Navigating Racial Satire


What has to go wrong for racial satire to be racist? In 2014, Stephen Colbert came under fire for a tweet sent out on behalf of his show The Colbert Report. The tweet in question, “I am willing to show @Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong-Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever,” sparked a twitter response from writer and hashtag activist Suey Park. The tweet was a brief recap of a joke Colbert told on the show as a satirical response to Daniel Snyder’s creation of a charitable organization for Native Americans while continuing to maintain a racial slur for the same group as the name of his football team. We typically think of humor as a non-serious context. These sorts of contexts affect how we interpret utterances. Normally, we don’t interpret humorous utterances as straightforward assertions. In fact, some responses to the charge of racism against Colbert’s satirical performance claimed that recognizing it as satire was enough to exonerate the humor of the charge. But if this is so, what explains when charges of racism against satire persist? In this talk I critically explore candidate views of racist satire. I also draw a distinction between satire that is offensive and satire that is racist.

Luvell Anderson
Syracuse University

September 30, 2019

Centre for Ethics, Room 200, Larking Building, 15 Devonshire Place, Toronto