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This Week in Racism

Jerry Seinfeld Does Not Have a Diversity Problem

Comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld got in trouble for saying he didn't care about the ongoing diversity debate in comedy. Some media outlets have taken this to mean that he only thinks white people are funny, which is about as far from reality as possible.
February 7, 2014, 5:20pm

Welcome to another edition of This Week in Racism. I’ll be ranking news stories on a scale of 1 to RACIST, with “1” being the least racist and “RACIST” being the most racist.

-Famous white comedian Jerry Seinfeld recently told CBS This Morning that he is not interested in the current debate over diversity in comedy. More specifically, Seinfeld said that worrying about the racial makeup of his web show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, is "anti-comedy." The online discourse over his remarks, naturally, has verged on hysterical, with Gawker inferring that Seinfeld meant that "any comedian who is not a white male is also not funny."

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While that reaction was predictable if you're familiar with how the internet normally handles issues of race, Jerry's basic thesis was merely that he's only concerned with what's funny. It's hard for me to assume that a man who worships at the altar of Bill Cosby and is BFFs with Chris Rock has any sort of cultural superiority complex. This all seems like leftover residue from the controversy over the lily-white casting of Seinfeld's seminal sitcom. And while it's true that there were hardly any black people on Seinfeld, people forget that, when there were, the show cleverly skewered racial politics. In particular, I'd point to "The Couch," in which George essentially takes a black family hostage so he can watch Breakfast at Tiffany's, or "The Diplomat's Club," which sees George desperate to make a black friend after accidentally offending his boss.

The common thread in all the episodes of Seinfeld that dealt with race is that the white, upper–middle-class main characters were meant to be caricatures of monstrously selfish urbanites. If Seinfeld and co-creator Larry David caved to the pressure to add more diversity to their show, would the satirical elements have been as potent? The world Seinfeld was mocking had to be mostly white for it to work. Any time a sitcom feels pressured to add diversity to its cast, it comes off as forced and patronizing. At worst, it can seem like a wacky novelty for a person of color to appear on one of these shows—Aisha Tyler on Friends and Taye Diggs guesting on Will & Grace (shows that were very monochromatic) never struck me as natural. Blair Underwood's role on Sex and the City might as well have been the writers coming on camera and saying, "Here, we gave you a black guy. Look at how progressive we are that he gets to sleep with Miranda." I'm still trying to figure out what Donald Glover was doing on Girls. There was nothing funny about the way these characters were written into their specific shows, which lends firepower to Jerry Seinfeld's comments on This Morning.

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Perhaps, instead of shoehorning brown faces into sitcoms or asking Jerry Seinfeld to have more minority friends, we should be concerned about giving minorities the chance to create their own shows that speak their unique language. We're assigning Jerry Seinfeld far too much power to decide who is and isn't funny. If you are looking for more diversity, don't just ask for token minority guest appearances on sitcoms. Instead, support shows like Key & Peele or The Eric Andre Show, which speak with the voice of the minority perspective and don't encourage tokenism. That's far more constructive than petitioning Jerry Seinfeld to have George Lopez on his show just because he's Latino. 3

-Duck and cover, America! Shots fired! Coca-Cola, probably the most patriotic of all carbonated beverages, released a Super Bowl commercial that dared to insinuate that the United States is a multicultural, multilingual nation. I have to assume that Coke was well aware of what they were doing by putting this ad out. Coca-Cola is the most American brand there is, and the Super Bowl has evolved from a mere sporting event into a jingoistic jerk session for the entire nation—the Super Bowl pregame show actually had football players reciting the Declaration of Independence.

Coca-Cola was ready for the response they got, and it served a purpose. It made a very bold, forward-thinking statement about our culture, much in the way that the Cheerios commercial with the interracial family did. To all of you who hate the idea of cultures mixing in this way, I say "keep talking." While you talk, the world is passing you by. The backlash against this innocuous commercial is RACIST

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Photo via Wikipedia Creative Commons

-Ted Nugent, the Motor City Madman, has wormed his way back into the news after throwing up another toxic bowl of shit soup from his mouth. He called Trayvon Martin a "gangster," despite Trayvon not having any known gang affiliation, and he claimed that President Barack Obama is an "avowed racist." I hate to nitpick the gospel of St. Nuge, but for Barack Obama to be an "avowed racist," he'd have to have come out and admit to being a racist. Semantics are probably not Ted's strong suit anyway, considering earlier this year he called the president a "mongrel," which is a term used to describe dogs that aren't purebred.

I assume that due to his verbal incontinence, you don't even remember Ted Nugent had a music career at one point, unless you are the kind of guy who gets rip-roaring drunk while listening to "Cat Scratch Fever" in between stints in the county jail. I tried to take his lunatic rantings seriously for a second, but then I remembered the time when, in a 1998 episode of VH1's Behind the Music, he admitted to preferring the company of underage girls. Then, in 2004, Courtney Love went on The Howard Stern Show to accuse Ted of molesting her when she was 12 and he was 28. In the meantime, politicians are more than happy to accept his endorsements, and the Outdoor Channel is totally happy paying him to be a spokesman. RACIST

Photo via Facebook

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-A mall in Thailand, a country in Asia last time I checked, doesn't quite see what's potentially offensive about the above ad for Chinese New Year. I mean, come on. What is this? Next time, just go all the way. Give the model giant buck teeth and some laundry to fold. RACIST

The Most Racist Tweets of the Week:

No I ain't racist. But to me a nigger & black guy r different…. As in, fuck niggers who think they run shit. Nope go back to new york nig.

— devin burry (@OneEightyTwoo) February 6, 2014

why does every girl drool over bruno mars? he looks like a sand nigger who just discovered hairspray not to mention that he's 5'4

— (@vvonton) February 3, 2014

At this point I might be goin to Ultra solo cause everyone's a Jew bag and doesn't think it's worth the money… Idk how people think that

— Bill (@Cam_Charette) February 6, 2014

Why do they keep airing commercials in Spanish, this is America… Get that beaner ish off my television

— Jacob Medeiros (@JakeandBake24) February 6, 2014

Frank and Jesse James were outlaws. Now you niggers call yourself thugs and sag your pants because you think its cute. You ugly as fuck

— VA Realtree Cowgirl (@mopargirl50) February 5, 2014

@dave_schilling