Bee Vang, a Brown University student by way of Minneapolis, batters the argument that because some Hmong laughed at the “joke,” it is therefore no problem:
Those of us who discipline ourselves properly can in turn be made into armor by a society determined to defend colorblindness every time a race skirmish breaks out. But no matter how many Hmong human shields KDWB hoists upon their battlements, the fact remains that “Thirty Hmongs in a House” was racist and harmful. It was aimed at a minority community from which the white creators felt no threat, and hence could condescend to with impunity. Yes, we all have freedom of speech, but some have more than others. If we Hmong avail ourselves of it, we might just be laying the groundwork for more backlash.
That’s well-put, but not the most fascinating part. Vang ropes in his own scarred history as an actor in “Gran Torino,” which some Hmong liked but many found offensive — and did not hesitate to tell him so. Vang isn’t kind to the Clint Eastwood film:
In a similar way, after Gran Torino’s release, Hmong around the country were furious about its negative stereotypes and cultural distortions. I know this acutely because when I spoke at public events, they came out to confront me. I found myself in the awkward position of explaining my obligation as an actor while also recognizing that, as a Hmong American, I didn’t feel I could own the lines I was uttering. I also told them that although many of us on the set had objected to aspects of the script, the producers preferred whichever Hmong “cultural consultant” had the most amenable take on the matter and would lend credence to whatever Hollywood stereotypes the film wanted to convey. I reminded my critics that this was a white production, that our presence as actors did not amount to control of our images.
KD’s schoolyard antics and b.s. “apology” are the latest in a long line of immorality and disingenuousness on morning radio, which at times sounds programmed for an audience dressed in white sheets.
Believe me, I get the argument that “we make fun of everyone” and “comedians are truthtellers who spare no quarter.” The difference between no-talents like the KDWB’s warbler and geniuses like “South Park” is true fearlessness, taking on the truly powerful more often than the powerless, and hitting the former with disproportionate force because, frankly, that’s what the truth requires.
Anyway, Vang’s is a great read, so get to it.