[If you would like to see Part 1, click here.]
A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That's why they don't get what they want. -- Madonna
Can you believe I quoted Madonna? I have a love/hate relationship with Madonna and her actions. I pretty much can't stand anything she's done post her Erotica album, "The Girlie Show Tour". But her quote highlights the point I need to make in this post. And it sort of parlays into another point-- so bear with me in this verbose post.
I've come to a realization that "I don't care anymore." My goal as a standup comic is not simply shock value (i.e. Howard Stern, Sarah Silverman) but to teach, to open horizons, to offer new perspectives, and to force you (yes, you, the audience member, the blog reader, you) to finally (to use a trite phrase) think "outside of the box." This all may be construed as making you uncomfortable. Yeah, are you squirming in your seat, yet? Well, hang tight!
Change is the bane of many a person's existence. I, for one, revel in it. I like to be challenged, travel to new places, speak to different and interesting people, and hear and learn about new and innovative ideas. (Could I have used the word "and" any more?)
My motivation is to make you (the audience member) feel a little uncomfortable. To squirm in your seat--to have you go home after the show and, dare I say it, THINK!
So now I said it! Are you happy Madonna? I wrote it. I'm not afraid to say it. It's documented. It's now in the comedy ether! It's floating through the universe. It will happen!
Overall, I feel comedians are too passive. I mean, yeah, they get on stage and speak (that's fairly active). But they use comedy, the medium, simply to make people laugh.
To me that's boring. I think there should be more behind it.
Why not make people laugh AND have them go home thinking about what was said? Why not have a p.o.v. and express it?
I'm not saying it hasn't been done ever. But as of late, I haven't seen it.
The Daily Show does it everyday. However, I don't think The Daily Show steers their viewers one way or another. There's no bias with The Daily Show, which I believe is safe and passive. The Daily Show, like high school and college, should teach their viewers to critically think. I know that if someone rails against my comedy, at least they're thinking. At least they took the time to develop an opinion. I think the opposite reaction, eating up the message passively, is exactly what George Orwell was profiling in 1984 and Animal Farm.
In the world of Info-tainment, standup comedians are the ideal denizens. They can entertain people AND have them think, perhaps even motivate!
So let me tie this back to Madonna. Madonna brought sex to the forefront via music and via her performances. All her antics were personal and direct affronts to several cultures and people. And she changed the way people saw women---as smart, powerful, sexual beings. That I dig!
Kabbalah childrens books-- I don't dig. (But that's for another post.)
Comedians, now and have always been, in the perfect position to do a complete overhaul in entertainment and in society.
We are the mavericks, the leaders, the harbingers, the forerunners.
We are the barometers of society.
Recently, I was approached in a NYC subway by a man from Michigan. He was perhaps in his late 40s, early 50s and white. He needed directions. And me, being the opportunistic deipnosophist I am, happily gave them to him--but not without some form of compensation. Eventually, after he digested my directions, we sat down together to wait for the next train. I think to myself, "Take advantage of this situation to conduct an experiment."
Now I must let you know that I'm quite the eager conversationalist. And I'm ready to carry on with anybody who approaches, sometimes even against their will. Concerning all impromptu public encounters, I carefully select my words when speaking, glancing furtively at my listener always keeping him in mind while running my mouth. I'm very self aware during all of my conversations--all five senses overlapping and receiving signals. I'm forever taking into account the state of my listener. And I would my babbling as staccato--rambling but strategically punctuated with comfortable silences.
Now, I don't know Michigan. I'm not familiar--I've never been. But I have heard how down right conservative, highly catholic, and basically racist it is, from both black and white residents (former and current). (If you don't believe me, Detriot, MI is noted in the US Census as "the most racially segregated region in the country".
I do know about the ethnic makeup the distinct ethnic enclaves, and the vast, vast, vast, cultural segregation that takes place (i.e. Ann Arbor, Detroit, Northern Michigan.) I believe the Roman Catholicism plays a big role in the segregation. It's a highly Roman Catholic state.
And me, being the upstart I am, broached upon this controversial and undoubtedly uncomfortable topic with this man. A Thai girlfriend of mine in medical school mentioned that she has another East Indian friend who is currently living in Northern Michigan--truly a "sticking out like a sore thumb" situation.
I then recounted the story my Thai friend told me, about the East Indian's life in Northern Michigan, to this man. In a very matter of fact sense, he didn't really have an opinion. He did agree it was very Roman Catholic state and he talked a bit about how homogeneous it is in Northern Michigan. But he clearly didn't want to venture into any other avenues, where the conversation easily could have traveled in.
I even said the word, "racist." Obviously a word white people don't want to hear, partly because it's a heated word that creates controversy. And maybe because it's a slight bit accusatory. But I was tempted. I truly wanted to see how he would react.
Why aren't white people willing to say, "Yeah, that's racist area."? Or "Those are racist people."? Or, "Someone who is not white or Roman Catholic might have a hard time living there."? Why is that so hard to for white people admit? And remember that I'm super aware--of both his movements, and my tone. I made sure NOT to sound accusatory. Trust me. I was very innocuous and Seinfeld-ian about it: Why is it so hard to admit? Granted this conversation lasted a total of 3.5 mins. It was indeed long enough to get to the meat of the matter. He deftly avoided it and train finally arrived. We went our separate ways.
Why is it so hard for white people to admit?
I, for one, know that I get special treatment for being a woman, mainly from men, more specifically black men. I'm attractive, but I'm not THAT attractive. I rank maybe a 6.43 out of 10. (.43 instead of .5 because I don't wear my hair down as often as I should--and hence I get points docked.) But either way, I know I will always get a discount at the local pizza shoppe if I flirt with the manager, or if I wear a skirt that day. That is a form of privilege that I'm willing to admit to receiving. That's where "Ladies Nights" at clubs stem from. And within the comedy scene, women are catered to because there are so few of us. But I wouldn't receive that privilege, if I were not a woman. AND I'm willing to admit it. I acknowledge that!
Anyway, regarding the Michigan Man:
my main objective in this conversation was to get him thinking. After all, he's visiting New York, a seemingly diverse "melting pot." And he's riding the subway, which is what a lot of tourists skillfully avoid because of NYC folklore revolving around gangs. And he had the balls to approach me, a black female. He can't be THAT racist. Perhaps, he isn't at all.
With regards to the words "racist" and "nigger", I feel like the "R" word incites more feeling than the "N" word when used in front of white people. I think the "R-word" is the white person's "N-word"--the word that gets them all pent up and bothered. Calling a white person the "R" word seems to be an egregious and offensive act.
Who would not be offended by either term?
- Someone who is.
- Someone who isn't.
Here's a scenario:
You call someone a racist. There are two outcomes:
1.) The accused is a racist and is proud of it, but is wise enough not to say anything--and doesn't.
2.) Or he isn't racist, knows he isn't, and still doesn't say anything.
It's the latter, the fake racists, that I have a problem with. I assume this man fell into the latter category.
So why not say something? Again, it was a short amount of time, I am a stranger, and maybe his personality doesn't warrant discussing "hot button issues" with upstart comedians. Perhaps, that's the way he was raised.
But I really do feel more white people have a duty to welcome conversations like the one mentioned above. And also they should feel comfortable saying, "Yeah, I'm white and privileged because of it." Now where they go in the conversation after that is up to them. But I feel the first step to ending racism is to admit it, observe it, be conscious of it, and ideally work towards leveling it off. Of course, there's no incentive to someone losing power--losing privilege.
And also, if you're really not racist, then why not just come out and say it? Or make mention of it. Why can't you admit that perhaps a member of your family or other folks in your circle are--but you aren't. You're enlightened.
For someone to say, "Yeah, I'm a racist," at least you know they're bastards and they're being honest about it. They're basically nodding their heads and saying "Yes, I subscribe to that ideology." (Although, they probably wouldn't say it with such grace and eloquence.)
So that's why I feel 80% of the world is racist. Secretly racist, by not willing to say what's really on their mind.
Same goes with the N-word amongst blacks. I haven't figured out if I care enough about the word. I am in that minority that the term is directed. But I don't care because I know I'm not one. So I don't get offended when the word is used even when directed at me and coming out of non-black's mouth.
I invite your thoughts...Please comment...and send this article to friends...and invite them to comment.
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