“A white woman standing on a stage and insinuating that Mexicans or other men of color are rapists, given our history, given that historically when white women made claims, most of the times they were false about black men raping them, somebody ended up hanging from a tree. ” — Dr. Stacey Patton, author of The Washington Post, Op-Ed.
The Washington Post, one of our nation’s most venerable guardians of free speech took a step in a surprising direction earlier this week, publishing an article by Dr. Stacey Patton and David Leonard that called out comedian Amy Schumer as a racist.
The article likened Schumer’s comedy to Donald Trump’s politics and accused Schumer of using “dehumanizing language that gives life to an ecosystem of racial fear and violence.” The article also accuses Schumer of suggesting “that Mexicans, or other men of color, are natural-born rapists,” and says that “while black families are burying their dead, churches are burning, black women church pastors are receiving death threats and the KKK is planning rallies in South Carolina, Schumer is ‘playing’ with race…and only white people are laughing.”
There are some powerful accusations in play here, and the masthead of The Washington Post carries considerable weight. With so many worthy targets creating genuine oppression to choose from, we couldn’t help but wonder why the Post would aim its rather sizeable artillery at this particular target, at this particular time? Why comedy and why Schumer?
It was only a few short months ago when the world, and The Washington Post clamored to support the victims at French satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo after their offices were attacked leaving 12 dead. The Washington Post stood up for free expression, publishing a highly controversial and polarizing cover. An editorial by Charles Lane, published by the Post in January said, “it is vitally important that the United States and all other Western democracies rally to their unequivocal defense. If freedom means anything, it means freedom of expression — to include expression that some might find irresponsible, offensive or even blasphemous. In the realm of art and ideas, pretty much nothing is, or should be, sacred, lest we head down the slippery slope to censorship, or self-censorship.”
But Amy Schumer’s comedic, and even satirical expression isn’t being considered important in Patton and Leonard’s piece. And the thrust of their article is that there are indeed topics that are sacred and even unacceptable in comedy.
I spoke with The Washington Post‘s Outlook Deputy Editor Mike Madden about the seeming contradiction. “This is not the opinion of The Washington Post,” Madden told me, “this is the opinion of a couple of contributors to The Washington Post.” Of course both articles are editorials and newspapers print conflicting editorials all the time. But even op-ed pieces are edited and selected and subject to internal guidelines and even op-ed pieces enjoy the weight of The Washington Post banner– one which has a history of protecting journalistic expression feverishly.
I asked Madden if he knew why the article’s author, Dr. Stacey Patton had chosen Amy Schumer as the topic for her article. “I think she pitched this piece because Schumer was in the news, at least in some circles in the news. Probably because of that Guardian piece,” he said, and suggested that I talk directly with Dr. Patton. I did.
Dr. Patton said a few things that surprised me. For starters, she said she’s not a specialist on comedy or humor. While she does enjoy comedy (she likes George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Martin Lawrence, the Queens of Comedy, and Bill Maher among others), she told me that watching comedy isn’t something she gets to do often. In fact, before the ‘Schumer issue’ came up, she had never seen Amy Schumer perform stand up, and she had never seen Schumer’s Comedy Central television show. Even more surprising, she said she didn’t watch any of Amy’s performances or shows while writing the article, not even as background for the piece. Her judgement was based on what she read, presumably in The Guardian, which had just published an article accusing Schumer of “having a blind spot for race.”
The Interrobang; Have you ever watched Amy’s television show… in preparation for the article?
Stacey Patton: Nope. Not at all.
The Interrobang: Her stand up set[s]? have you ever watched any of them?
Stacey Patton: Nope. None of them.
Despite seeing the quotes out of context, and without the benefit of knowing anything about Amy’s comedy, she was comfortable making judgements about whether Schumer’s comedy was or wasn’t racist. She also was comfortable deciding whether Schumer’s audience was or wasn’t racially diverse (she characterizes Amy’s following as predominately white), and she was comfortable to conclude that Schumer’s comedy breeds racism in others.
I was also surprised to learn that Dr. Patton hadn’t “pitched” the article to The Washington Post. She said it wasn’t her idea at all, and in fact she initially turned down the story, because, she thought there wasn’t much there. Patton said:
“The Outlook editor actually wrote to me last week and asked if I’d be willing to write about this. And I hadn’t actually heard about the incident. And you know, I’m not a fan or foe of Amy Schumer. Hadn’t really paid attention to her. She’s not a comedian whose work I follow so I was not really that familiar with her. And I was still quite frankly reeling from Charleston. Because I was in Charleston three days before the shooting and I was staying two blocks away from the church so, yeah, I was still dealing with a lot of the backlash from my Washington Post piece on that. And so when I kind of looked at some of the coverage on Schumer, I initially thought meh. This woman is joking. You know, myself and a lot of people are still grieving the lives of those people in Charleston.
“But then I thought about Donald Trump’s remarks and then the fact that a few days later Dylann Roof stands up in a church and before shooting nine people says, “taking over my country you’re raping our women” despite the fact that most of his victims were black women. And then it was Schumer’s comments about Mexican men and rapists. And I thought, see, that’s when I had to say something.”
Patton explained to me that one of her primary concerns here is context. She explained.
“A white woman standing on a stage and insinuating that Mexicans or any other men of color are rapists, is racist. Given our history, given that historically when white women made claims, most of the times they were false about black men raping them, somebody ended up hanging from a tree. We are living in a climate where there is still that very potent fear about interracial sex. So I think context is really important.”
Context was a theme that she’d return to again and again throughout our conversation.
I don’t doubt that Dr. Patton means well. She’s a well respected journalist, and from what I gathered in our conversation, very intelligent. She is concerned about very serious problems faced by people of color in America and the world today, and those problems are real and in need of redress. And without the important context of understanding performed comedy, Schumer’s act, and her persona, it might be hard to distinguish Schumer’s point of view from a completely different kind of joke– one that is harmful, and derogatory, and holds no benefit to the community at large. Patton described to me concerns about the type of people who “back during the Jim Crow period, while nearly 4,000 black people were lynched in this country, [were] making jokes; they were singing minstrel songs, putting on black face, telling chicken and watermelon and pickaninny jokes.” Those types of harmful, racially motivated jokes of course still exist today, and are just as rooted in hate as they ever were. And perhaps Patton is correct that the people who laugh at those types of jokes add to what she calls “this ecosystem of nasty rhetoric.”
But that argument ignores that performed comedy that integrates and confronts, and yes even “plays with” race and bias, is not the same as a “chicken and watermelon and pickaninny joke.” There is nuance and skill that a performer uses to communicate that they are not advocating racism and intolerance– on the contrary, they believe in inclusion and tolerance. Laughing at our own shortcomings, biases and history of intolerance can advance harmony in a way that lecturing, and even legislating cannot. When we, as an audience can laugh at stereotypes… we don’t reinforce them, we expose them. And it’s all to the benefit of society.
Patton has made presumptions regarding the racial composition of Schumer’s audience, and she has also made presumptions about the effect Schumer’s comedy has on her audience. Those presumptions are made without any real information, and seem to be based on nothing more than speculation and her own social media following.
“Based on the images that I’ve seen, photos of her– again, I have not watched any of her videos but if I look and I see a predominantly white audience that tells me something right there. And based on what I’m seeing on social media– and I have a huge social media audience myself, most of the black people that are commenting– actually all of them that I’m seeing– have been reacting very negatively to her. So that tells me that she’s not very popular among people of color. The vast majority of people of color who watch comedy don’t watch her. They watch the Queens of Comedy or the Kings of Comedy. The reality is that the comedy world is segregated. Period. Yes you have a few comics who might cross over a little bit, but it’s largely segregated. Most black people that I know who watch comedy don’t watch Amy Schumer. Go up and down my time line and time lines of other friends. They’re like, never heard of her.”
But all you would need to do is attend any of Schumer’s performances in New York City to see otherwise, or browse social media while her show is airing on Comedy Central. You will find a multitude of cultures, colors, languages, genders and countries represented. And by and large, they “get the joke” and they know the difference between harmful jokes and comedy.
I asked Dr. Patton how she would feel to find out that people of color laugh at these jokes. She told me that there have always been all kinds of black people, including those who are self hating, or disagree with affirmative action, or were overseers on the plantations. She added, “people of color are not monolithic folks. We have people who are raised in different kinds of families and communities and have different political persuasions and tastes when it comes to humor. So of course you’re going to find people of color who think that’s funny. And generally the vast majority of black folks, when we come across people like that we call em out, and say ‘okay you know, whats wrong with you? ‘ So we know that there are those among us who don’t have the same kind of sensitivity when it comes to issues of race.” Perhaps Dr. Patton doesn’t trust that there are audiences who understand subtlety and satire, and can differentiate between hateful speech and comedy. But to do that she would first need to listen to more than just a quote, or a clip. Schumer’s comedy is full of instances where she’s pushing social boundaries in the best possible directions. You can read dozens of articles talking about the gender biases she exposes through her comedy, and taking on issues of body image, rape culture, sexual identity, and other societal issues that matter.
So why Amy, why now? It’s certainly not because Schumer has gone too far over the line as compared to other performers. She’s not known for racial sets. It seems that Schumer was targeted because she’s getting a lot of press with the release of her upcoming movie Trainwreck, and people are interested in her, so generating controversy is profitable. Perhaps she just seemed like an easy target, as a woman. Or maybe there are those who are uncomfortable with the gender boundaries she addresses and the abundance of press and praise she has received in the last two months.
But The Washington Post name carries weight, certainly far more weight than Amy Schumer, who is just beginning to see her career grow. To suggest that Schumer needs to be more responsible with her comedy with one hand, while casually branding a young artist with powerful words like Racism with the other, seems to have its own irresponsibility not only toward Schumer, but toward other young artists trying to decide what they can and cannot talk about. And to tie an artist– particularly an artist who is herself breaking down long standing barriers– in with murder, the Klan and the burning of black churches is something that should not be done lightly. There are serious consequences to such statements.
The Post article cautions against using the “its just a joke” mentality, as do we, because it’s not “just a joke.” Comedy is a socially and culturally important art form. Comedy is an important form of communication that at its highest level is as critical to our social progression as journalism, and while it may be understandable that Dr. Patton and her writing partner might not appreciate that, it’s startling to see that The Washington Post would be as cavalier. Dr. Patton states in her article that “motivation is not the issue. what matters is the cost/consequence of these jokes.” But what is the cost and consequence of accusing someone of racism without context, background, or any real information?
@DmitriKhitrovo Hai and Welcome!
Patton is a retarded cunt. Fact is, she's the fucking racist. She doesn't think "people of color" can understand what comedy is. This dumb cunt is useless.
The best part was when Patton suggests that people of color who laugh at "racist" jokes must be self-hating, and that has something to do with how some blacks were overseers on plantations....LMAO.
Meh. A leftist "intellectuals" are using the same simple-minded attacks that have become the worst of cliches. The only new, interesting aspect is that theynarendirecting gheir nonsense at a fellow leftist.
"It seems that Schumer was targeted because she’s getting a lot of press with the release of her upcoming movie Trainwreck, and people are interested in her, so generating controversy is profitable"
you could have just this, it is pretty damn spot on and all anyone needs to know about all this bs.
Next time please avoid the jab at women. Women aren't "easy targets" you flaming sexist.
So it was a pre-determined hit piece that the author allowed herself to get talked into writing, although she had no concept of what the story was. Now she's trying to excuse herself by saying it was right after Charleston, and she really felt like hitting someone.
@section77 Pretty much. I'd say something about egg on some faces, but that'd probably be misconstrued as racist somehow.
Moving past the specifics of this particular hit job, @DrStaceyPatton is right that context matters. Comedy is art, and art is more than what the artist intends people to think of it. Since Amy Schumer became known to the masses this past month I've been thinking back to Dave Chapelle's self-imposed exile from the limelight. It'd be hard not to. His TV Show was hilarious, biting, and an increasing hit, but he shut it down not because *he* was racist, but because he sensed an increasing fraction of his audience was. They were laughing for the wrong reasons, and his comedy (or his demography) gave them cover to do so.
Like a lot of folks, I've seen Amy's show, but not much of her stand-up routines. But I like the stand-up format, and I could imagine her doing a stupid-white-girl act really well. I'd laugh. I'd be in on the joke. Is it okay that some of her audience might not? Maybe. Probably. I don't see her race-baiting her away into national attention, so maybe the joke's on the guys in the club that think she actually hates Mexicans. Or maybe the joke's on me because I might be more offended if she'd said something crass about black men instead. Or maybe the joke's still on The Washington Post for showing off how lame journalism's become.
Maybe it's all of those things. The funny thing about art is that it's rarely just one thing or another.
@MikeLemmon Don't forget, a flag is responsible for shooting people in SC.
@MikeLemmon The left has cried "racism" so much that the word doesn't mean anything anymore.
This "Doctor" (of what, Bullshittology?) seems rather proud of her ignorance. If it wasn't for nit, she wouldn't have any wit at all.
Check out photon belts and sew where earth is at....come on now evolve and be free. Don't let it get to you. Race comments are just moot. Outdated!!!!!
Hmm...maybe before such a date monsters didn't care about race culture class or creed. They just ate and did all kinds of things to us to them selves and wreaked all kinds of havoc and just really were true man eaters. But um its looking like earth is going home bent broke and busted and we're just going home. Fabulous clean and getting happy.
Wow, the navel gazing while the house is burning of the American public is really sad. As if some universal epiphany is either possible or the least bit beneficial.
The problem of "race" is an artificially manufactured one solely intended to distract people from the real crime of stealing your liberty. The current government irrespective of party affiliation is only interested in constant expansion of reach and authority over you. Rather than being a useful tool pulled out occasionally for limited use in limited contexts it actually impacts every waking moment of your life. And you folks want to accept race as an issue to absolve yourself from confronting what you know in your heart is the problem: the politicians and special interests. The laugh is on you.
@Gatortrapper Let me be as clear as I can. I love government! Big government is the greatest thing that ever happened to this nation. The government, at it biggest, following world war 2, built for us, the greatest national infrastructure the world has ever seen. Your version of liberty is complete bullshit and simply doesn't align with 21st century progress. Your version of liberty is available to you, just pack up and move your ridiculous self to Somalia, Ethiopia or Yemen, where there very kind of liberty that you desire is awaiting you, as is starvation, piracy, rape, genocide and disease. Send us a post card will ya? P.S. ... You are incapable of reasoned thought, you might want to take advantage of the education system that Big Government has made available to you.
@Driverdude Hi and Welcome!
Ad hominem personal attacks on me for opining that the issue of race is a deliberate distraction from more fundamental threats speaks to YOUR lack of capacity not mine. Obviously I hit a raw nerve with my observation for it to generate such a personal attack.
What's funny is that you struggle to understand the very basic concept that the vast resource created by my preferred size of government is what sustained yours. But now having plundered the national fisc to the tune of $18 trillion in real debt and upwards of $100 trillion of unfunded commitments your model has bankrupted the nation. Typical of those lacking self awareness or a keen understanding of the long game you take umbrage at anyone who suggests the fault lies with your big government model.
Let's toss some numbers on the table duffus and see if you can keep up: historic rate of interest on national debt 5-6% versus zero bound Fed policy since 2009 leading to 2% rate on national debt at present or 1/3 of historic average. Can you keep up? FY2014 we borrowed $483 billion while paying $430 billion in interest at that low 2% rate. Any dots connecting for you yet? Didn't think so...
There are 2 principal issues with that... first the fact that you're effectively taking cash advances on Visa to pay the interest ONLY on the MasterCard and adding to the principal debt accumulation, not retiring it. Second, the rate of interest will return to normal from 2% to 4-6% range at which time, as the short term instruments mature and paid they will be replaced with those with the higher rates. Can you keep up with this?... I doubt it but for others I'll finish... The result will be an escalation in the debt service component that easily doubles or triples which would push that $430 billion to $860 or $1,290 billion. And having ravaged the taxpayer you'll be having to cut your precious programs to pay the debt service or default like Greece or Argentina. What disgusts me is idiots like you who think you know so much and arrogantly demand we bend to you deluded thinking. You waste precious oxygen in the world with your every breath.
@Gatortrapper He was right to criticize you. I didn't take much for you to launch into name calling and saying "can you keep up?", etc. Your last sentence is particularly illuminating. Your point would have been better made by not responding at all.
@Gatortrapper Also, race and racism predate 17th Amendment by at least a few thousand years.
@Driverdude Somalia: the country so libertarian, they banned Christmas.
You're an idiot.
@kabulykos Dude the 17th Amendment provided for popular election of Senators. And the historical fact of race being an issue of divisiveness for some does not mean that it was or is an issue in the United States today. It is a manufactured issue in that whatever minimal life support that it was on has been removed and instead it's been brought to life as a Frankenstein monster to be used to distract from the real existential issues that the political elite don't want people inquiring about. That you folks can't get that merely is proof that their sleight of hand effort has been successful.
@DennisHastings1 <=needs help understanding definition of "sarcasm" as he equates it with a personal attack on character. Can someone in Dennis' hometown get him a dictionary?
I don't suffer fools lightly. You seem to be interviewing for one of the positions in the duffus academy too. You want to complain about the quality of the syntax and tone of a message conveying a serious message about the unfolding financial ruin of the nation proffered as a rebuttal to someone embracing an ever increasing government? Boy this country is totally screwed if you're representative of your circles o influence.
@Gatortrapper @kabulykos If you don't think racism is an issue in America today, then you must be blind, deaf and dumb. If you know any people of color, ask them in private if that's the case. If you don't know any people of color or are afraid to ask, then that will tell you if you are sheltered and out of touch. If you prefer to assume you know already, then you can't handle a test to your belief and prefer to live in blissful ignorance, which is fine, but understand, that's what it is.
What about following the first rule of writing? Write what you know. Research, it's not just a good idea.
@Siccerson Careful, WaPo might ask you to write an Op Ed.
@DrStaceyPatton Would you say that the only solution to such damaging humor is to forbid all comedians from performing racial humor? Or should only white comedians stop because, after all, only white people can be racists.
@YotaruVegeta @DrStaceyPatton Well said, I simply don't believe she is being as altruistic as many are saying and she is trying to claim in not so many words hence never having even been to her show to witness the audience or even watch the tv show to inform herself.
This is why liberalism/progressiveness is out of control, they were sorely needed and maybe in some cases still are but some of the demonizing going on now is what happened to many of these people/groups in the past.
Let's actually watch Amy Schumer do race jokes, shall we?
If you take that as not being satire, you need your head examined.
Then you'll love sharing this one that I heard today from a good friend who probably qualifies as a red neck: "Why is so hard to solve "red neck" crimes? Because their DNA is indistinguishable and dental records are useless."
I'm a progressive, liberal, leftist, and I personally find her 'racist' humor funny. I still like to think that most liberals find this type of racial humor funny and it's a vocal minority. But then again, I've been called out as racist several times by liberals for using this type of humor. But I have to say, if I hear someone who's racist say these things, it's not quite so funny.
Oh, but we're all supposed to laugh when Jamie Foxx says it was awesome that he got to "kill a bunch of white people" during his SNL monologue? Comedians push boundries. Obviously if you've got a stick up your ass, comedy is not for you. I've heard worse on Family Guy. Quit getting offended over everything, America. Stop generalizing white people as a bunch of slave-owning rapists, too. Every race in history has ugliness in their past. EVERY race. You want to cry about slavery? Look up Irish Slavery. My ancestors were treated like garbage too. Am holding it against people that foamy actually commit the act? Nope. So, sit the **** down.
there are people in the world who are dying and starving and this is what you're angry about? Look at the world around you..
Weren't there TWO writers to the article? Focusing on one of the authors while ignoring the other seems like being guilty of the same thing this writer is harping about. Also, the Washington Post writer is not the only person who has accused Miss Piggy for being a racist.
@gasfarty2 The other one was smart enough to not do an interview
@gasfarty2 Hi and Welcome!!!!!
@gasfarty2 Oh, "Miss Piggy" because she's Jewish. Haha. I get it.
The writer calling Amy a Racist seems like a good speaker, If u want to book him to do a speech you can contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
@MichaelBrian1 Hi and Welcome!!!!!