Sunday, December 06, 2009

"Lost" Night

I am pasting an apology that was recently sent to me regarding an incident that I was involved in last month in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC. I need to fill in all the details for you and promise to do so sooner than later. For now, you can chew on this apology and my reply. (I've withheld people's names.)

Her apology:

Hi Hari,

[Our mutual friend] shared a few of your comments with me and I hope you can accept my apologies for offending you. Never was my intention to put you in a box or stereotype. Naveen Andrews is an attractive man and I would have hoped you would have taken the resemblance as a compliment. Clearly, you didn't, but as a comedian hopefully you understand jokes don't always go as planned. Sorry again to have caused any harm.

[Name Withheld Because I am not a PETTY asshole]

My response:

Hello [Name Withheld Because I am not a PETTY asshole],

Let me start by saying that I have to deal with bullshit like this constantly. This is not new to me and I no longer blindly accept apologies from people who say thoughtless things and then backtrack when they are called on it. An empty apology from you on facebook, possibly so you can feel better about whatever you think happened or so you can appease your friend, will not cut it. I’m not sure if you and I have the same recollection of the night’s events, so let me personally share my thoughts and you can contemplate for a moment and know what you are actually apologizing for.

Let me first say that I DO NOT look like Naveen Andrews, regardless of how attractive you think he is. I do not look like this other brown man, just like my tall Black friend does not look like Lebron James regardless of how much the moron he works with insists that he does. That’s like me saying Renee Zelwegger and Charlize Theron…or any blonde white actress with shortish hair look alike.
Not only was what you said wrong, but how you chose to say it was fucked up. It wasn’t delivered as a compliment and I didn’t take it as such. You, without looking at or addressing your comments to me, said I was “The guy from Lost.” Me and this fellow from some television series are both just brown-skinned people with long hair. You saw those things first and thoughtlessly made your comment. When my hair was shorter I would hear the names of different brown-skinned celebrities that white people thought I looked like and now that my hair is longer, I’m hit with a new one.

Let me also remind you, that the “joke” you made was at my expense. It was NOT shared BETWEEN us. You made your comment before we had been properly introduced and I was laughed AT. We had not even made eye contact yet. You said it as soon as I walked in the door, and then you introduced yourself a little while later. If you had seen the look on my face when you made the comment initially, perhaps you would have known not to make the same joke again when you called me “Sayid” at the end of the night.

Let me say, that as a comedian…and human being…I try to be sensitive. I try to be deliberate about the words I choose and not make too many assumptions. I can take a joke and I can make one…but I am present when I talk to people and when I do say something that may hurt them, I try to apologize immediately.

In closing, the thought that kept repeating in my mind was “why can’t a dude simply get a drink on a Saturday night without some racist bullshit happening to him?” A very reasonable question.

Now that I have said my piece, if you apologize to me for racist things you said and not for offending me (the onus is on you, not on me), I will accept it, but not otherwise.

-Hari Kondabolu

P.S. I do realize the word “racist” might scare you. That being said, let me clarify that I am NOT calling you a racist. I do not know who you are or what you’ve experienced. However, I do feel what you said was racist and think you need to be called out for it. If you need this to be clarified further, here is a video from my friend Jay Smooth of the Ill Doctrine:

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3 Comments:

Blogger gijyun said...

For an "Online Humor Journal," this place sure does pump out a lot of anger on touchy subjects.

Signed,

A Fan That Doesn't Know You and Who Also Is A White Girl Who Might Look Like Renee Zellwegger and Charlize Theron But With Darker Hair and About 30 Extra Pounds.

1:26 PM  
OpenID 206up said...

Ahh, don't you love those moments? A co-worker recently told me I looked like "that dude from Jon and Kate Plus Eight." And, while it's true that I am Korean--which at least puts Jon and me in the same race--I look 100%, absolutely, NOTHING like him!

To add insult to injury, since their divorce, Jon Gosselin is coming across these days as a total d-bag. Yet another reason why I would never want to be associated with him.

The gentleman who said this to me happens to be Puerto Rican. So I had the opportunity to say something just as offensive to him, but decided to be the bigger man and refrain.

(Actually, this guy is really, truly the "bigger man". Physically that is. So part of the reason I didn't strike back was out of fear of getting my ass kicked. Though, I am Asian, so I could have defended myself by using karate.)

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

I'm glad you didn't accept her phony apology! Even if it was another brown person saying you look like Naveen Andrews or Kal Penn, you still shouldn't laugh it off.

Also, I missed your Chicago show last week, but I'm hoping you'll come to our city again soon because you're my favorite comedian :) PLEASE?!! :)

11:01 PM  

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