Orient-ation

Pacific Chivalry472Anyone who knows anything about California history knows that the Chinese were treated abysmally during their first half century in the golden state, as this cartoon by Thomas Nast so vividly illustrates. (Nast was a champion of downtrodden Chinese and Native Americans, but don’t talk to him about Irish Catholics!)

The “Celestials,” as they were sometimes called, were industrious and notoriously cheap labor. They were a threat to white workers who had become the dominant power in California after displacing the Mexicans, who had displaced the Spanish before them, and the Indians, who were virtually wiped out by all of the above.

The Chinese built the transcontinental railroad. You can still see examples of their workmanship all over Nevada County, most notably the rock walls and tunnels at Donner Summit. Every hamlet in California had a Chinatown, until they were driven out by jealous whites. Rather than revolt, they worked harder and kept their complaints to themselves, earning a degree of respect by the time the twentieth century rolled around. And they’ve still been fairly quiet when compared to other minorities, until recently.

That’s when commentator-comedian-faux-republican Stephan Colbert attempted to ridicule Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Snyder, who has come under intense pressure to rename his football team, recently announced the formation of a slush fund foundation to aid Native Americans. Colbert announced the creation of “The Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever” on his wildly popular television show, where such absurdities are standard fare.

But when the same wording appeared on twitter, Colbert was accused of blatant in-your-face racism. Immediately the hashtag “#CancelColbert” spread like bird flu through the Internet. Colbert passed the buck onto “someone else” but the fallout continues.

Yeah, sometimes we purveyors of humor push the envelope to new lows. I’ve always been surprised that no one calls liberal icon Bill Mahar on his assertion that Japanese men have dinky dicks and all Asians are bad drivers. It’s a theme he refers to frequently, but I’ve yet to see any blowback.

And just as Chinese-Americans were cornering Colbert, San Francisco State Senator Leland Yee had to come along and steal the headlines. Yee has been tagged by the Federal BI as a corrupt, gun-running gangster, along with supposedly reformed crime boss Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. It’s American Hustle with an Asian cast, and it will no doubt sweep the Oscars ten years from now.

But today there is sorrow in the Chinese community. Even if Yee manages to evade justice, the jokes will flourish and the stereotypes will remain in the smaller minds of the public.

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15 Responses to Orient-ation

  1. Chris Peterson says:

    Colbert’s comments were, as usual, satire; a form of comedy used to make fun of bigots and fools. The fact that he came close to hitting a nerve is exactly what he does, and few do it better.
    It’s, once again, a case where political correctness tries to punish even those who make jest of this idiotic world. It’s a case of misplaced indignation.

    I would think someone who wrote, “Skull Love”, “I’ll keep an eye out for you”, would easily understand that humor may offend; but it has no boundaries.

    • rlcrabb says:

      For the record, that was Doc’s line, and the rest of the lyrics were written around his theme. But I’m not complaining about Colbert, jus’ reporting the facts.

      • Chris Peterson says:

        I stand corrected; it was Doc’s line, you merely expanded it into a song. And for the record; Colbert didn’t tweet the line, nor did he “pass it off” as someone else; it actually was someone else.

        The fact that some, who are not those originally or supposedly offended, don’t get his humor, is in general just a bunch of white folks feigning racial indignation. I doubt if any of them even saw the show, or get the idea that he was making fun of a guy who thinks you can justify using a racial term by donating money to their cause. It would be like Al Davis calling his team the Oakland Niggers, and then donating money to the NAACP to show he’s racially sensitive. The absurdity is obvious to those who get it.

  2. rlcrabb says:

    This is what happens when the press gets too cozy with those they are supposed to be covering…
    http://www.calbuzz.com/2014/03/op-ed-when-the-press-cheered-leland-yee/

  3. GregPZaller says:

    Cognitive Dissonance explains Yee perfectly, and others like him who fool everyone by building a persona that no one dare question (including himself. Cognitive dissonance is the blindness we suffer because “seeing” something important is dissonant with something else we value or enjoy seeing more.

    It is the sacred job of comics to shake us to our senses by making us chuckle at these things but often they don’t see it either.

    • Brad Croul says:

      I am not that familiar with dissonance theory. Do we know that Yee was not alway a corrupt politician? That seems like a simpler explanation.
      I guess he could have started out good and then was tempted and became more and more power hungry, greedy and corrupt.

      • rlcrabb says:

        Yee was busted for shoplifting in Hawaii in 1992, and was detained cruising for poon-tang in the Mission, but never charged. He skipped out on the shoplifting rap. In SF, that kind of behavior would be seen as normal, so it never affected his popularity at the polls.

  4. Terry Pittsford says:

    I must be behind the times. When I first encountered the story at SFGate.com, my first thought had nothing whatsoever to do with anything about race, but about the fact that another politician, an elected official in whom the public put their trust, has violated that trust. This is the real issue but a great many people, some of whom actually vote, will focus their attentions on the news circus rather than the pervasive cancer that is now and has been forever, the benchmark of politics. I realize it’s too much to ask that our elected representatives lead the lives of saints, but they should be held to some kind of higher standards than the arrogant, greed-driven, philanderers, and thieves we find ourselves with today.

  5. Jeff Pelline says:

    Ditto. Of course, we live in a community where the Asian food aisle at SPD still reads “Oriental.” We’re a little behind the times.

    • Brad Croul says:

      …Celestial isle?

    • Chris Peterson says:

      Jeff,
      Sounds like, in your zeal to appear politically correct, you need a bit of proper orientation. It’s a metonym for east, like Gold Country is for the area where you live.
      I think when those who are Occidental start worrying about calling others Oriental, we’ve stepped into the Twilight Zone of language. Maybe if Pegasus had been in the eastern sky of Europe, instead of Orion, we would be calling them Pegasusians?
      Anyway, big difference between naming your sports team after slang for the skin color of an ethnic group vs. the direction where the food in your grocer’s aisle originated.

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      Yes, “Oriental” has been under fire as being politically incorrect for a few decades. It also isn’t a synonym for Asian. It just means from the East, including the Middle East and always has.

      Occidental (from the West) as a term hasn’t raised the ire of Euros worldwide, and there’s still a college by that name in this state. Oh, the inhumanity of it all!

  6. The latest political corruption and hypocracy exposure is a great example why we shouldn’t believe what politians say, but pay close attention to what they do. The double standard is disgusting.

  7. Ben Emery says:

    Bob,
    I like the history lesson. If you were on some other Nevada County blogs it would be labelled a “white guilt” history but the truth makes no distinction. I didn’t see the Colbert show but can only imaging the PC police coming out in force with misinformation about the context of his positions.

    Bonnie,
    You are exactly correct. The deeds matter more than the words. Our current President is a perfect example.

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