Thursday, April 7, 2011

Once Again Comedy Justifies Racism


I am late to the following story, but it really demands as much attention as we can give it. On March 22, The Dave Ryan Show in Minneapolis decided that it would be fun to use the Eric Clapton song Tears in Heaven to racially attack the Hmong community.  I suspect, that this attack was triggered by White fear due in large part to changing racial demographics.

According to the 2000 census, Saint Paul’s total population grew by a modest 5.5% from 272,235 to 287,151 people.

Between 1990 and 2000, the population statistics for Saint Paul showed decreases, increases, and status quo population data:
  • The Caucasian population decreased from 81% to 64%.
  • The Asian population, primary comprised of Hmong and Vietnamese, increased from 7% to 12%.
  • Saint Paul’s Hmong population is one of the largest contingents of urban Hmong in the United States.
  • The African-American population grew from 7% to 11%.
  • The Latino population, the fastest growing population in the United States, grew from 4% to 8% in Saint Paul.
  • The Native American population remained constant at 1%.
  • Multiracial population data, for the first time in United States history, was gathered through the census and 3% of Saint Paul’s population declared themselves as multiracial. 
When Whiteness feels threatened, it attacks in a very hostile manner, but because we supposedly live in a post racial world, attacks have to be constructed in a manner that supposedly allows plausible deniability.  This is why comedy is quite often chosen as a vehicle to other. The following is the less than charming little ditty that The Dave Ryan Show thought was funny.  



Transcript
No room for a couch
'Cause we sleep on the floor
One big group of Vangs Hmong family of twenty-four
Kids work in St. Paul
Hang out at the mall
'Cause I know they dwell so well
Thirty Hmongs in a house
Hmongs get pregnant early
First baby at 16
Seven kids by 23
Over the hill by 30
Like sardines they live
Packed in a two-room house with the kids
But you know they age quite well
They be Hmongs.
The Asian American Journalists Association sent a letter to KDWB-FM 101.3 the station on which this hideous song aired to stating that the "remarks [were] offensive and in poor taste."  Instead of acknowledging the absolute racial insensitivity of the supposed parody that station responded with:
KDWB-FM and the Dave Ryan in the Morning Show are very proud that members of the Hmong community are some of our most loyal listeners and fans. 

Our listeners understand that The Dave Ryan in the Morning show is a comedy show meant to entertain, and that much of its content is parody. While we’ve received positive feedback from many Hmong listeners who let us know that they found the song in question very humorous, we apologize to anyone we may have inadvertently offended, as this was never our intent.
We appreciate the support we continue to receive from all our listeners.
And there you have it folks, it was just a joke.  Please ignore the many who were offended by the song because out intent was just to have a little fun and if you are offended by the racial stereotypes employed then you my friend are just too sensitive.  Once again, we can see that the post racial world does not mean that racism has ceased to exist, it simply means that rather than owning the label of racist, Whiteness will deny what its actions truly mean.  These same people probably would not have the guts to use a racial slur but when they can rap their hatred up in comedy, they believe it gives them a free pass.

I was particularly drawn to this story because Asians are viewed as the good minority.  Many fail to acknowledge the fact that they are still subject to racism because there is a false belief in assimilation.  Many would argue that they are on the cusp of achieving Whiteness.  The fact that they are underrepresented in the media, assumed not to speak English despite their place of birth or level of education and that both Asian men and women are constructed to exist with gender specific stereotypes that have been normalized, is ignored.  They are the good POC that Whiteness trots out to shame other minorities for failing to succeed, while it aims as many reductive stereotypes and racist assaults at them as they can.  So much for Whiteness happily embracing and loving Asians.