On Thursday, Saturday Night Live (SNL) announced new cast members, including Shane Gillis. Shortly thereafter, news outlets reported a long list of racial slurs Gillis had uttered on a podcast in May. The comedian had mocked 2020 Democratic candidate and businessman Andrew Yang, calling him a “Jew ch*nk.” Yang displayed both grace and class in his response, a breath of fresh air in modern American politics.
During the podcast episode, Gillis randomly burst out with the word “chin*,” leading the group to laugh uproariously. The word is a racial slur against Chinese and other East Asian people.
He went on to mock the Democratic candidates, starting with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “That Jew ch*nk? Commie Jew ch*nk? Next, please, next. Gimme your next candidate, Dems. Jew ch*nk, next. Actually, they are running a Jew ch*nk—Chang, dude,” he said.
Gillis clearly used a racial slur, and it seems the comedians thought it funny precisely because it would be seen as offensive. But that’s often how comedy works.
Gillis published a statement making it clear that he meant no offense.
“I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries. I sometimes miss. If you go through my 10 years of comedy, most of it bad, you’re going to find a lot of bad misses,” he wrote. “I’m happy to apologize to anyone who’s actually offended by anything I’ve said. My intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”
On Saturday, Yang had a particularly classy response. “Shane – I prefer comedy that makes people think and doesn’t take cheap shots. But I’m happy to sit down and talk with you if you’d like,” the candidate tweeted. In a follow-up tweet, he added, “For the record, I do not think he should lose his job. We would benefit from being more forgiving rather than punitive. We are all human.”
For the record, I do not think he should lose his job. We would benefit from being more forgiving rather than punitive. We are all human.
— Andrew Yang🧢 (@AndrewYang) September 14, 2019
Yang’s message seems to imply the candidate took offense — which would be completely understandable. But the businessman offered to sit down with the comedian to talk about it, and he did something more. In an age of increasing hostility where “cancel culture” has become a phenomenon, he offered an olive branch.
Yang took a concrete step toward reversing the culture of outrage and immediate firings that threatens to turn American popular culture into a minefield. Political correctness has reached epidemic levels, and comedians — of all people — are terrified of getting fired for saying the wrong thing.
America’s popular and political culture are in desperate need of a little grace, and Andrew Yang provided some of that grace.
National Review‘s David French has long advocated for that kind of grace, and he praised Yang for it.
“As I said on our recent podcast with [Alexandra DeSanctis], the thing I like about Yang is that he seems to genuinely like people and have affection for all Americans, a rare quality in American politics,” he tweeted.
As I said on our recent podcast with @xan_desanctis, the thing I like about Yang is that he seems to genuinely like people and have affection for all Americans, a rare quality in American politics. https://t.co/N5szl87OCI
— David French (@DavidAFrench) September 14, 2019
While some warned that Yang should not “sit down with a hateful bigot like” Gillis, Yang’s response set an example for others to follow.
Americans should not minimize the pain that racial slurs cause, but they also shouldn’t form outrage mobs to destroy people like Gillis.
The Christian worldview provides a great explanation and solution to these problems. According to the Bible, each human being has sinned and offended God in concrete ways. Yet God Himself made the sacrifice to reconcile us to Him, giving an example of grace that can help mend the broken relationships in our own lives. Offering that grace to those who wrong us can be far more powerful than playing into the outrage culture.
Andrew Yang is not likely to be the Democratic candidate for president, but I’m glad he’s out there to be an example in this case. Regardless of his policies — most of which I obviously disagree with — we need more politicians like him.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.