Jul 27, 2013

Casual Racism: "It was a joke!"

I was watching a new Bravo reality show the other night called Chef Roble and Co. It's another "celebrity chef" show about Roble who owns a restaurant in Brooklyn somewhere. He's Black American and is very charming and video-genetic. Obviously he's a good fit for a new culinary show in a landscape of predominantly Caucasian celebrity chefs. I was kinda diggin' his show cause it's such a racially diverse cast. The episode I was watching there was a quasi-girlfriend figure involved. They were sitting by the river and it looked like it was chilly. She's gorgeous, naturally. You can't put a fresh face in a new show and bill him as the new hot exotic chef without a beautiful accessory on his arm. He comments on how cold she seems to be (She's wearing shorts with tights, tall boots, a jacket and sunglasses - appears to be late autumn in NYC when this was filmed), and he suggests they leave the riverside. She quips, "Yeah, I'm dressed like a character from Harry Potter." And he replies, "You are dressed like a Chinese hooker." Then ha, ha. And fade out. End of episode.

I was really upset by that comment. Why not just a hooker but a CHINESE hooker? I was shocked that Bravo ran that, well maybe that's the whole "point" of a reality show. But seriously? That is what I call casual racism. And this includes stupid jokes about Asian women having horizontal vaginas that people have "joked" to me (YES!) and then when I express my annoyance and tell them it's racist, their response? "It was a joke!" It's not like Chef Roble is Steel Panther singing "Asian Hooker" which is a consistent fit in the faux-hair metal band's repertoire of ironic songs about the 80s such as strippers, cocaine, the Sunset Strip, and hookers.

It was a joke. Was it really? Was I laughing? If it's a joke about something like MY heritage then I better be motherfucking laughing if you are gonna be telling me that I have a horizontal vagina! No one intentionally tries to be racist (if they were, they would be in the KKK!), because "it was a joke!" It is always a joke. But the truth is - its casual racism.  Those who are committing racist expressions have a privileged point of view. That is what it means to have privilege. One simply does not see how that expression is hurtful or offensive to another because "it's never crossed my mind". Well, it's never crossed their mind because they've never had to think about it. The worst though is the absolutely HORRIBLE pacifying response that I hear way too much, "it was a joke," as if I'M uptight for having to deflect or explain why "Chinese hooker" or horizontal vagina jokes are not funny.

Hearing that casual remark that Roble made on his show is just an example to me of how pervasive casual racism is. It made me wince when I heard it and has been bothering me ever since then.

1 comment: