you are dressed as Michael Jackson or Nicki Minaj. And beyond that, we should not have to spell out the fact that dressing up as a seventeen year-old boy who lost his life to racial profiling and ignorance is sick and abhorrent.


Subtle Racism Evident in New Smartphone App

Ashley is a junior international studies major.

Ashley is a junior international studies major.

Innovation and progress are the quintessential aspects of startup companies. Ideally, they will continue to provide solutions to the dynamic challenges faced by various societies.

Recently, a startup has emerged claiming to have the solution to a problem that resonates with me personally: safety. Wouldn’t you like to be able to know the safe areas of town when you’re traveling (or even just walking alone)? This business promises to keep you safer by giving you access to insight on “which parts of town are safe, and which parts are ghetto or unsafe.”  Unfortunately, not all startups share progressive virtues.

GhettoTracker, which has since changed its name to “Good Part of Town” due to immense scrutiny, uses crowdsourced information to identify “ghetto” parts of town. If you had any doubts about the good intentions of this service, their website is fully equipped with the obligatory photo of a white suburban family smiling in their yard. Presumably, those individuals would not want to be inconvenienced by the crime and violence that is inextricably linked to lower income or ethnic neighborhoods. Sounds harmless, right?

Services geared towards providing travel and safety advice based solely on crowdsourced information, aside from being wildly inaccurate, are perpetuating racial stereotypes. After widespread backlash from the online community, the startup seems to have removed its webpage altogether. However, clips are still available in all their glory, thanks to a series of Tumblr accounts dedicated to “Public Shaming.”

Startups like GhettoTracker (or “Good Part of Town”) are the antithesis of innovation. I find the fact that this was a serious business endeavor (and not a joke) to be truly disturbing. Their service –essentially categorizing large areas and populations of people based on preconceived notions of “local and expert” – is bound to produce skewed and racially charged results.

GhettoTracker’s attempt at packaging a way for privileged people to avoid minorities and less fortunate members of society is tasteless, but it also could have serious implications for public perception and policy. With all the progress and positive change that has arisen out of the social movements in San Francisco alone, how can the startup culture be so hospitable towards a company that so blatantly promotes and intends to profit from racist stereotypes?

Setting Educational Goals By Race, Ethnicity is a Major Slide Backwards

In the name of academic improvement, lower expectations for minorities are institutitonalized.

Well-meaning bigotry is still bigotry.

Let’s backtrack.

Florida and Virginia are two of more than 30 states who were granted waivers to the federal No Child Left Behind program. As it stood, No Child Left Behind — President George W. Bush’s signature education legislation — relied too heavily on standardized test scores to measure school and teacher performance, focused too much on penalizing low-performing schools, forced an emphasis on math and science at the direct expense of other subjects and school programs, and drew an unrealistic plan for 100% student proficiency in math and science for all students by 2014, a goal we are nowhere near.

When President Obama failed to pass his own education bill to replace Bush’s, he began giving the states the option to opt out of the law. Released from the NCLB’s most restrictive and controversial portions, Virginia and Florida reset their goals, promising to narrow the achievement gap while setting a more realistic timeframe toward the ultimate goal of 100% proficiency for all students.

Commendable as these goals are, these two states have chosen a wrong path to meet these aims by differentiating the expectations for students by race and ethnicity. Florida, for example, outlined that by 2018, halfway into the scheme for universal subject proficiency, 74% of black students should be reading at grade level, while the goal for Hispanics is 81%. Meanwhile, 88% of whites and 90% of Asians are expected to reach grade-level reading ability.

Virginia is proposing a more egregious policy than Florida’s. This state wants to establish different passing rates for subject proficiency tests along the same lines. 82 % will pass an Asian student in a Virginia mathematics proficiency exam while Latinos will need to score 52%. Whites can pass at 68%, blacks will need 45%, and students with disabilities will require a score of 33%.

Just reading the descriptions of these proposals should be immediately troubling. The breakdown of classroom expectations by race, even if well-meaning and “realistic,” is both counterproductive and flies in the face of every effort and appeal for equal opportunity and achievement. Universal proficiency can be achieved by intensively addressing the needs of a diverse student population rather than surrendering to the poisonous idea that some students are destined to do better.

These policies may come out of a sincere desire in pushing for educational progress, but they also promote a soft bigotry by enshrining lowered expectations for minority and disabled students. It is one thing to admit that that certain groups of students achieve unequally, but it is quite another to perpetuate that condition by throwing in the towel and saying one race of students will progress slower than another in a classroom setting.

Professor Points Out Inequality, Racism in Porn

The porn industry produces 13,000 films a year, generating $10 to 15 billion in revenue. In comparison, the Hollywood film industry produces about 600 films a year and generates around nine to 10 billion dollars. These surprising figures on the presence of porn in our society were presented in Robert Jensen’s discussion last week, “Pornography and the Perfect Storm of Inequality: Sexism, Racism and Economic Exploitation.”

Jensen, a self-proclaimed feminist and associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas, discussed heterosexual pornographic films and the reasons why he finds the acceptance of this industry concerning and detrimental to a moral society. “The inequality of patriarchy, the inequality of white supremacy, the inequality of capitalism and the naturalizing of this inequality, tells us about the nature of the world we live in,” said Jensen.

Specifically, Jensen spoke on how pornographic films are openly racist, capitalizing on the blatant stereotypical views of all ethnic groups. He also spoke on the disturbing theme of male domination rooted in female subordination. Jensen concluded that men, who account for 70 to 90 percent of the customer base, need to restructure their view of masculinity.

Sophomore psychology major Megan Pohlman found the charismatic Jensen helpful in expanding her knowledge on the injustices found in pornography. “It was extraordinarily enlightening,” said Pohlman. “It made me think of some many different aspects of sexuality, pop culture, and politics of gender… it was fantastic.”

Those who did not have high praise for Jensen were sex workers Karly Kirchner and Patria West (non-students). Kirchner, who prefaced her comment by telling the audience that she is a prostitute and had had sex with a client for money the prior night, found Jensen to be unfair in his characterization of women as merely helpless victims of the industry. “I do think this discussion was misleading, but it’s important that these issues are being addressed,” said Kirchner.

Jensen says he has seen and heard it all. In his 20 years of taking a critical eye to the porn industry, he co-founded an advocacy group called Stop Porn Culture and has written several books, including the newly published “Getting Off.” He finds that his work makes a personal case to men, and the need for them to look at the real messages of pornography. “Feminism is a gift to men,” said Jensen who hopes society will begin to reject porn on moral principle.

The discussion was sponsored by the Department of Media Studies and the Gender and Sexualities Studies minor.