Thursday, November 20, 2014

Colbert Soft-Shoes Racism in Harris-Perry Interview


Late night television comedy show host Stephen Colbert waded into briny waters last week on his Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report, interviewing revered Tulane political science professor Melissa Harris-Perry on the matter of racial stereotypes.

The razor-witted political satirist invited Harris-Perry to discuss her new book: Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, but failed to yield sufficient space for his guest to fully express her perspective on the complex issues tackled in her book.

Harris-Perry, who set out to briefly deconstruct stereotypes of African-American women and highlight the consequences of a white-male-centered perspective on the American story — and thus plug her new book — could only offer a rudimentary sketch of her ideas because Colbert’s repeated interruptions — which consisted of widely known talking points that have been rebutted countless times in liberal media — literally left Harris-Perry no room to rebut or raise the level of discourse. The end result: Harris-Perry’s message was stifled and Colbert got few laughs.

Perhaps Colbert thought the merits of Harris-Perry’s arguments so self-evident, and thought conservative talking points so patently false, that hilarity would ensue merely by offering a platform for the divergent viewpoints to be stated. Unfortunately, Colbert misjudged the level of mirth that might spring forth from his sparring match with Harris-Perry on a matter vital to our nation’s socio-political and economic development. Whatever Colbert’s intentions, the result is an interview that is more frustrating than entertaining or illuminating.

Fortunately, those interested in learning more about racial stereotypes in our “post-racial” America may purchase Harris-Perry’s book, and may turn to The Colbert Report to see how well his Super PAC is doing.

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Melissa Harris-Perry
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