Amy Schumer made an off-color joke about Hispanic men two years ago, and now she’s being labeled a racist. Her response; I’m sorry, but it’s just a joke.
This seemingly straight-forward interaction is being played out in editorials and Twitter ad nauseum. Some very harsh words have been directed against Schumer— primary among them the racist accusation — even though Amy is pretty much known for saying really offensive things all the time. She has tried her best to explain, and her explanations have also been criticized, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
It’s understandable why — making jokes about race is dicey territory, and it dredges up a lot of baggage and conversation. Was Amy a bit insensitive when she made the remark? Yes. Are people right to be miffed about it? Yes. But here’s a brief breakdown of the arguments on both sides.
First, the joke itself. As reported by MSNBC, Schumer’s racist gag implied that Hispanic men are rapists. In a long-ago Comedy Central routine, Amy “joked:” “I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual.”
Broader question. Even if @amyschumer jokes are racist, so what? Must all jokes offend no one?
— Amy Otto (@AmyOtto8) July 7, 2015
Amy Schumer: From feminist icon to racist blamed for Charleston, all in a few weeks. Backlash-backlash starts soon. http://t.co/eltkaYPRSW
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) July 7, 2015
— E! News (@ENews) June 29, 2015
Amy was criticized for the comment by The Guardian and was confronted about it on Twitter come Monday. Schumer explained the quip as the expression of a “dumb white girl” character who clearly doesn’t think before she speaks. Schumer further excused the comment as something she only meant to be funny, but shouldn’t label her as a racist.
“I am a comic. I am so glad more people are laughing at me and with me all of a sudden. I will joke about things you like, and I will joke about things you aren’t comfortable with. And that’s OK. Stick with me and trust I am joking … Once I realized I had more eyes and ears on me and had an influence I stopped telling jokes like that onstage, I am evolving as any artist. I am taking responsibility and I hope I haven’t hurt anyone. And I apologize if I did.”
But then there’s the other side of the argument, which contends that Amy’s racist jokes minimize the very real struggles suffered by minority groups every day. According to Stacey Patton and David J. Leonard over at The Washington Post, Schumer’s quips and others like it let white people continue to “share stereotypes, release inhibitions and spread racism.”
“This rhetoric isn’t just ugly. It contributes to a worldview that justifies a broken immigration system, mass incarceration, divestment from inner city communities, that rationalizes inequality and buttresses persistent segregation and violence. 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.”
The Post editorial was indeed the most scathing in its assertion that Amy’s material is downright racist. But the Daily Beast had a moderating perspective; basically reminding everyone that the only voice that’s usually heard is coming out of a white person’s mouth. And if there’s no one there to counter Amy’s jokes, they have more power.
Think about it this way; late night TV is dominated by men, and they are free to make jokes about ugly women to their hearts’ content. Is there a female late night host to later point out that women shouldn’t have to be pretty to be valued? No, there isn’t — hence writer Teo Bugbee’s point.
“It’s also not (Schumer’s) fault that white comedians are the ones who get TV deals and media coverage, creating a cultural environment where the perspectives of people of color—especially women of color—are drowned out in a sea of whiteness… The cultural landscape will continue to be defined by white comics… When there’s nothing else on TV to counteract that bias, the impact of every misplaced joke hits harder.”
So what do you think? Is Amy Schumer racist? Or has political correctness ruined comedy as comics Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock have stated? Let us know in the comments.
[Photo Courtesy Jemal Countess/Getty Images]