Monday, November 25, 2013

WHAT IT DO?


I have neglected this blog for a minute, but sometimes it's the right place at the right time.

There's a lot of things I want to address on Fresh Off the Boat, but because it's a short format video, the issues we take on leak over sometimes. We did our best this episode and I'm happy, but I wanted to hit on a few things in case they don't come clear. I mean, it's thanksgiving, make sure the juice runs clear.

When we were in Russia, I couldn't hear what the guests were saying on the side when I was eating hot dogs, drinking vodka, or hanging with Philochko. People will smile to your face, play along, and put on a show when cameras are out. That's what we try not to show you. We would never waste your time on an act. Yet, we almost got caught this time. The "actors" in part 1 of Moscow were really good, but the GOD Christopher Velona had the audio rolling and it opened our eyes.

It was one of the first times we got back in the edit, saw footage and then had fundamental changes in how we viewed the trip. When I heard what they were saying on the hot mic, I couldn't let it go. The shit they were saying about Philochko was that insidious racism that you hear at house parties, "amongst friends", or in locker rooms. That bullshit that people think is OK, but it's not. We usually are very courteous to guests and make sure to represent their views unadulterated and as they see it. We are there to capture their perspective, but this time it didn't match up. The things they told us about themselves and their country could not be reconciled with the things they said to each other when they were off camera and I chose not to protect them. That ignorance doesn't deserve protection because because it shouldn't fucking exist.

But, I wanted to be responsible. I met a lot of people who didn't smile in Russia, but I met a lot of people who did. I met people who were racist towards African-Americans and derogatory towards gays, but there were people who weren't. Moscow is like any other place and we can't let the bad apples give us a skewed picture. Was it at times a sad place? Absolutely. But there were really good fucking people and I wanted to make sure that a clandestine conversation caught on a hot mic didn't disproportionately represent the city.

Yet, we have to show it. We don't enjoy it, we don't indulge in it, and I really don't address it in the summation because it's not a complex issue. It's wrong. There's nothing else to it. There is no way to shashlik that shit besides understanding its wrong. Now, Philochko was a victim of racism on the show and in Russia. People say sideways shit about him all day, but I wanted to also address how he's part of the problem. American racism is a unique brand, ebonics is in many ways a regional dialect, and you can't just transport the African-American experience like it's stoli and tell people to mix it with soda. This shit is MUCH deeper than rap and it's something I know I'll never fully understand because I did not live it. But I know enough to say that you shouldn't enable people to use the n-word and appropriate ebonics for comedic purposes. It's a huge tangled web and people have addressed the n-word in crucibles much hotter than Fresh Off the Boat. We didn't go to Moscow looking to address it, but it found us and we did. Sometimes a story finds you and you do the best you can. Happy thanksgiving mother fuckers.



10 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Racism exists almost everywhere. I don't think there is a single ethnic group or society that does not carry preconceived notions from an earlier time about a group of people or customs that are not familiar. To pretend it does not exist or to present it one sided, helps no one. You guys let Russians speak for themselves and didn't censor or hold back. This is what helps, holding up a mirror to ourselves or one another. Russia seems a pretty interesting perspective on race relations. Thank you guys!

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  3. Hey whats with the video in this being cut off on the right side? Is this a final release? I saw vice post a trailer or something for your moscow trip. Anyways really enjoy your stuff man, you're a funny dude but you look at the important stuff and don't take bs.

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  4. Sup Eddie, love Vice and your show. I was born in Russia but live in America, and when I immigrated here with my family I was told not to say "negr" in reference to black people, but honestly that's just how Russians call black people in Russia. It's not considered very racist, it's just a regular word to them and when most Russians say "negr" in reference to a black person they're honestly just making a reference to a black person in whatever context that may be, and not in a racist connotation with the word alone.

    Philochko as a black man currently in Russia also confirmed this on his videos after the Vice episode came out. I agree with his perspective on the word in Russia. It's not adding to racism, it's just an issue of a different culture.

    As far as the two guys you had a great secret recording of, the taller one definitely seemed kinda racist but the shorter one I highly doubt it. He called you a cool and funny Chinese guy. That's definitely a complement. And as far as his conversation about Philochko, he also didn't really say anything bad. They were literally just thinking that there were some weird women there and that Philochko was into them and they found it strange. That's the essence of what they said. We all at times say that certain areas/events have weird people and they just said that Philochko had a thing for them. They called him "negr" but were really saying "the black guy likes those girls"....

    There is definitely a lot of racism in Russia, I'll be the first to admit it, but the n-word use over there isn't in the same context as it is here. Your fellow NYC Russians call black people "negr" in Russian as well just because that's how Russians call someone of African heritage. Same as they call Asians "Kitayets" even if they can be of other Asian ethnicities.

    Basically, I think that because of different cultures, we have to focus on the meanings behind the words rather than just the words themselves. It's pointless to know words that you don't understand the meaning behind. This is one of those unique, cultural examples in which one thing that is perceived as bad in one culture is not perceived as bad by another.

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    1. I get it man. The problem I think is for an American to know what it means in America, then ironically use it in Russia while serving both masters. Like you said, you were told not to say it in America.

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  5. Yo Eddie you got a dope ass show man. Watchin this shit is like a breath of fresh air. I've recently been a big fan of travel/food shows, the ones with Tony Bourdain in particular. You take it to another level tho. Myself, like may of the younger viewers can actually relate to you and have friends like you man so its that much more viewable in that regard. I'll admit i slept on your show for a minute. I watch alot of Vice videos, but wasnt sure what the hell yours was about. Glad i clicked the link. Im just sorry I watched all the episodes in the last 2 days and gotta wait for more. Keep up the good work.

    And about my brotha in Russia, yeah he should know better than to sell himself short just to fit in. If they are usin the word and he's cosignin it, he need to at least take the time to educate them on its origin and what it means in the American context. Its got way too much history to just be thrown around as just a 'word' in another country.

    Peace

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  6. Transliteration comes with a lot of pitfalls and paradoxes. From what I read on the internets "negr" is a legitimate, non-racist Russian word for a black person while "cherny" is the equivalent of the dreaded N-word. "Negr" is apparently derived from "Negro." The weird thing is that "cherny" is the word for black.

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  7. hello,, i'm just visit,, have a nice day :D

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