Summary: This short clip from Huffington Post Live features social media activist Suey Park, who is interviewed by the program's host, Josh Zepps. With Park at the helm, the interview plays as a virtual thrill ride, careening through the convoluted caverns of white male privilege and deftly swerving to miss the host's attempts to sabotage and derail. Before elaborating, a little background is in order. Zepps' interview with Park was based on #CancelColbert trending on Twitter, a hashtag Park started. The hashtag was in response to a tweet sent from an account affiliated with The Colbert Report, which reads, "I'm willing to show the Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever." It's worth mentioning that the tweet was apparently sent with the intention of lampooning Dan Snyder's recent announcement that he'll start a foundation to benefit Native Americans, instead of changing the racist name of his Washington, D.C. football team (more on that topic, here and here). During the interview, Zepps presses Park to concede that "the intent of the Colbert tweet was to criticize," but Park responds that irrespective of the ironic intention, the tweet missed its mark. "I really don't think we're going to end racism by joking about it," Park explains, "I'm glad white liberals feel like they are less racist because they can joke about people who are more explicitly racist, but that actually does nothing to help people of color." Zepps counters by suggesting that Park's energy would be better spent attacking Dan Snyder, and to this, Park recenters the discussion, explaining that the issue is about changing the behavior of white liberals, not what Josh Zepps thinks people of color should protest. Then, refusing to mince words, Park adds that Zepps is in no position as a white man to decide whether people of color are misguided in protesting the Colbert tweet. In response, Zepps resorts to calling his guest's opinion "stupid," and the segment ends shortly thereafter. There is a lot going on in this five-minute exchange between Zepps and Park, but I'll mention one point here. First, I think the conversation is an interesting example of how whites--including white liberals—often attempt to discredit and minimize the grievances of people of color. Zepps is following in the timeworn tracks of minimization and silencing: 1) "It's not a legitimate grievance because you don't understand the intent"; 2) "Okay, you understand the intent, but it's not a legitimate grievance because there are more important problems to protest"; and finally, 3) "Your opinions are stupid." The problem, as I see it, and the reason Zepps and Park will never find common ground, is that Zepps fundamentally rejects the legitimacy of Park's claims about what she and other people of color find offensive. Certainly, as a matter of principle, neither Zepps nor any other white person can be the one who ultimately decides whether a person of color has a right to be offended, but more to the point, white people occupy a structural position of privilege and power, and from that position, it is even predictable that they will not see eye to eye with people of color. Zepps clearly counts himself a logical man, who is capable of arriving at reasoned perspectives, but his logic is infected by the false premises of white privilege. He would do well to consider the many insights of standpoint theory, which argue that people working from the "outsider-within" perspective occupy a unique position, allowing them to recognize patterns of domination.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist