At the Emmy Awards, which apparently happened recently, comedian Billy Crystal gave a tribute to the recently departed Robin Williams (watch it here). Part of the tribute was a video montage of Williams’ performances which included, among other things, a stand up routine where he wraps a scarf he got from a woman in the audience around his head to look like a woman wearing a hijab and says, “I would like to welcome you to Iran… Help me!”
Now Crystal and Williams are being accused of racism for the gag.
Which seems absolutely ridiculous to me.
For one thing, Williams isn’t really referencing a race. While there is such a thing as Iranic peoples, Williams is pretty clearly referring to the nation of Iran. He is mocking a nation and its policies, not a racial demographic.
Which brings me to my next point, which is that Iran has earned that criticism. In fact, the issue of hijabs in Iran was in the news earlier this summer when a London-based Iranian journalist was called a “whore” on Iranian state television for daring to suggest that women should be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not they want to wear the hijab.
This woman was accused – on Iranian state television, so basically by the Iranian government itself – of being raped on the street by three men while her son watched.
As if that horrible crime – if it had really happened – would somehow discredit her push for female rights.
Williams was mocking oppressive, stone-age policies implemented by an extremist government. That doesn’t make him a racist. That makes him a bit of a hero.
Had he been making a crack about Mormons or white men or some other demographic considered to be a-ok for mockery and derision by the PC police, Williams would have been in the clear.
In related news, it’s also apparently insensitive to use the word “bacon” in public now.