Joe Wong: We should speak up against racism at this critical time
World Insight with Tian Wei

Some say laughter is the best medicine. Stand-up comedians are fulfilling prescriptions for a dose of laughs, a welcome breather from the coronavirus pandemic. One comic in particular, Joe Wong, has his work cut out. How does he find humor during this challenging time?

According to Wong, many people have asked him about coronavirus-related racism. He says he has experienced coronavirus-related racism and also SARS-related racism before.

"This is the nature of being a standup comedian, because most people have a relatively small circle of friends and coworkers, but with standup comedians we have to deal with a lot of people on a daily basis," he said. This means that he has actually experienced racism since day one, when he first started doing standup comedy. "It is just recently with the outbreak of coronavirus, people are starting to pay more attention to it. And now there are more and more reports about it," he added.

When Joe Wong first started doing standup comedy, he was not known to the rest of the world. To raise awareness, he started with jokes about racism. Stigmatization and racism are sensitive in this particular time, so how have things evolved?

"On top of that, Asians outside of Asia also feel the racism and sometimes violence. Some people get punched, kicked. There's one Asian father and son (who) even got slashed across the face in Texas by someone with a knife at the supermarket. This incident is crazy and it's very hard to make joke about it," he explained. "But what kind of bothers me with this incident, is some comedians that I have known for more than 15 years start to say things like: 'If you don't like whatever happens in America, why don't you go back to China?'" Wong added.

Wong commented that there are a lot of people still defending the way others behave. But what he has realized that he needs to speak out. "I know sometimes it's very hard to sit with friends or coworkers, or colleagues, or even your spouse and just say, 'That is racist,' or 'That's inappropriate.' But you have to say it. And after that some people may stop being your friends... but real friends will still stay friends with you," he said. 

Wong also shared a personal example. He once argued with and almost had a fight with a friend he had known for more than 15 years. They argued in their private messages. But in the end, the friend in question actually saw Wong's point and said he was sorry about what Asian community is suffering, and he appreciates that they are still friends.

You must speak up, especially at a time like this, highlighted Wong.

World Insight with Tian Wei is an international debate/in-depth interview program facilitated by host Tian Wei. People in the know, be they global leaders or emerging change-makers, all provide their insights on this unique global platform.

Schedule: Monday-Saturday

Time (GMT): 1415, 2015

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