It's times like these, after I watch The O'Reilly Factor's Chinatown segment, that I wonder if I'm doing the right thing being a playwright, my hands to write words instead of hurling rotten fruit or large boulders at the perpetuators of intolerance in the world.
If any of you out there have a tapeworm in your stomach you need to vomit up, you can watch Jesse Watters be a bigot and Bill O'Reilly applauding the blatant racism here:
If you can't allow your blood pressure to rise above a certain point, here's the scoop. Watters goes to NYC's Chinatown to "sample political opinion" after last week's debate, in which the Republican nominee spoke negatively of China.
What proceeds to happen is racism.
This walking vanilla ice cream cone's pejorative questioning and demeaning tone gets so cleverly cut between Orientalish music and racist clips from movies released decades ago when yellowface was still a common practice. Clearly they kept the worst 10% available to them, the footage that fell in line with their predisposed beliefs about Asian-Americans. But even knowing that, I finished watching the segment with all the life-force drained from my body.
And if you can believe it, the street-side interviews weren't the worst part. Oh no. It wasn't the manner in which Watters treated Asian culture as a monolith (Karate? Japanese. Taekwondo? Korean.) rather than a myriad of cultures, a distinction European countries are granted that others are not. The insinuation that Asians hold the key to mystical powers that will do things such as enhance the performances of a slug in a suit was not the most insulting moment. Even though Watters is our classic elementary school bully slash fuckboy who picks on people with less power than him, laughing when the interviewees clearly don't want to be talking to him, making smug faces when he gets a rise out of people...this wasn't the worst part.
The moment I lost my cool was when the potato of a human Bill O'Reilly debriefed Watters after the segment. I watched the two grown-ass men metaphorically pat each other's asses on a "bigotry-well-done" one more time so I could transcribe the interaction for you here.
A SHORT PLAY FOR TWO WHITE DUDES
(Two white dudes sit at a desk. One is human potato BILL O'REILLY, and the other is the fuckboy who should have been forced into getting a vasectomy, JESSE WATTERS.)
O'REILLY: The last guy hated you! (laughs)
WATTERS: (smiling) He did! One of many.
(O'REILLY continues to laugh.)
O'REILLY: But when you go down to Chinatown, it seems like everyone's aware of what's going on, some people say it's very insulated (He makes a gesture that either represents the word "insulated" or signals to his partner-in-crime the size of his penis.), and they don't...uh...interact with American politics, but it looked like everybody knew what was going on.
WATTERS: (still smiling, like he just farted and got away with it.) You thought people knew what was going on?
O'REILLY: Most of the people answered your questions in a direct way. (WATTERS laughs incredulously.) A few people, the old lady, I don't think she knew--
WATTERS: No she didn't know--they're such a polite people / they won't walk away, or tell me to get out of here, they just sit there, and they say nothing!
O'REILLY: They are! No!
(WATTERS' eyebrow twitches slightly.)
O'REILLY: And they're patient, they're patient. (WATTERS LOLz.) They want YOU to walk away, because they don't have anything else to do!
WATTERS: Right, but I get paid to not walk away, so they had no idea.
O'REILLY: But you are...it's gentle fun, but I know we're gonna get letters, I--you know, inevitable. But it was gentle fun.
WATTERS: It was all in good fun.
O'REILLY: But most of the people that you spoke with, particularly the younger people, they know what's going on.
WATTERS: They did, I think it was probably 60 - 40, Pro-Hillary - Anti-Trump.
O'REILLY: You know that surprised me, I didn't know Trump was gonna do that well. Jesse Watters, everyone.
(In the distance, we can hear a roving band of Neo-Nazi's shriek with delight, as they sprout leathery wings and fly towards the crescent moon.)
Let's break it down, shall we?
- Watters thinks it's funny that people hated him for asking racist and ignorant questions. Because he's a bully who decided to use his straight, white, male privilege take advantage of an ethnic minority group. Cool!
- O'Reilly thought that Asians and Asian-Americans are an ignorant people who don't pay attention to U.S. politics. Watters is incredulous that a population in our country that never gets spoken to or never gets talked about might be indifferent to politics. Maybe I've been listening to all the wrong outlets, but Asian-Americans have come up in all of the dialogue around this election exactly zero times.
- Both O'Reilly and Watters continued to mock a woman who simply did not speak English. But I'm sure if you immigrated to a country where you didn't speak the language and had to start your lives over, you'd be just fine! :)
- Watters makes the overgeneralization that Asian-Americans are so "polite" that they won't walk away from his bullshit. This perpetuates the stereotype that Asian men are weak, incompetent, and bumbling; that Asian women are quiet, obedient, over-sexualized objects. These are stereotypes that came into use when racists in the 19th Century wanted to keep Asian immigrants out of the country. It's 2016, can't you just admit that you're a racist and xenophobic?
- O'Reilly implies that the residents of Chinatown are lazy by claiming that "they don't have anything else to do!" In the next line, Watters gloats about his job. But I guess the Asian women who literally dig through NYC garbage cans to collect plastic and glass bottles that can be recycled for money are lazy. I guess Watters, who asked maybe three questions specifically about politics (which was technically his assignment), is the hard worker.
- O'Reilly calls this segment "gentle fun". He's aware that he's not being politically correct ("I know we're gonna get letters--you know, inevitable."), but he and his producers have decided to go ahead with the segment anyway. I'm sure O'Reilly is the kind of person who rolls his eyes when people even mention the words politically correct. Well, O'Reilly, I'm sorry being politically correct (aka treating others with respect, thank you Morgan Jenness) simply isn't your style. But this is not The Onion or Jessica Williams' Feminized Atmosphere satirical journalism. When you mock a group with less social power than you, it's not satire. It's bullying, it's distasteful, and it's racist.
I love how there's a bit more surprise when they discuss how the younger people knew what was going on. What, did he think every person in Chinatown was fresh off the boat? I constantly feel like people assume I just unpacked my suitcase from some foreign land, so I totally empathize with the young people who had to undergo being demeaned to and mocked by a grown-ass adult man who probably still eats white bread and puts butter on his rice.
To my fellow Asian-Americans: this sucks, huh? But you know what? There are other groups of people who go through this more regularly, more scathingly, more disgustingly, and more publicly than us. I'm saying this for me too: we have to be better allies. This feeling in your stomach, don't let it go. We need to be better allies to the folks fighting the good fight in the black, Latinx, Muslim, LGBTQ+, First Nations, and disabled communities. The more we continue to benefit from our own privilege as the "model minority" the more harm we inflict on the people who need our alliance most.
I don't know if writing all my thoughts out like this will do anything. But I do know this: I am not going to keep quiet. Get impolite. Stay angry. You can contact Bill O'Reilly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I encourage you to let his team know how you feel.