Why Were Shane Dawson’s Tweets About ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat Rejected So Harshly?

Update: for his part, Shane tweeted out to us —

Original article below:


Note: Hoo, boy. We at NMR Editorial had a prolonged discussion about this particular issue, and no two opinions are alike. We’d love to continue the discussion in the comments below.

This and another tweet from Shane Dawson has set off, yet again, another firestorm of criticism over the YouTube star’s treatment of race. (We’ve covered these stories a few times.)

One problem that will largely remain at least for the foreseeable future was his use of blackface for a number of years before apologizing for it in late 2014. Everything’s good, right? He’s learning and trying to become more mature about racial issues, right?

For many, it doesn’t appear that way. The tweet above and below received vast amounts of criticism, ultimately leading to him deleting the tweets altogether:


One tweet pulled by the eagle-eyed Daily Dot brings up an interesting question:

The question is simple — after years of using blackface, does an apology video followed by taking down past videos with such use clean the slate? Many vloggers/bloggers don’t seem to think so. One person that refuses to back down is that of Franchesca “Chescaleigh” Ramsey, who reblogged a post noting a number of issues with Shane’s apology.

Shane, for his part, has claimed in the past that Chescaleigh is simply a “hater.”

In short: For many, the apology simply wasn’t good enough to wipe away years of racist humor, even as others like our friend Tay Zonday believe such humor is actually a noble effort to reveal ugliness in America through rough chuckles. Blackface and minstrel shows have a long, brutal history of oppression (read a book), and there hasn’t been a use of it in entertainment in recent memory (that isn’t itself directly saying “this is racist and wrong”) that wasn’t met with, at minimum, extreme discomfort.

“On the flip,” as they say, is Shane’s suggestion that ABC’s lineup is treating these minority-race families as commodities to be “collected” one-by-one. And that’s a far cry from returning to the era of defending blackface. His clarification also seems to back this up:

But let’s return to these two initial tweets from Shane. First off, one uses a Hispanic slur, which in and of itself caused some of the uproar, regardless of Shane’s use of quotes to imply he means that ABC considering it as a title, rather than his approval of its use. (That said, if it were the N-word, would he have written it out uncensored? The mind doubts.)

Secondly, as mentioned, Shane’s history puts a thumb on the scales whenever he brings up issues of race. The tweets, epithet aside, clearly bring up ABC’s lineup as an attempt to use minority-race family shows for some odd game of racial Pokemon. It should also be noted that Eddie Huang, the author of the memoir optioned into Fresh Off The Boat, has himself felt that executives at the network were not far off from that very thing, and simply attempting to tell white-family stories with non-white characters.

On the other-other side, Shane must’ve missed that the title of the show is also the title of Huang’s published memoir, who pushed to keep it as the series name.

Obviously Mr. Huang has all the standing in the world, both as author of the memoir and as a person of color being depicted on national TV. Shane’s somewhat similar response — doubting ABC’s sincerity, or at least the marketing’s sincerity, in their moves toward diversification on TV — is met with static, and many feel that history, apology or no, has eliminated that standing to speak on the matter. “Not good enough” is a phrase read often in response to Shane’s apology. Chescaleigh notes:

“Unfortunately the majority of the YouTube audience isn’t going to listen or care unless it comes from a high profile (ahem WHITE) content creator. According to the fans I’m just “jealous” and “playing the race card”.

Such fans tend to ignore that Chescaleigh, every time she speaks on Shane, is opening herself up to the flood of Dawson fans and hate mail and basically knowingly ruining her own day (some have even contacted her agent, intentionally trying to damage her career for the sin of… speaking her mind?). If that isn’t an indication of how strongly she feels, and an indication that it’s not about jealousy/race-baiting (a stupid term that’s intended to deflect from the actual argument), then there’s really not going to be any pleasing you.

That said, Shane’s tweets, under a different interpretation, is literally that high profile white content creator wondering if ABC is being genuine. The thing is, some folks don’t buy his apology, and thus don’t buy his tweets as genuine.

And this all circles back to that apology, viewed by many as “not good enough.” What would be good enough? Has his past blackface work effectively eliminated any future possibility of him discussing issues of race?

This is certainly an ongoing issue that we’ll be tracking for some time to come.

Was Shane in the wrong? Or were those tweets a legitimate criticism? Continue the discussion below.

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