Photo Credit: Library of Congress

In a time where we’re experiencing attacks against Asians that people are now self-evaluating to see the cause, one such person looking at themselves is Jay Leno. He explained his come to Jesus moment in a joint press statement with Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) leader Guy Aoki where he said, “At the time I did those jokes, I genuinely thought them to be harmless. I was making fun of our enemy North Korea, and like most jokes, there was a ring of truth to them.”

Leno continued, “At the time, there was a prevailing attitude that some group is always complaining about something, so don’t worry about it. Whenever we received a complaint, there would be two sides to the discussion: Either ‘We need to deal with this’ or ‘Screw ‘em if they can’t take a joke.’ Too many times I sided with the latter even when in my heart I knew it was wrong.”

“I am issuing this apology. I do not consider this particular case to be another example of cancel culture but a legitimate wrong that was done on my part. MANAA has been very gracious in accepting my apology. I hope that the Asian American community will be able to accept it as well, and I hope I can live up to their expectations in the future.”

Now to put this all into context, MANAA has been campaigning to have Leno fired for a whopping 15 years. He only did this after they told his new employer, Fox that either they do something about him or they’re going to advertisers. So better something than nothing.

And regarding the jokes themselves, the reason this has gone on for so long is because we have generally accepted these pejoratives about Asians. So they have to go out of their way to prove that their food is above board, their hygiene is up to par, etc. One of the simplest ways to stop any form of discrimination is to look at the pejoratives used even jokingly about said demographic. That’s where it starts. It’s those generalizations that usually lead to poor legislation and racist acts like what we’re experiencing now.