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On Wednesday’s Colbert Report, the satirist made fun of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s recently announced Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. Snyder created the charity “to provide resources that offer genuine opportunities for Tribal communities,” according to a press release, but Colbert mocked it as an attempt at positive PR for the NFL team and its controversial name, which many consider to be racist.
Playing off of Wednesday’s segment, the verified Twitter account for The Colbert Show, which is often written in the persona of the blowhard TV-host character Colbert portrays, posted this tweet on Thursday to its 1 million followers:
I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.— The Colbert Report (@ColbertReport) March 27, 2014
“Ching-Chong Ding-Dong” is a reference to a satirical Asian caricature Colbert has assumed on the show in the past, including a January 2011 segment attacking Rush Limbaugh. It was also part of Wednesday’s segment about the Redskins.
After outrage erupted on the social network, the tweet was deleted, but not before the #CancelColbert hashtag started trending.
The Sandra Bullock vehicle Blind Side is another example of the white woman as a central, racialized figure in a movie. As you may recall, the movie is based on the true story of a white woman who adopts an African American boy who comes from a poor family. I wrote about this moviewhen it came out last year and noted that it’s a version of the “white savior film” that many sociologists have studied. The film was a huge hit at the box office (grossing approximately$255 million dollars) and earned Sandra Bullock an Academy Award for Best Actress. It also seems to have prompted something of a life-imitating-art moment for Bullock who, shortly after the film – and her marriage – ended, adopted an African American child.
The entire premise of the film Blind Side rests on the race and gender of the lead character; there’s no story here without the central fact that this is a white woman adopting a black child. Imagine a Tyler Perry production where Janet Jackson is the playing the lead and she takes in a poor, African American child. It might get produced (by Perry and maybe Oprah) but it’s not going to do $255 million at the box office and Ms. Jackson (lovely as she is) is not getting an Oscar nod. The whiteness of the lead female character is the sine qua non of the Blind Side.
The night Victor White Sr.’s son died in the backseat of a cop car in New Iberia, Louisiana, he called the local sheriff’s station to figure out where his boy was.
“I asked them if he’d been apprehended, and they told me no,” he said to me. It wasn’t until the following morning, March 3, that Victor Sr. found out his son, Victor White III, had been arrested and died while in police custody. But he didn’t receive the news from the New Iberia Sheriff’s Department—he got the call from his son Leonard, who also lives in New Iberia and had been questioned that morning by police in connection with the death of his brother.
Immediately, of course, Victor Sr. made the two-hour drive from his home in Alexandria down to New Iberia to find out what the hell was going on. But the cops refused to tell him anything about the circumstances surrounding his 22-year-old son’s death, citing an ongoing investigation by the state police. At that point, Victor Sr. had no idea his son’s death was caused by a gunshot to the back while he was still in handcuffs in the backseat of a patrol car. Every official he talked to was cagey.
Is that why “Little Brother” only features boys in the 9 to 13 age range?
That’s part of it. Also, we don’t see them. In the media we see black teens but you gotta get there first, right? And I knew that around age 10, something was happening to black boys—and we weren’t seeing anything on it. It’s popular to hear that when young black boys enter the 4th grade that’s when “they” start planning how many prison beds to account for. I don’t know who said that but what I do know is that Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu has said that the 4th grade is when boys emotionally drop out of school. Also, as you’re approaching the teen years and puberty, it’s a very special time and I thought that it would be cool to learn about when boys learn about their emotional, nurturing sides. Our approach is very direct. We focus on their emotional side, love, their love lives and what they project them to be. They teach us a lot.
The interviews are refreshingly intimate. Tell me more about the questions you asked them and why.
I wanted to know, what they thought they’d grow up to be. Were they planning on getting married or starting a family? If they were or were not born into traditional nuclear families, what did they think their own family was supposed to look like?
And what did you find?
These young black boys still carry very idealistic beliefs. They’re going to be grown men with partners and they’re going to have children—many children! They’re going to have a good life, be financially stable, have a good job and be alive. They haven’t projected anything other than that—and they include God in that plan.