Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Racist "Jokes" Aren't Funny.

It happens often; some person makes a statement or tells a so-called joke that either exploits a stereotype or invokes a disparaging racial slur. When called out on it, almost invariably "Dude, it's just a joke!" pops out. Sometimes the person even has the grace to blush or stammer out a weak excuse about how they were just trying to lighten the mood... whatever the hell that means. This never impresses me. When I was younger, and far more ignorant, I tried to be racist. I really sucked at it, yet I still used such language and attitudes.

This is to my shame and I cannot express how badly I feel about such actions and attitudes I once held. This isn't a case of "White Guilt" or "PC" or any other such nonsense that people with racist tendencies love to attribute criticism of themselves to. People are simply people. Many of the best people in my life could have been simply dismissed as belonging to a stereotypical group. My life would be so much poorer had I not seen beyond the pale reflections that society imposes on the unsuspecting minds and attitudes in popular culture.

So many poets are lost to fame because their medium is looked down on as some negative racial characteristic. So many natural mathematicians are overlooked because they are raised in poverty or in "one of those" neighbourhoods. So many loving people are kept at arms length because they have a "wrong" skin tone or clothing style. Very little disappoints me as much as someone I consider a friend tossing out a racial joke or commenting on some apparent stereotype. It doesn't matter if you apologise afterwards. I have a very mixed family, and I'm incredibly proud and pleased to know (and be related to) people of all stripes.

Once you let that obscene thought out of your mouth, you have just diminished my friends, my family, and often my role models. Worse yet, you have made me wonder just how poor a judge of character I am by accepting you in my life. Before you make an "off colour" joke, I'd like you to ask yourself a very simple question. How would you feel if that were your daughter or your mother or your twin that was "joked" about? How would you feel if this happened, not just once, but routinely and on a societal level? If you couldn't care less, guess what? I couldn't care less about you either. But if you can honestly apply it to yourself or your family and see the problem, then please don't be silent when others do so. We only accept these things when we don't think about the causes or results.

Many things were once acceptable, until we stopped accepting them. It's past time to stop accepting jokes and attitudes that do nothing but diminish others.