TIME Culture

Anti-Racism Activists on Colbert: We Will Protest This Until It Ends

Scott Gries—Picturegroup/Comedy Central

The marginalization of other voices is now complete.

The cross-promotion of more white male celebrities prove it: The entertainment industry has perfected the development of white, cis, straight, male characters. The marginalization of “other voices” — except when those “others” are brought in only to aid in the cheap punch line of a joke — is complete. This is aggression that we do not have to accept. We will protest this until it ends.

Many dismissed the protest we undertook last month with #CancelColbert, a hashtag we set up in response to a blatantly racist Tweet about Asians from the Colbert show’s account.

We think people are surprised to see that their monolithic view of Asian Americans as a model minority is being challenged. We are not the problem. Your stereotypes and narrow roles for us are the problem.

Some Asian Americans were quick to protect the myth of our being a model minority. They disowned us and said we do not speak for them. We agree. Asian Americans are not a monolithic group, and we do not speak for anyone but ourselves.

Others wanted to silence us immediately. Young Asian American women, with little institutional power, are not supposed to be this loud. Our voices are not expected to be raised — and when they’re raised, they’ve not meant to travel.

Our age and appearance have led to us being infantilized — and therefore our political ideals have been treated as incoherent and immature. We are accused of being ungrateful sidekicks of honorary whiteness. It is baffling that we would reject this role to instead critique white supremacy.

We are supposed to express appreciation for our honorary whiteness by remaining silent and accepting breadcrumbs in return. But accepting the role of model minority only reaffirms the logic of racism. We reject our honorary whiteness.

As women of color, we are rarely heard unless we bend to the conduct codes of whiteness — a way of speaking and operating that massages power. If we reject these politics of respectability, we are easily dismissed and slotted into the crazy/angry Asian archetype.

Our role in mainstream media is the perpetual race commentator — unable to exist in a way that isn’t reactionary and defensive to whiteness. We were only heard when we responded to a beloved white man.

People seem to think that what we’re calling for is fake and overly positive representation of our own minority and others — which would amount to a humorless landscape. That is not what we want.

The irony is that we want complexity, we want nuance, we want critical representations of race, gender, class, sexuality, disability, and more. But we reject the idea of representation being our end goal. We will not mute who we are in order to be accepted into the mainstream. If our liberation is dependent on getting our oppressors to humanize us, then we have already lost.

The main thing we’ve learned from #CancelColbert, and the outcome we now see as Colbert is elevated once again, is that the belittling the voices, activism, and writing of women of color is a profitable venture.

There is so much to gain by correcting us, dismissing us, rewriting our narratives. Duly noted, white, neoliberal heteropatriarchy — we will be sure to march forward with new tactics and strategies. We are not accidental or frivolous; we are intentional and unrelenting. We do not depend on a beloved white man to begin, end, or continue our protest.

This is a distinction between liberalism and radicalism — between reform and the dismantling of structures.

We will never apologize. Apologize for settler colonialism. Apologize for anti-blackness. Apologize for orientalism.

Suey Park (@suey_park) is a writer and activist currently living in Chicago. Eunsong Kim (@clepsydras) is a writer, researcher and educator mostly residing in San Diego.

TIME Drugs

The ‘Love Hormone’ Can Make You Hate: Study

Ecstasy pills.
Ecstasy pills. DEA/Reuters

A study from the Netherlands suggests that oxytocin might only make you love people in your in-group, and can contribute to conflict with outsiders

Corrected: April 5.

The oxytocin hormone is often described as the “love hormone” or “cuddling chemical,” but there might be a darker side to it. Not only does it make you feel all loved-up and happy, but also contribute to intolerance and violence, a 2011 study suggests.

In the study, professor of psychology at the University of Amsterdam Carsten de Dreu found that the loved-up feeling you get when flooded with oxytocin — which is also released by the popular party drug Molly, also known as Ecstasy or MDMA — only extends to your “in-group.”

Oxytocin, he wrote, “motivates in-group favoritism” and “derogation” of outsiders. According to the study, oxytocin had “a role in the emergence of intergroup conflict and violence.”

According to a Vice report published this week, the study’s participants — all Dutch males — were told that they had to choose five persons out of six that would gain access to a life-saving lifeboat.

The men on oxytocin were more likely to deny men with Muslim or German-sounding names access and save the men with Dutch names, while the men who were given a placebo didn’t pay attention to the origin of the names.

Correction: The original story has been updated to reflect that the study examined the effects oxytocin on behavior, not MDMA, and was published in 2011.

TIME Television

#Cancel Your Outrage: Stephen Colbert Is Not a Racist

The #CancelColbert campaign shows that social-media life has become a race to be the most offended first.

Yesterday, the Comedy Central Twitter account for The Colbert Report posted a very dumb tweet from a very smart satire.

On Wednesday’s Report, Stephen Colbert’s idiot-pundit character gave a “defense” of Dan Snyder, the Washington Redskins owner who has bitterly clung to the team’s racist nickname. Citing Snyder’s hamhanded attempts at p.r. spin–trying to buy goodwill for the name with a “foundation” and some token donations to Native Americans–Colbert referenced his own show’s racist “mascot,” a Chinese caricature named Ching-Chong Ding-Dong, who the show introduced in 2005 in a meta-skit about the fictional Colbert trying to excuse his own racism. Mimicking Snyder, Colbert offered to make amends “by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” (You can watch the whole thing online.)

Thursday, the Comedy Central account–run by the channel, not Colbert or the show’s staff–sent a tweet consisting essentially of just that line. As a punchline to an extended, constructed bit, it was a searing sendup of Snyder’s creating “the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation” (because, Colbert said, “Redskins is not offensive if you only use it once in your name”). As an individual tweet, it just looked like a non sequitur racist slur from a famous person to about a million followers.

There are a couple ways to react to this kind of situation:

(1) Man, that tweet was really… bad. Stephen Colbert always seemed decent. Is he really an insensitive, raging racist? Is there some kind of explanation for this? Could someone have made a well-intentioned mistake here?


These days, social media, Twitter, Facebook–the whole React-o-Sphere–are permanently set to #2.

So once again we went from zero to I Demand Someone’s Head in no time flat. In short order, the hashtag #CancelColbert was trending on Twitter. That’s right. Nine years of brilliant satire demolishing hypocrisy and injustice? Eh, fine. Five seconds of reading a tweet? CANCEL!

Because what else did you need to know? What context did you need? The tweet was right there! Somebody retweeted it! People whose reactions I trust about this sort of thing are angry! It’s not my job to do further research! Stephen Colbert, I declare you #Guilty!

Maybe there are people out there who would argue that the full skit itself was racist–that, in fact, one can never create satirical racism to lampoon actual racism, because the wrong people might take the wrong pleasure from it for the wrong reasons. I would probably disagree with you, but I’d gladly read the argument–it’s a version of the arguments that people have made against Archie Bunker and George Jefferson and Eric Cartman and Borat. Satire is not its own defense; it can be badly executed, or it can be an excuse for actual hate. And if you want to make that argument about Colbert, go ahead, though I’d say you’ve got nine years of his show arguing against you.

But really this goes beyond Stephen Colbert or even racism. It’s about the instantaneous urge now to react fastest and most righteously, to Pick a Damn Side Already and demand the greatest punishment, to always, no matter what, immediately assume the worst of somebody who crosses you the wrong way. Sometimes it’s about a comedian, sometimes it’s about a politician or TV news host blurting something, sometimes it’s the gasoline-fueled flame war over a hot-button nontroversy like the Elan-Diane airplane war that turned out to be fake.

There is simply no prize for taking the most time to consider, posting the most even-handed and nuanced reaction, demanding the most proportionate punishment. If I’m being honest, this post itself is proof of that. No news site is going to get a billion clicks rushing out the headline: Internet User Considers Facts, Decides Tweet Was Maybe In Poor Judgment But With Extenuating Circumstances.

That’s just the media world we live in. Maybe someone like Stephen Colbert could do a late-night satire on it. And if he does, let me be the first to demand, in advance, that he be #Fired.

TIME Television

Colbert Tweet Draws Accusations of Racism and #CancelColbert

Stephen Colbert arrives at the White House in Washington on Feb. 11, 2014 for the state dinner in honor of French President Francois Hollande. Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images

A now-deleted tweet from the account linked to his show The Colbert Report has comedian Stephen Colbert on the defensive, saying he wasn't aware who wrote the post that aimed to mock Asian stereotypes and was reportedly taken out of context from a recent show

Stephen Colbert has built his career out of playing the overly offensive character we all know and love on The Colbert Report. But while most viewers realize his non-PC humor and even downright offensive gags are satire, his character’s nuance can get lost on Twitter. Case in point: a tweet from his Colbert Report account attempted to mock Asian stereotypes and, instead, caused real offense and spawned a #CancelColbert hashtag.

The since-deleted tweet read: “I’m willing to show the #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”

Colbert later said he didn’t write the tweet and was unsure who did, USA Today reports.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the tweet “was originally a quote from Wednesday night’s show. But during the episode segment, the joke was in a clear context—Colbert was mocking Redskins owner Dan Snyder for responding to complaints about his team name by announcing a foundation to help Native Americans.”

Without that context, Colbert’s tweet read as just plain offensive to some and stirred up a lot of anger and backlash.

Of course, Colbert has always been upfront in the past about the incendiary character he plays on his show, which is meant to be a send-up of offensive conservatism. For his part, Colbert acknowledged—and appeared to agree with—the outrage from his own personal Twitter account:

TIME Japan

A Japanese Soccer Team Plays to an Empty Stadium Because of Racist Fans

First, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe takes the country on a rightward, nationalist shift. Now soccer fans unfurl banners reading "Japanese only" at stadium entrances

Japanese soccer officials have found a novel way to prevent racist behavior in the stands: Don’t let the fans show up.

Officials ordered one of the top teams in Japan’s professional J-League to play in an empty stadium Sunday as punishment for a “Japanese only” banner that fans displayed during a game in Tokyo earlier this month.

That incident came amid rising concerns in Japan over nationalist sentiments. Japan is mired in ugly disputes with neighboring China and South Korea over territorial claims and historical issues.

Officials of the Urawa Red Diamonds team said a small group of supporters hung a “Japanese only” banner in a stadium entranceway during a home game on March 8. They said the banner was to discourage foreigners from sitting in that section and disrupting group cheers; security guards later reported hearing “discriminatory remarks” toward foreigners.

Team officials said they did not remove the banner until after the game because, initially, they did not deem it racist or discriminatory. The issue went viral after fans posted photos of the banner online.

Urawa Reds’ officials later apologized and said they had banned about 20 members of a supporters’ group. The team president said he would return three months’ salary as a show of responsibility.

That wasn’t good enough for league officials, however. They ordered Urawa Reds to play their next home game — Sunday — in an empty stadium.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has provoked concern over rising nationalist sentiments in Japan.

In December, he drew a sharp rebuke from the U.S., as well as neighboring countries, for visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines 14 Class A war criminals. Abe appointees to key broadcasting posts have disputed Japan’s responsibility for wartime atrocities and other abuses.

It’s unclear how much the Abe Administration’s rightward tilt may have encouraged soccer fans’ behavior, says Robert Dujarric, director of Temple University’s Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, in Tokyo.

“As much as Abe’s been doing all the wrong things, he doesn’t actually spew out the sort of xenophobic stuff that you get in Europe. Overall, I’d say the ‘Japanese only’ banner is not reflective of the bulk of Japanese society,” Dujarric said.

During Sunday’s match, stadium billboards were replaced with signs promoting the U.N.’s Sports for Peace program and players’ uniforms sported matching logos.

In a brief ceremony before the game, team captain Yuki Abe said the players pledged to “stamp out racism, be it discrimination against race, skin color, gender, language or religion or background, and will not tolerate any discriminatory or insulting language or behavior.”

Urawa Reds, one of the few J-League teams without a foreign player, were fined about $50,000 in 2010 when fans taunted foreign players on another team.

Urawa Reds and Shimizu S-Pulse played to a 1-1 draw.

TIME Religion

ABC’s ‘Alice in Arabia’ Is Racist

Dieter Spears—Getty Images/Vetta

The pilot, which riffs on the Alice in Wonderland tale, reinforces old racist tropes in which an American girl (presumably a white girl) is threatened by scary “other” people of color.

American Muslims have lost control of their narratives both online and in the media. While violent Islamic extremists have grown increasingly adept at using social media to craft their messages – as have anti-Muslim activists – more normative voices from Muslims have been drowned out.

This lack of control over self-articulated narratives was exemplified yesterday with the announcement of ABC Family’s new pilot programs, which include a show that got the attention of Arab and Muslim Americans across social media. One such pilot, “Alice in Arabia” — a title cringe-worthy in itself — has been described as follows:

Alice in Arabia” is a high-stakes drama series about a rebellious American teenage girl who, after tragedy befalls her parents, is unknowingly kidnapped by her extended family, who are Saudi Arabian. Alice finds herself a stranger in a new world but is intrigued by its offerings and people, whom she finds surprisingly diverse in their views on the world and her situation. Now a virtual prisoner in her grandfather’s royal compound, Alice must count on her independent spirit and wit to find a way to return home while surviving life behind the veil.”

The Twittersphere exploded with the hashtag #AliceinArabia, as people tweeted their offense to ABC Family. The criticisms are plentiful and varied.

The show reinforces old racist tropes in which an American girl (presumably a white girl) is threatened by scary “other” people of color – considering the sordid history of Americans vilifying Native American men and then black men as dangerous to white women, a completely understandable objection. The entire framework of the show is through the kidnap plotline, confirming the kinds of fears about Arabs and Muslims the movie “Not Without My Daughter” established decades ago.

The show certainly pits Americans against “Arabians” (tweeters pointed out “Arabia” is not actually a place), and we can assume the “independent spirit and wit” of Alice the American will prevail as triumphant over the lesser evolved Arabians. Thus the plot both bolsters the highly troublesome binary of us vs. them (Muslims being them), a factor linked to the growth of anti-Muslim bigotry and hate crimes in the US since 9/11, and confirms American superiority.

But wait, there’s more. Not only will “Alice in Arabia” exacerbate the marginalization of Muslim and Arab men, it perfectly reflects Western attitudes towards Muslim women. Hear that sound? It’s millions of Muslim women snorting as Alice attempts to survive “life behind the veil.” The very idea that the veil is something to be survived strips Muslim women of their intellect and agency and makes them the subjects of this practice rather than sentient protagonists of it.

The pilot also uses the real-life difficulties faced by women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a platform for ratings, and diminishes the work of activists in and outside the country to effect meaningful reform. An imported heroine, who is both the victim and the great white hope, not only smacks of Orientalism but frames serious issues through her narrative alone. In doing so, it reaffirms the fact that overwhelmingly the stories in the West of Muslims and Arabs are not actually being told by Muslims and Arabs.

The challenges of Muslims in the West are many, but there is no question that having control over our narratives and the messages about our faith are paramount. These narratives shape public opinion, impact civil liberties, and even influence our foreign policy. In failing to self-define ourselves, our culture and our faith we lose authority both to religious extremists and anti-Muslim bigots.

It can only be hoped that ABC Family and other media outlets are paying attention. The American Muslim community is ripe with talent and voices who can actually tell these stories in relevant, meaningful, and authentic ways. Portraying Muslims and Arabs as nuanced Americans instead of foreign caricatures would be a good first step for television. Instead of reaching across the globe for “Alice in Arabia,” perhaps we should start here at home with “Ahmed in Austin”.


‘Don’t Freak, I’m a Sikh,’ Video Seeks to Combat Bias

Sikh fashion blog Singh Street Style' video implores people not to "freak" when they see a man in a turban.

For some in the west, a man wearing a turban can become a target of suspicion, fear and even violence.

In 2013, a Gap add featuring Sikh actor Waris Ahluwalia was famously defaced, changing the slogan “make love” to “make bombs.” The attack implied a connection between Sikhs and terrorists that does not exist in reality. It made apparent something most Sikhs themselves know al too well: that their religion, and the turbans they wear to symbolize it, are greatly misunderstood.

The Singh Street Style blog, an English Sikh fashion site, produced this “Don’t Freak, I’m Sikh” video in an effort to correct misperceptions and explain their culture. Calling their turbans “a crown, a uniform and a symbol against oppression,” it asks viewers to see the turban as a sign of friendship and integrity.

TIME celebrities

Paula Deen: ‘I’m Still Alive’

Paula Deen
Paula Deen youtube

Disgraced TV chef tells People she's mounting a comeback

Paula Deen’s making a comeback after her racism scandal last year, or at least that’s what she told People this week.

“I’m fighting to get my name back,” the disgraced celebrity chef told the magazine in a cover interview. “I used to have dreams that I lost everything,” she added. “And when it finally happens, you think, ‘I’m still alive.’ “

Deen lost her Food Network contract and other endorsement deals after she admitted in a leaked deposition that she had used the N-word “a very long time” ago, and her plans to host a “Southern plantation-styled” wedding featuring African-American servants were revealed.

“When I woke up each morning, it was like my world was crashing down again,” she said of the months after the scandal broke.

Dean is hoping to get back on her feet with a new company backed by a $75 million injection from an Arizona-based investment firm.


TIME India

What the Death of Nido Taniam Tells Us About Racism in India

Indians from the northeastern states attend a vigil against racism and the beating and killing of student Nido Taniam, Feb. 2, 2014 in New Delhi.
Indians from the northeastern states attend a vigil against racism and the beating and killing of student Nido Taniam, Feb. 2, 2014 in New Delhi. Hindustan Times / Getty Images

An influx of migrants from India's ethnically distinct northeast has sparked racial tension, and now deadly violence, in big cities like Delhi

Nido Taniam was a young man from Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India. The son of a state legislator, Taniam was like 20-year-olds anywhere, with his trendy haircut and love of music. Last Friday, he stopped at a shop in a market in Delhi, to ask for directions. The shopkeeper and his friends made fun of Taniam’s hair and clothes and a brawl began. It ended with Taniam’s death.

This wasn’t a senseless fight over a haircut, however. It was Taniam’s East Asian features that marked him out for attack and his death highlighted the racism that many from India’s beautiful but impoverished northeastern states are subjected to.

While not every incident ends in such a horrific manner, assaults on young men from the northeast are commonplace in Delhi. Alana Golmei, founding member of the Northeast Support Centre and helpline, says she gets half-a-dozen distress calls a week. “This was waiting to happen,” Golmei told TIME.

It isn’t just physical differences that make people from the northeast stand out in a big city like Delhi. The fact that they hail from societies that are culturally more permissive than mainstream India highlights their otherness in the eyes of other Indians. A series of separatist insurgencies being waged by the indigenous peoples of the northeast also exacerbates tensions. Then there’s the fact that the northeast is geographically distinct from the rest of the country, connected to it by just a narrow strip of land known as the Siliguri Corridor.

“The identity of an Indian man [or woman] is culturally defined and anyone who doesn’t fit that mold is an outsider,” says Pradip Phanjoubam, a fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. “Once you are out of the northeast, you have to renegotiate the question of being an Indian as physically the northeast is a part of India but culturally it isn’t.”

In recent years, young people from the northeast — about 15,000 a year — have been making their way to the capital, fleeing the insurgencies and looking for better education and work opportunities. Casual racism is commonplace. They are derided as “Chinkies” (a reference to single-fold eyelids) or “bahadur” (a common term for Nepalese male servants in India).

The authorities have been ineffective in assimilating this new, ethnically and culturally distinct population. In 2007, the Delhi police published a much-criticized booklet, advising migrants from the northeast to avoid wearing revealing clothes and to not cook their native foods, such as bamboo shoots and fermented soy beans, for fear of upsetting Indian neighbors with unfamiliar smells. In 2011, the home affairs ministry made the use of hate-speech like “Chinky” punishable with five years in jail. Enforcement, naturally, is impossible, and legislation without the propagation of a multicultural and multiethnic view of India is meaningless.

“Societies do not change on their own,” says Ranjana Kumari, director of the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research. “We need to create conditions for this change, which includes identifying groups and areas that are perpetrating these kind of hate attacks.”

Taniam’s death might yet prove to be a flash point in addressing the problem. It certainly prompted an unprecedented show of concern from politicians. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal joined protests at Taniam’s killing on separate days, and Gandhi pledged to ensure that people from the northeast get “respect in this country.”

To people like Golmei, that respect cannot happen until mainstream Indian society acknowledges the racism deep within it. “Unless we recognize it and talk about it,” she says, “it’s not going to stop.”

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