The Normalization of Racism and Xenophobia in Recent Media

Isabella Guzman

It has come to many people’s attention, due to recent events, that racism and xenophobia are heavily normalized in comedy television such as late-night talk shows.
“All the different variants in the world right now, it reminds me of the boy bands…until eventually, we get to one that’s so contagious it destroys all life on Earth…You thought it was BTS fever. They’re both very dangerous. You’re lucky to come out of both of those alive.”
This is a “joke” that late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel made on January 20th, 2022. Kimmel is comparing the popular Korean pop band, BTS, which has taken the world by storm, to COVID-19, a disease that has killed almost a million in the United States alone and prompted racial violence against Asians. This comparison is disgusting. This is pure racism.
The wave of laughter that coursed throughout the crowd after Kimmel stated his offensive comments shows just how normal it is for racism to be spread, how normal it is for it to be declared out on national television. These xenophobic and racist comments Kimmel made being aired on TV are only feeding the racist stereotypes on Asian Americans. Especially at a time where racial violence towards Asians is at an all-time high.
“I heard about the situation because it was trending on Twitter. I think people who have such a large platform, like Jimmy Kimmel, have the privilege of being ignorant,” reasons Senior Jordan Genovea.
“Even if he is called out on such a large scale like he is [being] now, he still has the option to ignore it and continue with his job. The situation is disappointing but not surprising. Considering that, I notice a pattern, many celebrities have been exposed for their racism, there is an uproar, it fizzles out and the pattern repeats. For comedians to be held accountable for their racist jokes the comedian themselves must go out of their way to unlearn their ignorance. People of color should keep on trying to address racist remarks but if comedians are not responsible enough to recognize their mistakes, that is a problem they must fix. They must recognize their privilege and be open-minded to new information,” continues Genovea.
This powerful statement by Genovea is the harsh truth to society and racism. It is saddening to see how this is not surprising. This represents how the world can be so blind to things happening right in front of their eyes, just as the crowd in Kimmel’s episode did.
“ I’m honestly not surprised,” echoes Senior Emelee De Leon, “…when it comes to any foreign artist coming into western media they are always treated like some circus act. Micro-aggressions like these are always being directed towards BTS [comparing their success to a plague for example]…a lot by late-night talk show hosts specifically. I feel like the moment that Asian comedians or celebrities, in general, started to criticize their own culture, non-Asians felt like that was an invitation to do the same in order to get clicks. So much so that Asian hate in the media has become a normality, which is very disheartening. I think he was very much aware of the implications that accompanied his statement, using other boy bands softens the blow of his racism and it allows for almost a veil to be put on top of his micro-aggression. This really solidifies the understanding in MY mind that he knew what that exact statement meant.”
This empowering statement expresses how the media ignores what makes people upset and has their attention on the reaction instead of what caused it. This can make the people the media focuses on seem “dramatic” or “sensitive” since the media rarely covers the real issues to the situation, instead of focusing on the outrage, the calls for cancel, not the actual act perpetrated.
De Leon mentioned that Kimmel stated other boy bands to “soften the blow” of his racism, which he did. Jimmy Kimmel stated other popular boy bands such as NSYNC and Backstreet Boys to cover up his statement about calling BTS, “BTS fever.” Since Kimmel did this it shows that his true intentions were racist and he did not want to get in trouble.
Another late-night talk show host, James Corden made a similar remark to Kimmel recently, late last year. Corden made a statement about BTS’ tour to the United Nations to make a speech about climate change. He called BTS “strange guests” and has also used BTS for the butt of far too many jokes on his show. You would expect James Corden off the face of social media, right? Or, at the least, having given a big apology and spending some time wallowing in shame apologetic for his actions? Wrong. These things just happen and these show hosts can continue their jobs with no issue. That’s just the beginning of this heart-wrenching truth. Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden got to continue their job after this and for most likely, many more years to come. They shrugged it off like dust on their shoulder. No “harsh” punishment was given, it’s almost as if nothing happened at all.