Steve Harvey recently made some jokes about asian men that blew up my particular social media feed.
People felt angry, offended, outraged even, and took to the boards to express their fire. At first, even though I didn’t feel the fire, I did take to shaking my head. Shaking my head because it doesn’t surprise me. Shaking my head because the jokes and put downs sounds stingingly familiar. And lastly, shaking my head because the response, personally, also felt stale .
***Feel free to take a quick look before continuing reading.
Steve Harvey might be racist against asian men. He might not be. We can’t know for sure. But we do know one thing thats certain. Steve Harvey is a comedian and he plays to an audience.
I’m not saying what he did was right or wrong. I’m also not saying that the backlash from the Asian American community isn’t warranted. I think that voice is important. I’m just saying his number one job, is to say the thing that he knows will get the laugh. He may or may not believe in exactly the thing he said, but he knows that after he says those things people will laugh. He’s a long time professional at that. We know that for sure .
I’ve personally been on set with him and seen him work a room. He is a pro.
Were the jokes distasteful? Ignorant? Insensitive? That probably depends on who you’re asking. We didn’t laugh, but there are plenty of people that did. So where is the real fight?
The Asian American community has had to fight against many stigma’s and stereotypes in main stream media. I know this. I’m exactly the demographic he’s targeting in those jokes. It’s a lot like a wound that never heals, you get cut early in your childhood when you find out the stereotypes working against you, and before the wound could scab and heal, it would be cut again. I can tell you, these cuts happen to all asian men. I can also tell you, working in the entertainment industry, the knives are bigger and the blade is sharper, and you’re standing on the stage basically asking to get cut.
So Steve Harvey’s jokes was basically another cut at the wound. A big prime time television cut. An industry/comedic icon cut. And that sort of knife cuts deep, maybe close to hitting an artery. So I understand the outrage, and I understand the lashing back. But although we cannot stand for injustice, I think it’s important to just get a little bit of perspective on it. He is a comedian, making jokes to try to get laughs, which many people did.
So what do we do? After the explosive Facebook rants and the Twitter bashing? What happens? I hope you take this fire, this anger, this energy you feel about this topic, and throw it into making work and living life. Making work and a life, that fight against the stereotypes. Forge your own metaphoric weapons to represent your culture and unique perspectives. Let them make jokes, because soon it won’t matter .
I leave you with this video from Phil of Wong Fu. He speaks to the topic of whitewashing in media, but touches to the point of making change eloquently.
About the Author:Ryan Feng is a photographer, partner and choreographer for Quest Crew.
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