my race is not a joke.

Last Sunday, I watched the Oscars, fully expecting Chris Rock to completely slaughter the Academy for its lack of non-white acting nominees and criticize Hollywood as a whole for its low-key but pervasive racism. (His joke comparing Hollywood to sororities was hilarious. “We like you, Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.”)

At first, I thought he was doing a solid job. Then he brought three Asian kids onstage and my heart sank.

If you didn’t get to see the Academy Awards last week, Rock brought out these three Asian kids and introduced them as the accountants who had tabulated all the votes for the ceremony. (You can see the video embedded here). Oh, yet another “Asians are good at math” joke! Wow, soriginal.

Then, to make it even worse, he finished with this: “If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids.”

Seriously? Where do I even begin?

On a night where diversity was such a huge issue, this joke was cheap, lazy, and out-of-place. I shouldn’t have to explain why jokes based on stereotypes aren’t funny. How hypocritical of Chris Rock to spend the entire night criticizing Hollywood racism and then turn around and make a racist joke. Not only did he play off of a tired stereotype, but he also extended it further into a joke about child labor. What the hell?

I’m not saying Rock was a terrible host. He brought attention to a lot of things we should absolutely be talking about. But this was just in poor taste, especially during a time when Asians are so rarely represented onscreen. Hollywood has barely gotten around to casting black and Latinx actors in prominent roles, and Asians have an even longer way to go (which I touched on in a post I made last year).

And it’s so painfully ironic that this was the Oscars moment that had the highest number of Asians onstage. Three Asians onstage — not to accept an award, but to be the butt of a joke. To make matters worse, neither the children nor their parents knew the specifics of the joke until after they had signed their contracts.

People online weren’t happy with it, either.

 

Although initially I was just a little peeved at the joke, it wasn’t until the day after that I started getting angry. That’s when the articles and thinkpieces started rolling in, and with those, some frustratingly ignorant comments.

Here’s a sample of a few I found on Facebook:

 

“This is exactly why Chris Rock refuses to do stand-up at college campuses anymore. Everyone is so goddamned sensitive. It’s a f–king joke people. Get over yourselves.”

“Oh cry me a river. White people can make jokes about black, Spanish and Asians but the minute a black person makes a joke the sensitivity starts. Shut up. Chris Rock was a great host and kept it real with everything he said.”

“Seriously people, take a joke. It’s only racist if you take it that way. Which says more about you, than the person that told the joke!”

“Grab a tissue … Why is everyone so damn sensitive? Blow your nose wipe away those tears … And get over it”

 

AHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA OKAY. DEEP BREATHS, ALEXA. DON’T EXPLODE.

(All of those comments are from a single Facebook thread, by the way. It took so much of my willpower to not engage with / virtually yell at any of these people.)

The amount of sheer IGNORANCE here. My goodness.

Where to start? Guess I’ll break it down.


 

“This is exactly why Chris Rock refuses to do stand-up at college campuses anymore. Everyone is so goddamned sensitive. It’s a f–king joke people. Get over yourselves.”

Grab a tissue … Why is everyone so damn sensitive? Blow your nose wipe away those tears … And get over it”

 

First of all: you have NO RIGHT to dictate how someone feels! You have NO RIGHT to dictate what is or isn’t offensive, and this is ESPECIALLY true if you’re a white person talking to a person of color. This is not meant to be a diss towards white people, but the fact of the matter is: it’s harder for you to understand racial dynamics the way people of color do. You’ve never been held back due to your race or skin color (and if you feel like you have, look up the difference between prejudice and institutionalized racism).

Good news: there’s a solution to lack of understanding — education! Read up on how harmful stereotypes can be (even the ones that seem positive on the surface) BEFORE you make a boneheaded comment telling me how should feel about a joke that was made about me. Actually, better yet, keep your pointless comments to yourself.

Second of all: I’m so tired of this “everyone is so sensitive” spiel. “Society is so PC nowadays, I miss the old days when I could say whatever offensive thing I wanted, blah, blah, blah.” Okay, but is a more politically correct society a bad thing? Is it a bad thing that people are becoming more aware of the struggles others have faced and are making an effort to be more understanding and inclusive? Maybe it seems over-the-top sometimes. But I’d rather have it this way than the alternative.

And the way “sensitive” is used in this context has such a negative connotation. (Which is unfortunate for a number of reasons, but I’ll cover that some other day.) Are you calling me a crybaby? WE’LL SEE WHO’S CRYING WHEN I’M DONE WITH YOU!!!!! (Sorry, that was my rage-filled, violent alter-ego speaking.) But for real, maybe “aware” is a better word to describe today’s society. People are more aware of the consequences of their words/actions. Again: is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.

On a somewhat related note, also check out this video of comedian Paul F. Tompkins explaining how political correctness doesn’t censor comedy; it keeps it fresh:

 


“Oh cry me a river. White people can make jokes about black, Spanish and Asians but the minute a black person makes a joke the sensitivity starts. Shut up. Chris Rock was a great host and kept it real with everything he said.”

 

Who the hell said it was okay for a white person to make a racist joke? Not sure where this person is getting this logic from. It’s not okay for ANYONE to do this.

Also, don’t tell us to shut up.


 

“Seriously people, take a joke. It’s only racist if you take it that way. Which says more about you, than the person that told the joke!”

 

That’s… not how racism works…


 

Oh my goodness, I feel like the simple act of writing this post has made my blood pressure go up. But I felt like I had to let this out.

I was just thinking the other day about how, growing up, I got used to not seeing anyone who looked like me onscreen. I thought being invisible and not talked about was normal. Sure, there were a few times when someone who looked like me did show up. How exciting, right? But oh wait, they’re only there to be the butt of the joke. Nothing more.

After instances like this, I started to think: Is that all I am? A punchline? Is that all I’m expected to be?

I’ve talked about this before, but now that I’m older I realize that I was so eager to break out of this stereotype that it significantly changed the way I acted in school and around my classmates as I was growing up. I didn’t feel like I could be myself. I didn’t even know who I really was. I wonder if I would be different today if I hadn’t been so set on proving I didn’t fit into the typical Asian stereotype. I’m pretty sure a lot of that behavior is still ingrained in me. I’m a little better at recognizing it now, but I’m not always able to.

Do you see what I’m getting at? How discouraging stuff like this could be for a kid today? I don’t want another kid to feel this way. There are other people who are way better at articulating this, but TL;DR — Cheap jokes like these suck and I’m tired of pretending to shrug them off like they’re perfectly fine. Not only do these “jokes” play on harmful stereotypes, but they also discredit and erase the experiences of Asians who don’t fit the “model minority” myth and are just trying to put food on the table.

A few notes I want to make before signing off and eating some ice cream to calm myself down:


 

That’s all for now.

Until next time,

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