The topic of Wednesday’s episode of The Daily Show was race in America. The show’s title was “Afrospanicindioasianization of America.” Say that five times fast – go on, try it.
The show both mocked shows on race while also looking at the issue from different perspectives, like groups often overlooked during discussions of race. And so it was that in one segment correspondent Rob Corddry examined an often overlooked group: the Racists. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
The first good joke came within a minute of the show’s opening graphic, which may be a new record. That joke: “Obviously race has been a source of conflict here ever since the first Pilgrim saw an Indian and thought, ‘Wow, he would make a great sports mascot’.”
“So it is not surprising that race divides us to this day,” Stewart said. “Of course, whenever you address a subject like this on television, in a news format, one key question must first be answered. We sent out our very own Demetri Martin to ask it.”
Martin to people: “We are doing a series on race. How many parts should our series have?” One person said there should be six parts since there are only six races but then ran into trouble trying to count them. I mean since when is aborigine a race?
Martin to one guy: “If we had to eliminate one race, not from the planet but just from the series, who would you take first off the list if you had to?” A person’s response: Asians since “they are really obnoxious on the subway.”
I liked this suggestion: “What about white people?” Martin asked. “Do we really need to do a thing on white people?” The person interviewed said no.
“So as you can see, America is deeply divided on how many segments our show should devote to race. Now next in any discussion of race” are decisions about the graphics. A clip of the resulting graphic can be seen at the show’s Internet site.
While there has been some progress in race relations in America, there is still a great deal of work to be done, Stewart said.
“Of course it is true any nation founded by immigrants that actually owned other immigrants might have some lasting problems. But remember, in the 1860s we fought a Civil War and a mere 150 years later blacks and whites came together to start one in another country (Iraq).”
After the commercial break, Stewart asked: “How tolerant are we as a society? It is a difficult question to answer and probably not really even worth it. But our very own Rob Corddry was not afraid to tackle the issue head on.” Corddry began his segment this way:
”We often hear stories about how hard it is to be different. People suffering because of their race, religion or ethnicity. But even they enjoy freedoms that one group is routinely denied, a group that helped build this country yet can’t share its fruits. I am speaking, of course, about racists. For simply hating others for the color of their skin, racists are violently attacked; their lives made unbearable. How do I know? I am one. I hate people of color. And also Jews. And the gays…. And redheads. It’s a long list. And because of that, people think it’s okay to oppress me. This is my story.”
This segment was very dark as it was on the edge between funny, disturbing, and offensive. During the segment, he is shown making racist statements at various news shows and getting disciplined for it. And that, he says, is why he can only work now on basic cable.
To find out why America treats racists unfairly, he arranged a meeting with an expert on the issue. Only one problem: that expert – he was surprised to find – was black. He clearly should have Googled the expert’s picture. He tells the expert they can cancel the interview and the expert says they can continue.
“Look, I have nothing against you personally. You seem to be a nice person. It is just the color of your skin puts me off.
“You are like the embodiment of my nightmares,” the man says.
Corddry excuses himself and splits. He finds another person to speak with, one who is white. “Thank God. I thought they were going to throw another one at me,” he said. But then he learns that person is Eastern European Jewish. “Can’t win,” Corddry said.
Erich Foner, a Columbia University history professor, tells him that during World War II there were new opportunities for black people.
Foner: “I think Hitler, and the policies he followed, did strike, inadvertently perhaps, a tremendous blow to racism in America.”
Corddry: “And yet there is no Adolf Hitler Boulevard in Harlem.”
Foner: “I don’t know if there is an Adolf Hitler Boulevard anywhere in the United States.”
Corddry: “Actually I live on Adolf Hitler Boulevard. It is a cul-de-sac.”
He concludes the segment with a nice speech. “Sadly, America’s intolerance toward racists continues to grow but perhaps the next time someone says ‘Hey, do you know any racists’? You will be able to say, ‘Yeah, I do, and he is a pretty decent guy. Unless of course you are one of these things’” – he pauses while a list of races and religions scrolls down the screen – “in which case I hate your guts.”