The Problematic Criticism of Suey Park and #CancelColbert
I know there are many of you, as regular readers of The Daily Banter, who have wondered when I was going to speak out on the #CancelColbert controversy and the ongoing work of the young woman behind it, Suey Park. I say this only because I realize that I’m the only true liberal ally of People of Color and specifically Women of Color here at the Banter, in that I’m deferential at all times to the complaints and outrages of every single POC, as I am to those of every member of any traditionally oppressed minority.
As one of the white cishetriarchy, I understand that I have no way of knowing whether the views of one person of color (or any member of any other persecuted group) are representative of the larger group. So best I simply not offer a dissenting opinion of any kind, lest I be a part of the problem rather than the solution, with the solution of course being balancing the scales of social justice, something for which all real liberals should be striving. I can never overcome my original sin, the one that renders my opinion worthless if it isn’t entirely supportive of each and every minority viewpoint. That original sin: I’m a white, heterosexual male. I can never make up for my privilege and for this I am eternally contrite.
With that in mind, I think that while there are well-intentioned critiques of Suey Park from so-called allies within the sea of microaggressions, microinvalidations, and outright hostility she’s currently having to wade through, most of the negative reaction to Park’s viewpoint is, I’m sorry to say, deeply problematic. By now you know the details of the #CancelColbert controversy so they’re not worth revisiting. Suffice it to say, Park is correct when she says that Stephen Colbert’s satire was attempted at the expense of Asian-Americans rather than at the expense of its intended target, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. She’s correct when she says that it was a joke that misfired. She’s correct when she rails online against supposed allies trying to “gaslight” her on Twitter, and journalists who don’t take her side immediately and who ask what they claim are legitimate questions that actually push her to the edges of her fragile sanity, and the white majority that seeks to oppress her at every single turn in every single thing it does, and apostate Asian-Americans in thrall to their white masters who dismiss her opinion as not indicative of theirs and who tell her to basically relax.
She’s correct about all of this. She’s correct about everything. I would be able to say this even if I didn’t know the specifics of the discussion because, as a white male liberal ally, it isn’t my place to have a dissenting opinion, or offer constructive criticism, or dismiss certain aspects of an argument as youthful, petty narcissism when it would leave me open to accusations of racism, sexism, or heteronormative oppression. Best I just switch off my brain and simply defer across the board rather than be misinterpreted or show my white privilege.
So, I #SideWithSuey and if you’re a true ally — particularly a white male ally or really anyone who isn’t specifically a 23-year-old queer Asian-American woman named Suey Park — no matter how long and strong your history of speaking out against racism and sexism, I suggest you shut up and do likewise. I #SideWithSuey in spite of the obvious reservations I should have about getting behind a campaign of such questionable legitimacy. I do this because it’s simply not my place to do otherwise. Suey Park made an important point about white liberal racism. What that point is I’m not quite sure, but it hardly matters. What matters is that she made it. And she’s Asian-American. And I’m not. Who am I to argue?