I might lose some supporters with this post. But I’m not going to hide who I am. I’m a geologist. Which means deep down inside I’m a hippie. Yes, a black hippie. #ITooAmHippie
Brief recap for those of you who missed it…Monday night on the Colbert Report Stephen did a skit that was meant to shame the cultural insensitivity of the Redskins and instead…well he…*sigh*….I’ll let you decide for yourself…The controversial clip starts at 4:45… What’s interesting is no one said anything about this clip until Tuesday night when this was tweeted…
*double sigh* And then twitter exploded into racial warfare. Leading the war is Suey Park (@suey_park). It started off as this…
Then this…And then quickly went into this…My body is tense with all the cringing. From the offensive skit to the hateful tweets…*cringe*….*cringe*….*gasp!*….*cringe*…I’m flabbergasted and sad. Although I don’t agree with every word or action of Stephen Colbert or Suey Park, I think they both want the same thing: progress and to make the world a better place. Yet, here are two champions of change (in my opinion) and they’re enemies! After hours of reading tweets going back and forth, these are the points I want to make:
1) It is mine/your/our responsibility to share our opinion and perspective with others. To educate people who aren’t like us about our experience. If no one has walked in your shoes, they can’t begin to predict how something might affect you. I also feel it is the responsibility of The Public or The Masses to make things happen. I believe in grassroots movements, I personally think that’s how most things get done. If you think something is wrong, say it! Let ’em know! Don’t. Stay. Silent. Silence doesn’t help anyone and it doesn’t move us forward as a society. I think Suey had every right to speak out about the skit. And everyone else had the right to share their perspective as well. It’s Life, everyone gets to play.
2) No one has the right to tell another person how to feel or to shame them for their feelings. When Suey started her #CancelColbert campaign the twitter-verse was full of “toughen up” “whiny liberals” “cry babies” etc etc. But because I have COMPASSION, I can see where Suey is coming from. Not sure where she’s coming from? Read The BARR response: A scientific explanation to dispel the myth of the angry black person. As I read Suey’s tweets all I could think of was: What has this woman experienced to bring her to the level of anger that she’s at now? And I’m grateful that whatever she’s been through, I haven’t seen as much of it as she clearly has.
Now, please don’t confuse compassion with pity. Compassion is constructive, pity is destructive. By pitying Suey you ignore her power and treat her as if she is not an equal. And you also clear her of responsibility. People who are worth pitying have no power, and when you have no power, you’re not accountable. With almost 20K followers who were able to make #CancelColbert the #1 trend of the night, I think it’s obvious Suey has power and she is a participant who is capable of being held accountable for the outcomes of her actions.
3) We have to stop this punishment culture, it’s oppressive. Stephen Colbert was trying to make a point about racial insensitivity and took it so far it became insensitive and offensive itself. In my mind, there’s no question about it (but you’re welcome to have your own opinion, I’m ok if we don’t agree). If someone does something wrong, what should happen to them? Really ask yourself that question and be honest with yourself about your answer. See, I come from a West Indian family. In my parent’s house we were taught if you do something wrong you deserve to be punished. And I accepted that as truth all the way until I became a teacher.
When I first started teaching earth science to 9th graders (who were predominantly minority), I ran a “tight ship” with strict rules and discipline. Break the rules? Swift punishment! And I got results that way. My class was always orderly, kids were quiet, my standardized test scores were high. It seemed perfect…Until I remembered why I became a teacher in the first place. Damn pesky goals! I remembered I became a teacher because I wanted to empower youth to be effective leaders, especially minority youth. But when I looked at my classroom, I didn’t see a room full of leaders, I saw a room full of followers. And I had made them that way! See, to create leaders you have to provide a space where people feel safe to take risks and make mistakes. Where people can create their own boundaries, opinions, and norms instead of just following yours. If I was going to create leaders, I would have to give them space to make mistakes…many many mistakes! If I punished them every time they did something wrong, they would never move past where they are into where they could actually go. Now that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give feedback, but that is worlds apart from punishment. (Full transparency: this was something I realized, implemented, and then spent years struggling to maintain. It’s difficult to break 30+ years of ingrained beliefs and behaviors. It takes work to remember my real goals.)
Now I know Stephen Colbert is not a 9th grader, but Suey isn’t his teacher either. As citizens of this world we must respect each others HUMANITY. I understand that Stephen didn’t treat Asians (and truthfully all minorities are affected by stereotypical caricatures like that) with the level of humanity they deserve. But is the right answer stripping Stephen, and other white people, of their humanity? Grandma was right on this one: Two wrongs don’t make a right. Let’s use constructive language with each other, not punitive.
4) Feelings are not actions. The best and worst part of being an adult? Not being able to act on your every whim i.e. WISDOM. I feel Suey’s feelings of anger, outrage, frustration, hurt etc are justified. The skit was offensive. Stephen has done other skits that are offensive, but up until last night Suey “used to respect and enjoy [his] work.” The level of anger she’s feeling isn’t accurately reflecting her anger at the skit, it’s reflecting an entire lifetime of oppression and pain. Is it fair to direct an entire lifetime of pain on someone who only contributed 3 minutes of it? Remember the BARR Response. When you’re in the midst of an allergic response, what should you do? Step 1: Remove yourself from the allergen to diffuse the response Step 2: Take an anti-allergen Step 3: Once the allergic response has been managed, investigate and educate. Suey should’ve unplugged from twitter, taken a brisk walk, and then responded. Who knows, maybe she would’ve created the #BooChingChong campaign instead of #CancelColbert. That’s a message I could’ve stood behind. One that isn’t punishing Colbert for the the crimes of everyone else who has come into her life. As adults we are called to carry ourselves with a modicum of wisdom, we’re 30 not 3. As an adult if I acted on every feeling I had, my boss would have no teeth in her mouth and I’d probably be in jail! Suey is a smart woman, now she just needs to become wise.
5) My final point: Don’t lose focus of your real goal. I mentioned this is point 3, but it’s worth repeating. What was Stephen’s real goal with that skit? What was Suey’s real goal with #CancelColbert? I bet Stephen’s goal wasn’t to hurt people, nor was Suey’s response just about a stupid skit on a tv show! That would be petty. So when you’re faced with a racial trigger, ask yourself: What would a perfect world without racism look like? And then act that way. Just like when I was teaching. Do you know how many times I got called a bitch?!? Ha! I can’t even count. Do you know how many times I suspended a student for calling me a bitch? Zero. None. Not once in 6 years of teaching. Punishment doesn’t lead to a solution. Having kids miss days of class doesn’t lead to a solution. It’s easy to let the anger take control. But as Dumbledore said “…we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”
As you’ve been reading you might have noticed there were three words that were capitalized. Those words were:
This is how I’d like for us to interact with each other. Including our interactions with Suey. I am sickened at some of the things people have said to her on twitter. People called her all sorts of racial slurs, even threatened to rape and kill her! Just like Stephen’s crime doesn’t warrant being canceled, Suey’s crime doesn’t warrant that level of abuse. She is a human being! And so is Stephen.
COMPASSION HUMANITY WISDOM
If you’re ever uncertain about what the right thing is, just think: What Would Bob Do? *letting my hippie flag fly*