Racist jokes. They can happen anywhere, school, work, Thanksgiving dinner.
If someone tells a racist joke, how do you handle it?
So you’re at a party, and someone tells a racist joke: “And that guy in the ghetto is a cop! You know it’s true.”
A. Give a sarcastic laugh? “(Speaking sarcastically) Haha, that’s a good one!”
B. Get mad and throw a chair? “(Picking up chair and slinging it forward) That was hilarious!”
Or C. Google “how do you respond to a racist joke?”
I’m going to guess you went with C.
Jokes come in all shapes, sizes, and in this case, colors. When it comes to racist humor, we’re not just talking about being offended. We’re talking about jokes being oppressive. So what’s the difference?
Offensive jokes hurt your feelings or make people uncomfortable. Jokes that are oppressive don’t just make people uncomfortable, they actually reinforce negative ideas about marginalized groups of people.
A study out of Western Carolina University analyzed how people’s attitudes changed particular groups based on the types of jokes they are presented with. What they found is that when people feel that discrimination against a certain group is justified, disparaging remarks about that group don’t really change your thinking on them. You’re pretty much set in stone. But for groups where prejudiced attitudes are shifting and being challenged – like women, LGBT folks, and people of color – negative jokes about those groups can release inhibitions, making some people believe the discrimination is justified.
This also goes for ironic racism. Like when Sarah Silverman did blackface. It’s still blackface. “No, but I’m like saying something racist to comment on how bad racism is. It’s meta.” TL;DR: Words mean things and they influence people in negative ways. Even if it’s just a joke.
So what do you do if you hear a racist joke? Here’s what worked for me.
First I ask myself, “Can I talk about this now?” Basically, you got to pick your battles. Not every situation is suited for Don’t Be a Racist 101. “(Punching one fist into her other hand) No grandma, this ends now.” But if I can talk about it in that moment, I usually try one of these.
- The sarcastic approach: “You know what’s really funny? Ironic racism is still racist!”
- Go completely silent. (Looking at the camera with an intense expression for several seconds.)
- Play dumb: “Huh, I just don’t get it, I mean this country was stolen form the Native Americans, built by slave labor, and founded by immigrants, so technically, wouldn’t that make you illegal?”
- Reply with a judgmental gif or jif if you’re one of those or you can just unfriend them. I mean, you don’t have to put up with that online or off. It’s not your job to educate everyone.
- And when all else fails, just be honest and direct: “Hey, that’s not funny. I’m really not cool with jokes about people who already have it bad enough, so please don’t say stuff like that around me.”
So does that mean everything is off limits? Not at all. Technically you can make jokes about whatever you want, but there will always be consequences. So using “it’s just a joke” doesn’t make it exempt from criticism, nor does complaining about political correctness. “So there’s an Asian guy, a black guy, and a Mexican—oh shit, it’s the PC police.”
Calling others “the PC police” basically says I should be allowed to say whatever I want, but you’re not allowed to say whatever you want about whatever I just said. Umm, free speech doesn’t work that way. Good jokes should stand the test of time, but as our society progresses, our perception of what’s funny evolves. So jokes that were funny twenty years ago might not fly today. Political correctness isn’t keeping anyone from making jokes it’s saying we want a better world so jokes have to be better to.
So jokes have to be better to. So if you’ve ever had to shutdown a racist joke what strategy worked or didn’t work? Tell me about it in the comments and I will see you next week.
In our last vlog, we asked, “Does race affect your dating life?” Here are some of your comments. I think that’s a pretty good strategy, Mathew. Personality is a great way to pick your dates. Denver Broncos 1818181818. MTV news is my favorite channel, too! Twinsies. Sorry, Shibadie, you are wrongadie dongadie. Beyonce is not half white.
In our last sketch, we talked about things white people take for granted. Here’s what you had to say. Oh Vern, this comment makes my hear sing. Sorry I had to ruin Band-aides for you, Vallentina. Now you know how we feel.
Yes for this one woman. Thanks, kid furry, for bringing cocoa el here and all the furry fans. You are strong in numbers. Ethan, I think you’re using a tack the wrong way. There have been no white people harmed on the set of Decoded – I promise.