By Ed Diokno
It took almost a week, but Steve Harvey finally apologized for making a foolish joke about Asian men. Well, it was sort of an apology.
In a tweet, the television host and comedian yesterday said: “I offer my humblest apology for offending anyone, particularly those in the Asian community, last week, It was not my intention and the humor was not meant with any malice or disrespect whatsoever.”
Wanted to share this today. pic.twitter.com/mpKGBZic5k
— Steve Harvey (@IAmSteveHarvey) January 17, 2017
In a bit on the Jan. 6 Steve Harvey Show, during which he was lampooning several self-help books, he came across a 2002 book How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men. Instead of making fun of the book, he began mocking Asian men. He couldn’t imagine any woman, White or Black, being attracted to an Asian guy.
The backlash in social media was heated and intense.
A group of Asian American lawmakers in New York wrote a letter blasting the comedian.
“Negative, false, and harmful depictions of Asians have persisted in media and popular culture for decades, and your disrespectful conduct has only worsened this issue,” they wrote.
“You and your producers managed to insult Asian men, White women, and Black women with a single skit,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter Friday.
“Your statements were racist, sexist, and completely inappropriate for a public figure on a show broadcast to millions.”
Celebrity restaurateur Eddie Huang, whose youth was the basis for the TV hit Fresh Off the Boat, wrote a gut-wrenching oped in the New York Times explaining how hurtful Harvey’s skit was. “I told myself that it was all a lie, but the structural emasculation of Asian men in all forms of media became a self-fulfilling prophecy that produced an actual abhorrence to Asian men in the real world,” wrote Huang.
“I realized that people on the margins aren’t afforded the privilege of being complicated, whole, human beings in America; we have to create that existence ourselves, and it is that experience that I feel fundamentally binds us. Over time, I began to find solidarity with my singularity and difference. Yet the one joke that still hurts, the sore spot that even my closest friends will press, the one stereotype that I still mistakenly believe at the most inopportune bedroom moments — and I know Joe and Steve do as well — is that women don’t want Asian men. Attractiveness is a very haphazard dish that can’t be boiled down to height or skin color, but Asian men are told that regardless of what the idyllic mirepoix is or isn’t, we just don’t have the ingredients.”
I’m not sure who writes these so-called apologies. The half-hearted mea culpa never acknowledged the stereotype that he – as well as the rest of society – was sucked into believing; nor did he ever take responsibility for his ignorance.
Like other public apologies, his jokes were “unintentional” therefore, absolving himself of any responsibility for his bad judgement. C’mon, Mr. Harvey, you’re a big enough celebrity to survive a more heart-felt and honest apology.