Spotlight on Hypocrisy

LAST FRIDAY at the Undergraduate Council's Student Comedy Night at Paine Hall, I attempted, through the vehicle of humor, to bring certain hypocrisies to light.

Speaking only for my own routine, I can emphatically state that certain leftwing tendencies--such as the unspoken racial roles into which modern liberal ideology has boxed its adherents--were the motivation for my stand-up act, and the underlying theme of its political content. Unfortunately, certain individuals misconstrued my act as an attempt to unleash hostility rather than the social commentary it truly was. They viewed my act as racist and sexist. I would point out, however, that my routine did not single out any one group in particular, but included comments aimed at whites, Asians and Blacks.

Yet I find Mark N. Templeton's selective memory extremely troubling. In his February 11 article ("This Is Funny?") he failed to recall any of the allusions to Blacks which comprised at least half my routine. Instead, he chose to depict my performance as nothing more than vitriolic "attacks" directed against Asians and women.

AND JUST WHAT are these hypo-crisies that I sought to bring to bear? We are expected not to "vocalize" but simply "tolerate" the fact that certain courses--such as my hypothetical engineering course that accepted only Asians--simply do not represent the diversity that Harvard boasts. This was not, nor was meant to be, a condemnation of the persons who comprise such a course, but, rather, an inquiry into why such "segregation" exists.

Secondly, interracial relationships--the issue I sought to address in my multiethnic dating remark--are still viewed as taboo and as deviating from a supposed "norm." We are all familiar with the derogatory term "Asian fetish" sometimes used to describe a relationship between a non-Asian man and an Asian woman. There, I submit, lies your real racism.

Had my intention been to denigrate women, I certainly would not have gone to the extent of assigning them a particular race in my act. I was not out to be another Andrew Dice Clay.

Furthermore, I would not be surprised if the same element that criticized what I did at Paine Hall were intolerant of the Black comedy program "In Living Color," after which I patterned my routine. I assume Mr. Templeton's failure to address the jokes aimed at Blacks was simply an oversight (an egregious one), and that he finds such self-parody offensive and not "politically correct." If that is the case, I would still much prefer to be "incorrect" any day, as I do not share such an outlook.

To elaborate, this means that I refuse to play racial politics, that I will no longer subscribe to a liberal ideology that requires my bearing an "oppressed people's complex." Why must I, for example, be a role model for primarily "those of my community" when I could be one for all people? This role, in which we find ourselves entrenched today, was created for minorities by liberals--including Blacks--who "meant well."

Moreover, if liberals wish to take one superficial glance at me and assume from the color of my skin that I have been "oppressed," they can go ahead and make such a knee-jerk assumption. All they have accomplished is the construction of yet another kind of stereotype--one that maintains that every member of an ethnic group has the same background and mindset.

EVEN MORE WORRISOME, however, is the fact that this liberal mentality is the only one that many consider acceptable. A "leftist McCarthyism" has attempted to quell any ensuing dialogue, and has portrayed any opposing view as narrow-minded or unworthy of consideration. Frankly, I find this attitude not only greatly disturbing, but disgusting as well.

I once lamented to a friend that as a child I naively hoped that if the next millenium were to bring one change, it would be a deemphasis on race in this country. (By "race" I mean "appearance," not "ethnicity.") Sadly, it would seem that so long as there are individuals on the Left who insist on continuing to play racial politics--who insist on stigmatizing a group of people as the "perpetually oppressed" segment of the population--such a deemphasis will never occur. While bigots certainly exist, I believe the leftwing McCarthyites pose a greater threat.

As a member of a so-called "historically oppressed group," i claim every right to challenge a label I deem unfair to many individuals of that of that or any other minority group. Even if it requires resorting to a controversial method of self-expression in order to provoke a response.

Just as it would be unfair of me to assume that all members of an all-white or predominantly white organization are necessarily racist, so it is unfair of others to assume a priori that all people of an historically oppressed group are still necessarily being oppressed or consider themselves to be so.

PERHAPS A MONOLOGUE was not the appropriate forum for such an undertaking as I had in mind; perhaps it would have better been dealt with in a sociology thesis.

In any case, I stand by the remarks I made, as they have allowed me to bring these issues to the foreground, and to open the topic up for debate. I encourage anyone who was made uncomfortable by my remarks at the UC Comedy Night to consider my arguments and open their minds.

It is about time we all started being honest with ourselves.

Jean Gauvin '92, a Crimson writer, performed at UC Comedy Night.