Over the course of the past week, a controversy has escalated surrounding Stephen Colbert’s joke during a Colbert Report segment, and the tweet it spawned on the @ColbertReport account. The segment was focused on mocking the Washington football team’s owner Dan Snyder and his refusal to change the current team name, which is a racist slur against Native Americans.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) supports Stephen Colbert’s use of satire to draw attention to issues of racism. Last week, we presented our 2014 Justice in Action Award to comedian and satirist Aasif Mandvi, a correspondent on The Daily Show, also on Comedy Central. We believe that the Colbert Report, like The Daily Show, plays an essential role in shining a light on racial intolerance.
However, Stephen Colbert’s role as a political satirist does not insulate him from all charges of racial insensitivity. Colbert likened Snyder’s creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation to his own hypothetical “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” His use of a racial slur was offensive to Asian Americans, even though it was made in support of the Native American community.
Anti-Asian slurs continue to be used with a casual ease, with Asian Americans often finding themselves the punch line of jokes. Calling out insensitive tweets and jokes is a small part of the fight against racism, but we believe that individuals and groups must speak out and take action against racist slurs that denigrate an entire racial or ethnic group.
We hope that Stephen Colbert continues to skewer purveyors of social injustice on the Colbert Report, just as we encourage activists to hold each and every one of us accountable for racial insensitivity.
Director of Communications
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.