Writing in the Washington Post, Stacey Patton and Douglas J. Leonard argue not simply that comedian Amy Schumer is a racist but that the Comedy Central star's off-color brand of humor is connected to the climate that produced Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who slaughtered churchgoing blacks in South Carolina. In one of her stand-up routines, the authors explain, Schumer says
"Nothing works 100 percent of the time, except Mexicans." In another bit, she blithely told an audience that Latino men are rapists. "I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual."
She has also called Latina women "crazy." Patton and Leonard say this isn't really any different than Donald Trump suggesting that the majority of illegal immigrants from Mexico are rapists. What's more, the authors assert that
America's soil of racism is fed by jokes and incendiary speeches, by stereotypical images and symbols like the Confederate flag. Just as Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump and other members of the Republican Party regularly disparage people of color and claim they are simply telling the truth, Schumer can use comedy as a protective shroud to deny the harm and hurt caused by her jokes. A joke is considered benign especially when told by a supposed white liberal feminist. We can distance ourselves from the anger, from the harm, from the ideology, and from the hatred of the "extreme," but also find comfort in the same anger, ideology and hatred that is "just a joke."
This rhetoric isn't just ugly. It contributes to a worldview that justifies a broken immigration system, mass incarceration, divestment from inner city communities, that rationalizes inequality and buttresses persistent segregation and violence. Yet nobody wants to take responsibility for spewing rhetoric that breeds the fear that results in soaring gun purchases, that "inspires" monsters like Dylann Roof to craft a manifesto with deadly consequences.
The ability to connect obviously distinct people (nightclub comics, low-I.Q. ramblings by America's favorite idiot moneybags, and deranged psychopaths who go on murder sprees) is either a sign of Sherlock Holmes-level genius or something close to insanity, a JFK conspiracy theory applied to everyday life. In this instance, I'm leaning toward the latter, especially given the massive hops, skips, and jumps Patton and Leonard must do to go from Schumer's standup to Roof's murderous rampage. Especially important here might be the actual manifesto apparently authored by Roof, which among other things complains incessantly about the fact that American culture no longer makes a place for organized and lone racists. Indeed, as Jesse Walker pointed out recently, even the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose bread and butter is ginning up panic over an ever-rising tide of hate groups, acknowledges that extremism is on the decline. Beyond that—and this is no small matter—Roof simply isn't representative of main currents in American thought.
I agree with Patton and Leonard that Rush Limbaugh's and Donald Trump's rhetoric is ugly and incendiary, especially regarding immigrants. There's a large number of other public figures, including idiots like Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who are similarly messed up on that score. It's far from clear, however, exactly what role any of these people (even King, a longtime congressman) has on violence against Mexicans or anyone else in America, especially since violent crime is way down even as harsh rhetoric is up. More to the point, roping in Amy Schumer stretches credulity way past the breaking point. The gesture would be funny if it didn't so perfectly illustrate the overboard attacks on all sorts of free expression.