When Chris Rock spoke at the 2016 Oscars, he called attention to the race problem that exists in America… or at least as far as it extends to the upper class in Hollywood. Not a single moment was spared from his biting words that said a lot of things that needed to be said about the state of race relations. There certainly is a severe lack of diversity when it comes to actors, directors, and writers. But we must keep in mind that there is certainly an aspect of racism in America that even those who tout themselves as progressives don’t seem to see, or choose to ignore. Even in the midst of pointing out the elephant in the room, Americans – even African Americans – continue to perpetuate racism.
In combating racism at the Oscars, Rock resorted to some of the most tired and insulting stereotypes against Asians. In one moment he had a group of Asian children in suits come on stage and referred to them as PriceWaterhouseCooper accountants. No doubt an allusion to the claim that all Asians are good at math. Immediately preceding the racist display, he doubled down with this statement: “It’s OK, it’s OK, thanks guys, thanks a lot. If anybody is upset about that joke just tweet about it on your phone, that was also made by these guys.” This was obviously a nod to the horrible conditions faced by workers at Foxconn, who are infamous for committing suicide. A First World person joking about the deaths of Third World people who die to make their luxury commodities?
Not just Chris Rock, but Sasha Baron Cohen also verbally assaulted Asians. When he took the stage to present an award, he came out as “Ali G.” “How come there’s no Oscar for them very hard working little yellow people with tiny dongs,” he said. “You know, the minions.” Of course, this is a shot at Asians over the stereotype of small penises – one of the most degrading insults that are used. Cohen is famous using his Ali G character to insult inner-city youth for years. His movies “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” and “The Dictator,” were done with characters meant to degrade and demonize Arabs. This is especially significant when we consider his pro-Israel position. This certainly places these movies in a different context.
Hollywood is not without its share of “House Negro” Asians. During the 2015 Golden Globes comedian Margaret Cho posed as a North Korean in order to ridicule a country that is constantly threatened by U.S. imperialism. In her shtick, she used American perpetuated racist falsehoods against the people of the DPRK, all in the service of imperialism. The racism problem in America, even among the famous, is far more expansive and oppressive than they would care to let on.
In Hollywood movies, we don’t see Brown actors playing anything but convenience store clerks, cab drivers, or terrorists. We’re shocked to see a Brown person play a hero in anything at all.
Why is this racism by Rock, Cohen, and Cho significant? Why do these acts go without criticism by the mainstream media? There is rightful outrage at the mockery and marginalization of African-Americans, but none when it comes to others who are oppressed to an even greater degree. Who do we see right now as the victims of U.S. imperialism? Who are we told are our enemies and thus justifies using threats of violence and aggression against? The Arab world, the DPRK, and China. Is it any wonder we see the acceptance of anti-Brown and Asian racism, even by other people of colour?
The primary reason that this racism goes unchecked, is because it serves imperialist interests. Racism that is perpetuated against global people of colour that serves to justify the global divide in wealth, and justify violent, genocidal U.S. foreign policy. The average American benefits from the wholesale slaughter and plunder of the Third World: From cheap consumer goods that fit into their (globally) overinflated personal budgets, to the extraction of value for the infrastructure that they enjoy right alongside the capitalist class. First World people – even people of colour – benefit from the super exploitation of global people of colour. It is in their interest to continue the racist imagery of Third World people in order to justify and enforce their privileged global position.
In an America where people of colour are economically and socially marginalized, they are still part of the much decried 1%, only globally. For a single Black male in the U.S. during 2012, their median income was $33,860. When we compare that to the global distribution of wealth, we see that such an income still places them in the top 0.89% richest people in the world by income. This level of wealth doesn’t even take into account access to shared public infrastructure. Among Asians we see even higher levels of wealth. Now, if wealth were equally distributed along a revolutionary socialist line, the average First World person – including people of colour – would be reduced drastically. They have a direct material interest in preserving a system of globally inequality.