Chelsea Handler: I Can’t Sit Indian-Style Anymore

The comedian and star of the upcoming Netflix documentary series Chelsea Does, premiering Jan. 23, writes about how America has become too damn politically correct. Plus, watch an exclusive trailer for the episode ‘Chelsea Does: Racism.’

As the sixth child of a Jew and a Mormon, there’s nothing more delicious to me than making fun of Jews, Mormons, other Mormon-Jews, and every other ethnicity under the sun.

Fortunately for me, I’m a comedian. It’s my job to make fun of people and it’s an absolute pleasure.

But most people in America can’t get away with publicly making fun of people’s ethnicity because it’s “politically incorrect.” But what does “political correctness” really accomplish in America?

Recently, I filmed a documentary series for Netflix exploring four different subject matters: racism, marriage, Silicon Valley, and drugs. For the episode on racism, I had a roundtable discussion with representatives from the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, American Indians in Film & Television, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. We were there to discuss the way I and some others in the entertainment industry often talk about—and make stereotypical fun of—Asians, Jews, Blacks, American Indians, and Muslims, not necessarily in that order (and by no means is that list all-inclusive). We had an honest discussion about whether or not it’s funny, appropriate, helpful, or hurtful to traffic in ethnic, racial, and religious stereotypes.

I know stereotypes and politically incorrect language are hurtful to some people, but as we talked one-on-one, the representatives of these organizations—each of them outstanding organizations doing valuable work to highlight the ethnic, racial, and religious sensitivities of Americans concerning the ways we talk to and about each other—all ended up smiling and laughing about examples of politically incorrect humor because they could see I was sincerely joking. There’s a vast difference between white officers chasing down and killing unarmed black men versus making a joke about black people being late.And while we’re at it: NAACP stands for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People? No one thinks this acronym needs an update?

Now, I don’t mean to shortchange the real damage that political incorrectness causes. Black comedians are famous for using the N-word in their comedy without anyone raising an objection, but I wouldn’t dare use that word myself since I still feel lousy about North America’s 400-year award-winning record of mistreating black people.

But if the black community think the N-word is funny, well then more black power to them and mazel tov to everybody—and yet even though the classical definition of comedy is tragedy plus time, it remains unfunny when a white person uses the N-word.

In the same vein, America’s capital city of Washington, D.C., has little business calling its football team the “Redskins” after European Americans did their smallpox-and-imperial-best to obliterate the Native American population. The Germans don’t have a Bundesliga soccer team called the Berlin Jews for a reason. If Native Americans want to go ahead and joke about their skin color, I have no reservations.

Obviously, we don’t want a nation full of nasty racists and heartfelt misanthropes trumpeting their spite on proud public display, but we do want people to be able to honestly express themselves and know the difference between humor and malice. This is America, after all, and the First Amendment deserves to come first.

Søren Kierkegaard, that dour 1800s Danish delight, made a really good point when he wrote, “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” And that’s the nut—or testicle—of the problem: We want people to speak their minds… if only they’d use their minds for just a split-second before they spoke instead of blurting out the first stupid thing that bubbles up.

Another European smarty-pants, Arthur Schopenhauer, that great German philosopher from the same era, wasn’t kidding around when he wrote, “A sense of humor is the only divine quality of man.” Without a sense of humor, communication and conversation among men, women, hermaphrodites, and transgendered alike would all be hopeless, and if you’ve ever met someone—especially a hermaphrodite—without a sense of humor, you know damn well that the situation is hopeless.

So what’s needed is not political correctness, but rather more appreciation of American history, more self-confidence in each of our individual American souls, some joy in our hearts, and a collective sense of humor if we’re all going to get along and talk about what weird tribal-ethnic-religious-racial DNA perfume and skin tone each of us is wearing.

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Americans have given political correctness a try and it’s not working. We’re better off just saying what’s on our mind… and thinking about it before we say it… and laughing about it after we say it.

Just as there’s nothing funny about death, cancer, abortion, suicide, poverty, and a broken heart, that certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t joke about each and every one of those tragedies. Likewise, a good laugh over America’s failed experiment in political correctness is the order of the day.

Please, I’m begging you, America: Make fun of this Jew-Mormon girl whose grandfather was a soldier in Hitler’s German army. I have a sense of humor… and I prefer to sit Indian-style while using it.