I may or may not have mentioned it before, but I’m a fan of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (or these days, The Daily Show with John Oliver, seeing as Jon Stewart is in the Middle East directing a drama). The show makes digesting politics a bit easier for me, the way they lampoon everything that’s happening in our broken political system. No subject is safe or free from exploration, and that can sometimes lead to some very interesting epiphanies on our society in general.

Last night I had one of those epiphanies. The show’s two women correspondents (and considering that every correspondent has at least a dozen different correspondent titles, from tax reform to royal family to fishing and wildlife to weird news, they really are the women correspondents for the show), Samantha Bee and Jessica Williams, did a segment on how people are afraid to talk about race and racism in this country, and how far we are from eliminating it. If I am successful, the video should appear below. If not, I apologize and I advise you to follow this link.

Although very funny, this video shows some incredibly thought-provoking things. For one thing, those who don’t experience racism on a day-to-day racism in New York–those with white privilege, in other words–feel that because of President Obama and other factors, racism is on its way to being eliminated. However those who experience racism on a daily basis–the members of the black panel–have a much more cynical view. And why shouldn’t they? They face discrimination, profiling, problems getting good jobs, and utter cluelessness on the parts of certain members of the white panel. I mean talking about race exacerbates the problem? Black people should be interested in your fashion-related job?

First off, does talking about the things in your life that can cause you depression exacerbate the problem? Therapists don’t believe so, and they’d advise you to discuss it rather than not talk about it. And as for black people not being interested in your job despite the job being fashion, does it seem a little stereotypical that you think that they should be? I mean, there’s more to white people than the clothes they wear, so why can’t it be the same for minorities.

And like the one panelist said, this affects more than just black people. Hispanics face the stop-and-frisk policy too, and crooked police will use this policy to intimidate, hurt, and deport Hispanics unfairly and on bulls**t charges. Muslims, particularly Arab Muslims, face a constant PR campaign to let the world know that only a tiny minority of Muslims actually have radical leanings, let alone terrorist ties or inclinations. And in many areas of the country, the LGBT community has to struggle not just for marriage rights, but for the right to housing, jobs, insurance, security, and other rights that their straight neighbors taking for granted.

And finally, to the fashionista in the white panel, even if an issue doesn’t affect you, you should still take part in it! Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. I’m pretty sure that the genocide in Eastern Europe during the 1940s didn’t affect mainstream Americans, but still it became a part of the war effort to stop Germany. And for a more modern example, though the tsunami in Indonesia, the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, and the ongoing genocide in Darfur (yes, it’s still happening, and rapes over in that area have skyrocketed with it), we still intervene, even though it doesn’t directly affect us. Why? Because we have a moral imperative to do so.

So even if you’re not directly affected by the plight of minorities because of your race, your religion, your nationality, your ethnicity, your gender, your sexual orientation, or any other factor, you should still try to help. Otherwise, when you’re affected by an issue and nobody’s speaking up for you, you’ll feel pretty ashamed that you didn’t do a single thing to help others out in their time of need.

So let’s start that discussion about race. Here’s a start: racism is still a long way from being eliminated in the United States, no matter what race you belong to or where you’re from. What is something you can do in your community to fight against racism and foster equality?

  1. Here here! I too love that show. It made the Bush years go down easier…

    • I bet. So how do you think we can eliminate racism in the United States?

      • Oi! Assuming it can be done… How about a program of willing racial deconstruction? Translation: everybody’s gotta keep having sex until everyone comes out the same color!

        I actually borrowed that from Bullworth. In truth, I’d say time and a focus on actually opening up the dialogue would be good. The idea that racism is over and must be purged – the subject of it, not the actual problem – is the new racism in my eyes.

      • I think what could help start that dialogue would be by changing perceptions of minorities in the media. For example, when a minority actor in America is brought on to bring “diversity”, they’re usually playing a stereotype with their character. British television doesn’t seem to have this problem as far as I can tell, and their characters are very diverse without being stereotypical. Perhaps if we change the negative stereotypes in the media and show some other kinds of characters while still being diverse, it’ll change the way people view minorities.

      • That puts me in mind of Michael Bay’s movies. I remember seeing the last Transformers, seeing yet another token black guy making silly sassy-talk, and thinking, “he’s three for three!” Compare that to Luther, a British crime drama where the lead actor is Idris Elba. His ethnicity isn’t an issue there he never plays into stereotypes. Such is to be expected when the lowest common denominator is the rule of entertainment.

      • Yeah, the Michael Bay movies do play into a lot of stereotypes, whereas Luther doesn’t.
        Another way to solve racism is to educate cops not only on other cultures, but to develop techniques to weed out those who may have racist tendencies. Some psychological tests may help with that, if you ask me. And I don’t see any reason not to use them: when we can’t depend on our own law enforcement, then we have some major problems.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s