By Brianna Pasquini
Both laughing and learning took place during the two-part segment of “Eliot Chang’s Stand Up Comedy” and Q&A workshop on diversity issues on Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. in the Mayo Concert Hall. The Asian American Association presented the event.
Chang’s stand-up portion kept the entire audience in side-splitting laughter, as many of his jokes were aimed at the stereotypes held of people of all backgrounds.
“Every race has that one thing we do to make fun of them,” he joked. “The only time racism comes in handy is in jury duty.”
Chang finally made fun of racism altogether as he yelled mockingly, “I hate you for not controlling what you are!”
Chang’s educational and interactive Q&A was based on the “power of the media,” which he described by saying, “Life is not based on reality, it is based on the perception of reality.” He then offered everyday solutions to combat the stereotypes in which society is so immersed because of the media’s power.
“For example, Dec. 7, 1941, after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, anyone who was as little as 1/16 Japanese was imprisoned for two and a half years on American soil … not many people know that much about that, yet you all know about the Holocaust,” Chang said. “Why? Because it’s not in the media.”
Chang also spoke of the portrayal of Asian women in the media as either “a sex object, a bitch or both,” the lack of positive role models for Asian women and how Asian men have become underappreciated by the media. He spoke of the formation of these stereotypes as sometimes inevitable: “If you’re … growing up and these are the things you’re repeatedly seeing in the media, what do you believe?”
According to Chang, negative stereotypes seen in the media can be perpetuated, because by using derogatory slang words for other Asian people, “even with your friends, you’re saying it’s okay to disrespect yourself and your culture, and others think it’s okay, too.”
To combat the negativity and racism prevalent in society, Chang offered the audience some words of advice. “Never forget who you are. Be the best Asian doctor, be the best Asian lawyer. You are what you choose to be, not what the media forces you to be. Always stand by your family, your culture …and your school,” he said.
Chang’s advice was directed towards more than just the Asian students in the audience, however.
“Everyone in this room, learn your language and your culture. It is up to you to teach your children your legacy. Even if you’re white, you have a history and there’s no excuse not to learn it. It could take a few years or even your whole life,” Chang urged the crowd.
Vice President of Public Relations for AAA and a senior accounting major Rebecca Moy described the diversity workshop segment as “a good way to incorporate an educational aspect into the entertainment at the same time,” noting that “when there’s comedic aspects, it’s more engaging.” Moy also said that the second segment of the show, about the way Asian Americans are portrayed in the media, is something “everyone knows but doesn’t really talk about.”
Eddy Han, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering, was particularly moved by the words of Chang.
“I found it inspiring, because valuing and representing your culture is kind of in the back of your mind, but he more fully made me realize that whatever you do in life, you’re always representing your culture,” he said.
Han planned to embody that representation of his culture, as he was proudly wearing a yellow t-shirt reading “SMART, SEXY, STRONG, AND ASIAN.”